Big Ten QB Rankings 2023: J.J. McCarthy Impresses vs. Ohio State, Eyes Iowa Next

J.J. McCarthy put forth a solid display against Ohio State and now eyes Iowa in the title game, leading the Big Ten QB Rankings in the process.

Our weekly iteration of our 2023 Big Ten QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through 13 weeks of the season. J.J. McCarthy leads the group as he leads his Michigan Wolverines team into the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa.

Where do the rest of the B1G QBs stack up behind him?

PFN Mock Draft Simulator - Desktop

2023 Big Ten QB Rankings

As with all of our conference rankings and our national quarterback evaluations, the Big Ten QB rankings below consider everything involved with quarterbacking at the major college football level.

While statistics will be mentioned, they were not the lone deciding factor in ranking the athletes. The list below prefers programs with a solidified quarterback situation and one signal-caller who plays significant snaps against top-tier competition. Two-quarterback systems will always be looked down upon, especially in those cases where an answer has not yet been provided for the long term.

Other factors in these rankings include but are not limited to game film, injury history, play-calling, offensive system knowledge and continuity, general quarterbacking mechanics, level of competition, the elevation of supporting casts, and several other influential factors.

All QB Rankings: 1-133 | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind. 

The Coaching Carousel is in full swing. Stay updated with the entire College Football Coaching Carousel here to find all the latest coaching firings, hirings, and rumors.

Tier 1: The Elite Big Ten QBs

1) J.J. McCarthy | Michigan

Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (no change)
Yards: 2,483 | TDs: 19 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 74.3% | YPA: 9.7

At one point during The Game, all anyone could do was say, “Wow, J.J. McCarthy!” His throw in between two defenders with the slimmest of margins was awe-inspiring.

He displays incredible touch, strong power, and excellent layering when he’s on top of his game. Interim head coach Sherrone Moore had a great game plan for McCarthy to beat Ohio State, and McCarthy executed it brilliantly.

McCarthy has at least two more games to make his case as one of the best quarterbacks in the country but he comfortably stands atop the table in our Big Ten QB Rankings as the clear-cut leader of the pack. An Iowa defense with exotic coverage schemes and talented players all around looms large.

Tier 2: Well-Above-Average Big Ten QBs

2) Kyle McCord | Ohio State

Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (no change)
Yards: 3,170 | TDs: 24 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 65.8% | YPA: 9.1

An unimpressive and ultimately costly final regular season performance from Kyle McCord cost the Buckeyes The Game. While you can point fingers at McCord all game long, head coach Ryan Day didn’t even beat Michigan with C.J. Stroud at quarterback, and it’s no knock on McCord that he isn’t Stroud.

McCord has had his limitations in 2023, noticeably arm strength and when and where to use his power. He’ll have open receivers and get to them slowly in his progressions, and even slower to pull the trigger. For all he did well in 2023, the measuring stick for any OSU quarterback is going to be how they perform against Michigan, and McCord is coming up short.

He could have elevated himself into the Elite Tier of Big Ten quarterbacks but certainly missed the cut with his performance in Ann Arbor. Now, McCord and OSU will have to wait out the conference championships and hope for some chaos to make the College Football Playoff.

Tier 3: Above-Average Big Ten QBs

3) Drew Allar | Penn State

Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (+1)
Yards: 2,336 | TDs: 23 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 61.3% | YPA: 6.7

The Drew Allar that showed up against Michigan State is the Drew Allar that needed to show up against Ohio State and Michigan to give the Penn State Nittany Lions a chance to compete in both of those outings. Still, as the regular season finishes, Penn State’s quarterback left behind a solid lasting memory of a memorable 2023 campaign.

Allar threw for 292 yards and two scores, averaging a season-best 11.2 yards per attempt. He was immaculate with his accuracy and solid with his layering. Allar hit the deep shots and took something off his passes when necessary.

Finishing his season with 2,336 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, Allar’s record streak of passes to start a career without an interception saw him last until the Indiana game in late October without throwing a pick. He was too careful with the football at times, but gives the Nittany Lions a chance to win any game if he were to play with the same gusto he had against Michigan State to end the year.

4) Taulia Tagovailoa | Maryland

Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (+3)
Yards: 3,377 | TDs: 25 | INT: 11 | Comp. %: 66.4% | YPA: 7.7

One of the Big Ten’s most productive quarterbacks gave a great final regular season performance for the Maryland Terrapins as Taulia Tagovailoa was up to his usual tricks against Rutgers. In Week 13, Tagovailoa threw over 360 yards with three scores and lit up the field with his standard accuracy, poise, and power to every level.

Tagovailoa finishes the season with 3,377 yards, leading the conference and throwing for over 3,000 yards for the third straight season. At 11,356 career passing yards, Tagovailoa has more than carved out his own spot in the college football record books.

