The Big Ten has never been known for its proficiency through the air and the 2022 college football season likely won’t be much different.
However, this conference has a ton of experience across both divisions. In fact, the top six or seven contenders for the conference championship will all have homegrown starting quarterbacks this fall.
1. C.J. Stroud – Ohio State
The Buckeyes offense is the standard of quarterback play in this conference, and Stroud is next in the long line of elite OSU gunslingers.
Some weapons will need to be replaced, but his 369.6 yards per game, 71.9% completion rate and 44-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio plays just fine with the best offense in the Big Ten.
2. Aiden O’Connell – Purdue
If not for Stroud, O’Connell would’ve received more national recognition last season. He averaged over 300 yards per game and led Purdue to a nine-win season.
The super senior is entering just his second year as a starter, but should prove quickly this fall that last year’s breakout was no fluke.
3. Cade McNamara/J.J. McCarthy – Michigan
Individually, it’s possible that neither McNamara nor McCarthy belong third on this list. But with a lack of elite options elsewhere in the league, Michigan’s quarterback room is clearly behind only Ohio State and Purdue.
McNamara led the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff and a conference title last year, and McCarthy, who will be a sophomore, has more upside than almost any other quarterback in the Big Ten.
4. Taulia Tagovailoa – Maryland
The Alabama transfer quietly posted excellent numbers last fall. He threw for almost 300 yards per game, averaged over eight yards per attempt, almost completed 70% of his passes and accounted for 28 total touchdowns.
The Terps’ offense is in good hands with him under center.
5. Payton Thorne – Michigan State
The rising junior wasn’t as explosive or as efficient as some of the other Big Ten stars, but he was a huge part of the Spartans’ emergence a year ago. He scored a total of 31 touchdowns, while leading Michigan State to 11 wins, including a win over Pittsburgh in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
6. Casey Thompson, Nebraska
Thompson, a Texas transfer, brings a lot of skills to Scott Frost’s offense that are appealing, and much-needed.
The Longhorns weren’t good last year, but it wasn’t all on the offense. Thompson posted over eight yards per passing attempt and he also brings some excellent athletic ability to Lincoln.
7. Sean Clifford – Penn State
Penn State fans have an interesting relationship with Clifford. He’s simply not as good as former starter Trace McSorley, but he’s better than anything else the Nittany Lions can put out there. H
e’s started 34 games over the last three seasons, missing just one game three years ago. Maybe 2022 will be his year.
8. Tanner Morgan – Minnesota
Morgan’s career in Minnesota is an interesting one. It began with a monster 2019 season that almost ended in the Big Ten title game, but the signal caller has lost much of his supporting cast the last two seasons to the draft, other teams in the Big Ten and injuries.
If his offense stays healthy, he could rebound in 2022.
9. Connor Bazelak – Indiana
The big pocket passer had a brilliant freshman season for Missouri in 2020, but crashed back down to earth last fall. He has a lot of talent and a big arm, but needed a change of scenery.
Indiana is a solid landing spot despite its poor 2021 showing and could help him get back on track.
10. Graham Mertz – Wisconsin
Mertz has a Sean Clifford-type of relationship with Wisconsin fans. He was extremely highly touted coming to Madison, but has failed to realize the potential in either of his two seasons under center. This fall could be his final chance to turn his obvious upside into accurate down-the-field passing.
11. Spencer Petras – Iowa
It’s hard in modern college football to start more games (12) than touchdown passes thrown (10) but that is what Petras did last year for Iowa. He also found a way to win eight of those games, albeit on the back of the Iowa defense.
Petras brings experience and maturity, but will never be a big-play threat.
12. Tommy DeVito – Illinois
The former Syracuse starter will be battling other transfers for the starting gig in Champagne. Perhaps changing zip codes will spark the former four-star recruit into finally realizing his potential.
13. Ryan Hilinski – Northwestern
The former South Carolina QB threw just three touchdowns and four interceptions last season as Northwestern struggled to find any consistency on offense. It may just never click for the former top 100 four-star recruit.
14. Gavin Wimsatt – Rutgers
The Owensboro, Kentucky, native was a four-star, top-200 recruit last fall. He only threw 21 passes, and two were interceptions, but he still has plenty of upside for an improving Rutgers roster.