Way-too-early 2022 Big Ten quarterback power rankings
Nebraska added another quarterback in the transfer portal Monday, gaining a commitment from former Florida State passer Chubba Purdy.
And at Saturday Tradition, we gained an excuse to roll out our way-too-early Big Ten quarterback power ratings for 2022.
1. CJ Stroud, Ohio State
No. 1 by approximately one light-year.
The freshman all-American was a Heisman finalist in Year 1 with 44 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He’s in a league of his own. And that’s taking into account there were several throws he missed in just about every game because he’s still a freshman.
With those mistakes likely to be cleaned up over time, nobody’s catching Stroud.
2. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
The gap between 2 and 3 isn’t as wide as the gulf between 1 and 2, but O’Connell is still the Big Ten’s second-best quarterback by a comfortable margin.
He didn’t solidify himself as Purdue’s starter until midway through his third season, but now he looks ready for an excellent senior season. O’Connell was just a hair behind Stroud in completion percentage — 71.8% to Stroud’s 71.9% — and threw 28 touchdowns.
If he cuts down on the 11 interceptions, the Boilermakers can compete for the Big Ten West title.
3. Payton Thorne, Michigan State
Thorne showed he’s capable of running the show next year with running back Kenneth Walker III in the NFL.
Suddenly the focal point of the offense in the Peach Bowl, Thorne completed 29 of 50 passes for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns against Pitt. As a junior, he can presumably make a jump similar to the one O’Connell did for Purdue this season.
4. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Some might have Tagovailoa over Thorne given that he completed 69% of his passes compared to Thorne’s 60%. But Tagovailoa had 1 fewer touchdown pass and 1 more interception, so therein lies Thorne’s narrow edge.
The issue with Tagovailoa is that he can sometimes do way too much because he’s saddled with lugging Maryland’s defensive issues around. His 5-interception performance against Iowa is the most obvious example of that.
But when the Terps actually play decent defense, as they did in their final 2 wins to close the season, Taulia is phenomenal. In Maryland’s wins over Rutgers and Virginia Tech, he completed 76% of his throws for an average of 288.5 yards per game.
5. Sean Clifford, Penn State
Here’s where it gets dicey.
Clifford is the presumed starter next season, but 5-star recruit Drew Allar is one of the most highly touted recruits to sign with James Franklin. There certainly figures to be competition in the spring and potentially into August camp.
And if Allar wins that competition, well, we will have some re-ranking to do.
6. Cade McNamara, Michigan
A similar situation will play out in Ann Arbor.
JJ McCarthy was used in certain packages and situations in 2021, but he’ll presumably have an opportunity to take over full-time in 2022. McCarthy seems to have more upside, though McNamara improved markedly over the course of the season.
It feels like one of these guys will end up in the transfer portal, with the only question being whether it’s after spring practice or after next season.
7. Connor Bazelak, Indiana
If you’re strictly a Big Ten fan, your response to this will be “Who?”
But the Missouri transfer brings much-needed credibility to Indiana’s quarterback room after things unraveled in 2021. Bazelak was fifth in the SEC with 231.6 yards per game, though he did it at a very dink-and-dunk rate of 6.8 yards per completion.
Bazelak’s ratio of 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions will need to improve in the Big Ten.
8. Casey Thompson/Chubba Purdy, Nebraska
It says a lot about the rest of the Big Ten’s quarterbacks that we are slotting Nebraska’s starter no lower than eighth despite:
- Not knowing which player is Nebraska’s starter
- Neither guy ever playing in the Big Ten, and the guys below them have.
Thompson transferred in from Texas, where he threw 24 touchdowns and 9 interceptions despite a somewhat low average of 176 yards per game.
The aforementioned Purdy only attempted 5 passes in his freshman season at Florida State, but completed all 5 of them for 98 yards.
Both should be considered dual-threats.
9. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Gophers fans are really hanging onto the notion that we will see the 2019 version of Morgan instead of the 2 seasons that followed. And that’s a big leap of faith.
After throwing 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions as a sophomore, he’s followed it up with showings of 7 touchdowns and 5 picks in 2020 and 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in 2021. Combined with the fact Minnesota will lose 4 monster offensive linemen, there’s a chance he’ll have less time and make even worse decisions next season.
But now that he’s being reunited with 2019 offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, there just might be a chance he can climb back to those heights.
10. Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Mertz’s vast improvement in the final part of the season gets him up to 10th here. Which tells you how badly his year started.
Mertz completed just 59% of his passes for an average of 6.9 yards per completion and threw 11 interceptions against 10 touchdowns. But he was at 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions just 3 weeks into the season, so it’s impressive he worked his way up to mediocre.
If he can grow similarly this offseason, Mertz could potentially move up to the middle tier of Big Ten quarterbacks.
11. Spencer Petras, Iowa
Petras looked like he might lose his starting job to Alex Padilla until Padilla proved ineffective enough to hand the job back at halftime of the regular-season finale at Nebraska.
Iowa’s passing game is never going to be sexy, but Nate Stanley proved it isn’t impossible for a Hawkeyes quarterback to pass for 20 touchdowns. Petras has 19 in the past 2 years combined, along with 14 interceptions.
With better quarterback play, Iowa could have done so much more with its stalwart defense this year.
12. Tommy DeVito, Illinois
DeVito has not played a down at Illinois, but he’s comfortable in orange-and-blue after 4 years at Syracuse.
It’s been 2 years since DeVito started for Syracuse, so we’re making a leap of faith that he’ll beat out Art Sitkowski for the Illinois job. DeVito was decent as a sophomore, averaging 196.7 yards per game with 19 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
13. Noah Vedral, Rutgers
Like Morgan at Minnesota, Vedral is taking advantage of the extra season he was granted due to the COVID chaos of 2020.
But I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing for Rutgers.
In Rutgers’ final 5 games of the season, Vedral never threw for more than 100 yards. And it’s not like he makes up for it by being some great runner. In those same 5 games, Vedral never gained more than 28 yards on the ground.
He finished with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions — decent stats for a quarterback in, say, 1961. But not getting the job done these days.
14. Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern
The Wildcats are in seemingly obvious need of a quarterback in the transfer portal.
Otherwise, that leaves Hilinski as the only experienced quarterback on the roster, and it wasn’t exactly great experience. He completed 54% of his passes for an average of 5.6 yards per completion with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Hilinski could obviously improve — it’s unlikely he’ll get worse — but the Wildcats are probably stuck in the Big Ten basement next season with Hilinski at the helm.