The Terps are going bowling and Tagovailoa will have one more game to cement his legacy with the program.

5) Ben Bryant, Brendan Sullivan | Northwestern

Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (+1)
Yards: 1,585 | TDs: 11 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 61.7% | YPA: 6.5

If the final week of the season is any indicator at what we can expect from Ben Bryant, then the Northwestern program is in good hands during their bowl game. Bryant lit up the field late against Illinois and threw for two scores while completing 75% of his throws.

Bryant went downfield with great success and hit some crucial throws to extend drives and keep his team in the game, ultimately coming from behind and winning their seventh game.

With Bryant as the starter, the Wildcats went 5-3 with some hard-fought losses to Penn State and Duke in there. He gave them a chance to win this season and Bryant has one final game as a college quarterback in their bowl game in December.

6) Luke Altmyer, John Paddock | Illinois

Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (-3)
Yards: 1,278 | TDs: 9 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 59.4% | YPA: 8.9

Looking back at the success the 2022 Illinois team had makes you wonder just how good Tommy DeVito was a season ago. Sure, John Paddock entered the picture and lit up the field, and the Illinois record books in the process, but victories have fallen off a cliff since last season.

Paddock isn’t limited as a passer, not by any stretch of the imagination, but he certainly would want some of his throws down the stretch of the season back. He struggled with ball security against Iowa and Northwestern, and ultimately, the games were lost because of it.

The consistency from game to game is what plagued Paddock during his time at Ball State and now at Illinois. The Fighting Illini missed out on a bowl game by losing three one-score games and two that were lost by less than a field goal.

Execution from the coaching staff down to the players, especially the quarterbacks, is sorely needed to improve.

Tier 4: Average Big Ten QBs

7) Brendan Sorsby | Indiana

Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (-2)
Yards: 1,587 | TDs: 15 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 57.2% | YPA: 6.7

Dropping the game against Purdue was the final straw for head coach Tom Allen. The Hoosiers fired Allen following the 35-31 loss in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket.

Not shortly after that, Brendan Sorsby hit the transfer portal on his way out with over 10 of his now-former teammates. If that’s not any indication of the type of season it was for the Hoosiers, we don’t know what is.

Tayven Jackson had high hopes for the 2023 season, but those were very short-lived. Sorsby started the year and battled back into the starting position by Week 8 despite a two-quarterback system they employed in the first few weeks of the season.

Nothing this quarterback room did was met with much success in 2023 and the Hoosiers are best to go back to the drawing board. Sure, they rank in the top 10 among Big Ten quarterbacks here, but that’s not saying much when there is a cataclysmic drop from the top four signal-callers.

8) Tanner Mordecai, Braedyn Locke | Wisconsin

Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (+1)
Yards: 1,687 | TDs: 6 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 64.6% | YPA: 6.2

There was a growing concern about the inefficiencies of the Wisconsin offense over the past few weeks. There were far too many points left on the table, and even fewer big plays were created.

Tanner Mordecai is what this Wisconsin team was missing the past few weeks, obviously, after he willed his team back to victory against Minnesota in Week 13. Mordecai threw for two scores, and though he didn’t even throw for over 150 yards, he did plenty to spark his offense back to its winning ways.

Noticeably, Mordecai didn’t even look to run against Minnesota. He was able to stand tall in the pocket and deliver on-time shots to his receivers all over the field. Mordecai put his team in rhythm and kept them on schedule, something he hadn’t been in the past few weeks.

With Mordecai singing his swan song during his last college football game in their bowl game, the Wisconsin Badgers are must-watch TV in December.

9) Gavin Wimsatt | Rutgers

Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (-1)
Yards: 1,651 | TDs: 9 | INT: 8 | Comp. %: 47.8% | YPA: 6.0

A more frustrating quarterback there may not be than Gavin Wimsatt. The Rutgers signal-caller has plenty of arm talent, but his decisions are beyond erratic, and his accuracy is concerning. Wimsatt is a dynamic athlete but needs to know how to harness that athleticism going forward.

Wimsatt can accurately place football to the short and intermediate range at his best but struggles to hit anything deep downfield. This Rutgers team is subsequently unable to play from behind, and if they are forced to do so, it usually ends with the wrong result.

For Wimsatt, he does give the Scarlet Knights an added element with his legs and ground game. He’s shown that he can win games against inferior competition and potentially spark his team against more challenging foes.

However, this offense seems stuck in the mud and can’t help their defense unless they’re playing from ahead and need to grind out victories on the ground instead of Wimsatt elevating the players around him. It’s a frustrating situation because of the talent Wimsatt does possess.

