It’s been an interesting first half of the season for quarterbacks in the Big Ten.
First-year starters have performed well at Michigan and Penn State, while returning veterans at Iowa and Minnesota haven’t really taken the expected big step forward. One of the top surprises of the first half has been the efficient play of Maryland’s Perry Hills, but he missed the Terps’ loss to the Golden Gophers this past weekend.
The position lacks star power beyond the guy orchestrating Ohio State’s impressive offense, but there have been plenty of solid quarterbacks to this point and trying to put those quarterbacks in a pecking order was not easy. Considering the week-to-week fluidity in college football, the most recent results are weighted a little more heavily than what happened in early September.
Now here is Land of 10’s midseason Big Ten quarterback rankings:
Injured: Perry Hills, Maryland; Wes Lunt, Illinois; Mitch Leidner, Minnesota
10. Tyler O’Connor, Michigan State
Last week: 13 of 21, 281 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Season: 91 of 149, 1,257 yards, 11 TDs, 6 INTs, 68 rushing yards
Why he’s here: Tyler O’Connor came off the bench and nearly rallied the Spartans in a wild 54-40 loss to Northwestern. His play was sporadic enough that he had been benched, but maybe this performance will spur him to better and more consistent play in the second half of the season. His overall numbers are not bad, but he’s had a couple rough games, particularly against Wisconsin.
9. David Blough, Purdue
Last week: 30 of 60, 458 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
Season: 148 of 266, 1,756 yards, 12 TDs, 10 INTs, 60 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Why he’s here: David Blough leads the conference in passing yards and is tied for the most touchdowns, but he’s also attempted 62 passes more than anyone else. The Purdue offense has often devolved into him trying to throw on every down. He’s 12th among qualified passers in the Big Ten in completion percentage (55.6 percent) and yards/attempt (6.5).
8. Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin
Last week: 16 of 28, 214 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Season: 54 of 96, 680 yards, 5 TDs, 6 INTs
Why he’s here: Alex Hornibrook’s 57.1 completion percentage and 7.6 yards/attempt were the best anyone has mustered against Ohio State’s dominant defense. He’s faced some fearsome defenses (Ohio State and Michigan), but his efficiency will need to improve for the Badgers to beat Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota to win the Big Ten West.
7. Richard Lagow, Indiana
Last week: 19 of 32, 196 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Season: 112 of 187, 1,656 yards, 12 TDs, 9 INTs,
Why he’s here: Richard Lagow had the craziest stat line of the year when he threw for 496 yards and five interceptions on 47 attempts against Wake Forest. This past week he scuffled against Nebraska, and coach Kevin Wilson gave a bunch of snaps to Lagow’s backup. He has the numbers and offensive talent around him to be higher on this list, but he’s got to limit the mistakes.
6. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Last week: 10 of 17, 140 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Season: 101 of 168, 1,227 yards, 11 TDs, 4 INTs
Why he’s here: Consider these two quarterbacks:
QB A: 60.1 completion percentage, 7.3 yards per attempt, 138.32 QB rating
QB B: 61. 6 completion percentage, 7.8 yards per attempt, 139.52 QB rating
The first QB is C.J. Beathard in 2016. The second is … Beathard in 2015.
Beathard has been steady and unspectacular in most games. That was fine last season, but these Hawkeyes probably could have used more in losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern.
He’s only thrown for more than 200 yards twice, and not for more than 235. Lots of pundits have asked why Tennessee doesn’t let Josh Dobbs try to do more. It would be fair to ask the same thing of Iowa about Beathard.
5. Wilton Speight, Michigan
Last week: OFF
Season: 98 of 159, 1,194 yards, 11 TDs, 2 INTs
Why he’s here: Wilton Speight hasn’t needed to do much in some games, but he’s flashed the ability to make a big throw, especially down the field. The Wolverines have mauled nearly every team they’ve played, but expect Speight to need to do more at times in the second half of the season. He’s third in the conference in completion percentage and hasn’t made many mistakes.
4. Trace McSorley, Penn State
Last week: OFF
Season: 103 of 177, 1,436 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs, 186 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Why he’s here: In the past two games, Trace McSorley has produced 487 passing yards, 154 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Save for a below-average but not horrific showing at Michigan, McSorley has been very productive in Penn State’s new offense. He struggled with fumbles earlier in the season, but he’s hit receivers downfield for big plays and is getting more comfortable in the read-option-heavy attack.
3. Tommy Armstrong Jr., Nebraska
Last week: 10 of 26, 208 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 36 rushing yards
Season: 86 of 155, 1,359 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs, 329 rushing yards, 5 TDs
Why he’s here: Before this past week, Tommy Armstrong was mostly efficient and mistake free. That looked more like a previous edition of Armstrong in a 27-22 win over Indiana. Were it not for a couple of fortunate bounces, the Hoosiers may have knocked the Cornhuskers from the ranks of the unbeaten. Armstrong is 13th among qualified Big Ten quarterbacks in completion percentage at 55.5 percent. Big plays, and some good work with his legs, has mitigated that issue. But if he doesn’t improve, it will be tough for the Cornhuskers to win the West.
2. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Last week: 27 of 35, 281 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 12 rushing yards, 1 TD
Season: 119 of 204, 1,401 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs, 64 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Why he’s here: After two weeks of the season, Clayton Thorson wouldn’t have made this list. In the past four games, Thorson has thrown for 1,014 yards and been responsible for 13 touchdowns. The Wildcats have beaten Duke, Iowa and Michigan State (the Hawkeyes and Spartans on the road) and lost to Nebraska by 11 points. Thornson and Austin Carr have become the top passing connection in the conference. Carr has nearly 130 yards more than anyone else in the league with 595, and also leads in receptions (43) and touchdowns (8).
1. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Last week: 17 of 29, 226 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 21 carries, 92 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Season: 96 of 152, 1,207 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 434 rushing yards, 6 TDs
Why he’s here: Ohio State’s offense struggled early against one of the best defenses in the country, but J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes found a way against Wisconsin. They put up 24 points in the final 18 minutes and overtime, with Barrett’s legs providing as many big plays as his arm. There have been some issues in the passing game the past two weeks, and the rest of the pack has closed the gap, but Barrett remains the class of the Big Ten quarterbacks.