The Big Ten QB Rankings are set to fluctuate throughout the season. Ahead of some of their biggest tests, J.J. McCarthy still leads the pack, with Drew Allar and Taulia Tagovailoa nipping at his heels.
Our weekly iteration of our 2023 Big Ten QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through the first three weeks of the season.
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.
Tier 1: The Elite Big Ten QBs
1) J.J. McCarthy | Michigan
Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (no change)
The going got tough for J.J. McCarthy on Saturday night against an underrated Bowling Green secondary. He was picked off three times, all decisions McCarthy is going to want back and failed to take advantage of an overmatched defense overall.
It’s fine to have a bad outing or an off night once in a while, but these kinds of performances won’t keep McCarthy here in the Elite Tier for much longer, nor will it win their games once they get to Big Ten play.
Tier 2: Well-Above-Average Big Ten QBs
2) Drew Allar | Penn State
Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (no change)
Quietly, Drew Allar has put forth a terrific start to the 2023 season. Against Illinois, Allar struggled to find his receivers open downfield, and sure he had some issues with his playmakers dropping the ball, but it was an underwhelming performance in what amounted to a blowout performance.
Still, Allar picked his shots well and kept the ball out of harm’s way against a tough defense. The Penn State offense may not run through Allar at this time, and that’s just fine. Time will tell if he’s able to spark the offense when the going gets tough.
3) Taulia Tagovailoa | Maryland
Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (no change)
For the second straight week, Maryland started off slowly in a game. They found themselves down 14-0 to Virginia before Taulia Tagovailoa turned on the jets.
With his zippy arm and quick decisions, he threw for nearly 350 yards and a score, averaging 11 yards per pass attempt, most of which came on consecutive drives that saw the Maryland offense score 42 consecutive points.
The preseason No. 1 Big Ten QB is looking more and more like the Tagovailoa we knew from the past few years and if he is back to form, avoiding those slow starts will keep this team in every Big Ten game remaining.
Tier 3: Above-Average Big Ten QBs
4) Kyle McCord | Ohio State
Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (+1)
Paced by their defense and a dominant ground game, Kyle McCord and Ohio State rolled over Western Kentucky. With Notre Dame on the horizon, McCord took care of business with three scores and over 300 yards through the air.
It wasn’t the prettiest performance overall, but McCord has the OSU offense humming as he continues to garner game reps and acclimate himself to the speed of the game. It’s a promising sign, but Notre Dame was always going to be the biggest test of the early portion of their season.
5) Hudson Card | Purdue
Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (+2)
A loss is a loss, but Hudson Card proved he has the talent to be one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten in a non-conference loss to Syracuse. Card slung it around the field, patiently allowing his receivers to clear and finding his playmakers in space.
He trusted his arm a few too many times and got in trouble with ball security and an inability to sense pressure, but there are more signs of promise than not in his game.
6) Tanner Mordecai | Wisconsin
Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (no change)
The Wisconsin defense was the star of the show against Georgia Southern, forcing six turnovers and sacking Davis Brin more than a handful of times. Tanner Mordecai had multiple short fields to work with and diced up the defense in the short area of the field.
He took something off his passes in this game and though it was a blowout in the end, it wasn’t really a dominant performance until they started to feature Bralon Allen on the ground. Wisconsin and Mordecai will have to improve downfield if they want to compete for the Big Ten in 2023.
Tier 4: Average Big Ten QBs
7) Noah Kim | Michigan State
Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (-3)
All things considered, we were probably too quick to be so high on Noah Kim after he looked sharp in the first three weeks of the season. He came back down to Earth with a lackluster performance against Washington in Week 3 but through this point of the season, he’s been a lone glimmer of hope in an otherwise disastrous season for the Spartans.
What this team looks like after Week 4 is a completely different story but look for their players to put their best effort forward in their fourth game of the season before transfer intents are likely to be announced following their Week 4 outing.
Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done Big Ten QBs
8) Tayven Jackson | Indiana
Last Week’s Ranking: 13th (+5)
It was a sound performance overall by Tayven Jackson against Louisville. However, it just wasn’t enough to move the needle too much from a tiered perspective here. Jackson nearly hit the 300-yard mark but was ineffective in crucial situations for the Hoosiers.
They move up five spots, however, because Jackson gives them a potential advantage with the off-script ability he showcased against the Cardinals. We’ll remain optimistic that they can turn things around under Tom Allen, but we’re not quite sure if this team is ready to compete without an elite quarterback.
9) Jeff Sims, Heinrich Haarberg | Nebraska
Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (+2)
Heinrich Haarberg stepped up with Jeff Sims out against Northern Illinois, completing just enough passes to get the job done against a struggling Huskies team in Week 3. Haarberg had some drops by his receiving corps, deflating his completion percentage as some fans have pointed to, but it was a decent performance of turnover-free football from a Nebraska signal-caller.
With Sims’ status up in air for Week 4, Haarberg likely gets a chance to improve on what he showcased in Week 3 against a Louisiana Tech team that is far behind on defense this season.
10) Gavin Wimsatt | Rutgers
Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (-2)
It was a disaster in terms of aerial performances from Gavin Wimsatt against Virginia Tech in Week 3. Throwing for all of 46 yards, Wimsatt didn’t do much to move the needle in his favor of these Big Ten QB Rankings.
Sure, he was effective with the ground game and that was enough to defeat Virginia Tech, but that’s likely not going to be the case in conference play here. Wimsatt must improve his mechanics and decision-making first as the Scarlet Knights enter Big Ten play.
11) Cade McNamara | Iowa
Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (-1)
The Iowa Hawkeyes scored 41 points AND won on the back of their defensive prowess in Week 3. Now that’s a shocker.
Cade McNamara, however, was not his sharpest in the 41-point outing against Western Michigan. He found his receivers underneath just fine, but when it came time to push the ball to the boundary or downfield, his accuracy dipped and he threw for just north of 100 yards with two interceptions to his two touchdowns.
The rushing game carried their offense, literally, and as we said last week: It’s another season of below-average QB play in Iowa City.
12) Athan Kaliakmanis | Minnesota
Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (no change)
What could have been a halfway decent game against North Carolina was ripped to shreds by the quarterback play from Minnesota. Athan Kaliakmanis struggled to find his receivers in any sort of open window and all too often forced the issue.
Kaliakmanis limped his way to a poor showing of less than 40% completions and multiple poor decisions that led to just 4.6 yards per attempt and a pick. This is not quite the play from a quarterback that we’ve come to expect in the P.J. Fleck era of college football, whether at Minnesota or Western Michigan.
13) Luke Altmyer | Illinois
Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (-4)
Making the biggest tumble of the weekend in the Big Ten is Luke Altmyer and the Illinois Fighting Illini. Throwing four picks will do that, especially when those interceptions came off poor decisions and inaccurate throws all the same.
John Paddock was unable to spark life into the Illinois offense either, despite a touchdown toss in what amounted to garbage time. It’s looking more and more likely that we underappreciated the level of play Tommy DeVito gave the Fighting Illini last season.
14) Ben Bryant | Northwestern
Last Week’s Ranking: 14th (no change)
A brutal performance from the Northwestern defense forced the quarterback play into tough situations and Ben Bryant, nor Brendan Sullivan could get them out. Bryant was sluggish to make his reads and couldn’t hit his receivers consistently enough to get the ball rolling or sustain a drive.
They struggled with keeping their quarterbacks upright and both Bryant and Sullivan made poor decisions under duress. It was a bad day against a tough opponent.