10) Hudson Card | Purdue

Last Week’s Ranking: 13th (+3)
Yards: 2,387 | TDs: 15 | INT: 8 | Comp. %: 58.9% | YPA: 6.5

We were skeptical about Hudson Card’s ability to lead the passing attack at Purdue. To be honest, we still are, even with a win over Indiana to close out the season. The Boilermakers won just four games with Card at the helm and the only saving grace to his season was the fact that he threw six touchdowns over the final two games compared to zero interceptions.

Card proved he can lead the team down the stretch, however, and he made a big leap with his ability to throw the ball downfield and run the ball to keep the chains moving against Indiana. As with all questionable quarterbacks, the consistency issues plagued him in 2023, but he put those away for their Week 13 performance against the Hoosiers.

In the end, Card will have to improve in 2024 as both a thrower and an athlete. Jumping out of the pocket at the slightest bit of pressure will not be the best-case scenario when he showcases that he can rebuild the pocket over the final two weeks of the year.

Fundamentals and growth from inside the structure of the offense will be paramount to his success moving forward.

11) Athan Kaliakmanis | Minnesota

Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (-1)
Yards: 1,838 | TDs: 14 | INT: 9 | Comp. %: 53.1% | YPA: 6.3

Like so many other quarterbacks near the bottom of their conference rankings, Athan Kaliakmanis didn’t find much success in 2023. However, unlike some of those bottom-tier quarterbacks, the talent that Kaliakmanis has is evident.

Kaliakmanis has an incredible arm and can put the football in a bucket to nearly every area of the field. He’ll scan the field well and power his shots over defenders or through windows.

But then he’ll make boneheaded decisions that doom drives and sink his team. It’s as frustrating a situation as we can find in the Big Ten not named Rutgers, and Kaliakmanis is the driving force behind it.

It should be noted: Head coach PJ Fleck must have noticed it as well, as he’s been very busy recruiting the transfer portal since the end of the 2023 regular season, noticeably offering multiple quarterbacks already.

12) Noah Kim, Katin Houser | Michigan State

Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (-1)
Yards: 1,132 | TDs: 6 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 58.6% | YPA: 5.9

It was a mess of a season for Michigan State and Spartans fans are certainly glad this year is over. The quarterback situation was doomed from the start, when Payton Thorne transferred out this summer, and was made worse when Mel Tucker’s off-field discretion ultimately cost him his job.

Noah Kim nor Katin Houser could get anything going and lost all momentum seemingly at will across a weekly and game-by-game basis. Each quarterback, however, flashes some solid talent of potential looking forward.

Against Penn State in Week 13, however, Houser looked confused, lost, and lacked any confidence in his arm talent. The season ends without any answers and the roster is a mess in East Lansing. A new head coach will help whatever quarterback decides to stick around with Michigan State, but they’ll need answers soon.

UPDATE: This excerpt was written before Katin Houser announced his intentions to enter the transfer portal.

Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done Big Ten QBs

13) Deacon Hill | Iowa

Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (-1)
Yards: 976 | TDs: 5 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 48.3% | YPA: 4.8

Doing next to nothing to improve his place in our Big Ten QB Rankings, Deacon Hill almost squandered the game away on multiple occasions for Iowa in Week 13. Hill heads to the Big Ten Championship Game after throwing for 94 yards and an interception against a seemingly hapless Nebraska secondary, at least against any other team not named Iowa.

Hill struggled to see the field against Nebraska and struggled even more to get the ball out on time. In a crucial 3rd & long situation with the game winding down and tied at 10 apiece, Hill’s heave was intercepted as he lacked situational awareness.

He was outdone in terms of ugly quarterback play in this game, see Nebraska’s situation below, but Hill isn’t cleaning out his locker like the Cornhuskers were after the game. Hill will have to improve in every facet if he wants any shot at winning the Big Ten Championship Game.

14) Heinrich Haarberg, Chubba Purdy | Nebraska

Last Week’s Ranking: 14th (no change)
Yards: 382 | TDs: 2 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 54.4% | YPA: 6.7

The game was there for the taking for Nebraska against Iowa. Somehow, bowl eligibility was still available and nearly attainable in the waning stages against the Hawkeyes. But then Chubba Purdy completely missed a dropping defender and threw the worst interception of the season for the Cornhuskers.

Purdy had a nice shot early in the game on a 66-yard touchdown strike to Jaylen Lloyd, but outside of that deep shot, it was as ugly a quarterbacking game as you’ll see this season. He and Hill provided less than zero spark with their arm talent and each was completely baffled by the opposing defense in front of them.

For Purdy, he did flash some ability with his athleticism in the pocket, but it wasn’t nearly enough when he was equally as unimpressive with his inaccuracy and faulty decision-making. After this performance, you’d expect Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule looks heavily into the transfer portal at quarterback this offseason.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

Related Articles

Share your thoughts!x