In all likelihood, the Heisman Trophy and potentially the national championship will run through the Big Ten this season, thanks in large part to Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud’s place atop the national quarterback lists. Stroud dominated a season ago, leading the Buckeyes to the top offense in college football. He returns in 2022, but where does Stroud stand among his conference foes both in the Big Ten and nationally?
Top Big Ten QBs in 2022 | 1-14
Hailing from our preseason top quarterback rankings at the FBS level, the starting quarterbacks from the B1G landed as follows:
1) C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
2) Connor Bazelak, Indiana
3) Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
4) Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
5) Payton Thorne, Michigan State
6) Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
7) Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
8) Sean Clifford, Penn State
9) Cade McNamara & J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
10) Tommy DeVito & Artur Sitkowski, Illinois
11) Noah Vedral, Rutgers
12) Casey Thompson, Nebraska
13) Spencer Petras, Iowa
14) Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern
And here’s how they ranked nationally among all their peers:
1) C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
25) Connor Bazelak, Indiana
37) Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
49) Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
50) Payton Thorne, Michigan State
52) Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
64) Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
67) Sean Clifford, Penn State
80) Cade McNamara & J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
88) Tommy DeVito & Artur Sitkowski, Illinois
90) Noah Vedral, Rutgers
96) Casey Thompson, Nebraska
104) Spencer Petras, Iowa
113) Ryan Hilinski, Northwestern
Which games should we be most excited for on the Big Ten schedule, and why should you be sure to tune in this fall? Let’s take it week by week.
Week 1: Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
The Big Ten quarterback battles to watch start and end in Columbus. With Notre Dame coming to town, new head coach Marcus Freeman is welcomed into the FBS head coaching ranks in arguably the toughest spot in recent memory. Taking on the top offense and the nation’s best quarterback in C.J. Stroud should certainly scare the Fighting Irish.
Week 2: Washington State vs. Wisconsin
The Wisconsin defense will be tested early on in out-of-conference action. Washington State is set to be led by Cameron Ward, a transfer from Incarnate Word. After throwing for over 6,000 yards in just over a year’s worth of action, Ward is likely to transform the Cougars’ offense for the better in 2022. How ready is Wisconsin’s secondary early on this all?
Week 3: Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
Though Nebraska head coach Scott Frost didn’t directly recruit Dillon Gabriel to UCF when he was their head coach, it was Frost who could indirectly be attributed to Gabriel’s heading to Orlando in the class of 2019 after the success he saw with McKenzie Milton. Now in Lincoln and with Gabriel in Norman, this Oklahoma vs. Nebraska game certainly doesn’t lack in storylines.
Week 4: Minnesota vs. Michigan State
Tanner Morgan returns with his former offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, and the Michigan State defense is set to be tested early. Morgan had his best college season under Ciarrocca back in 2019, and he should look much improved after two years apart. Is Mel Tucker ready to stand the testament of a recurring Big Ten schedule? This game will prove it.
Week 5: Michigan vs. Iowa
The Michigan Wolverines need to replace a lot of talent lost, but they also need to figure out the QB situation. Is it going to be Cade McNamara all season long or will J.J. McCarthy take his place? Iowa’s 3-3-5 defense is not a defense you want to go into a game with questions at quarterback.
Week 6: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
As mentioned, Michigan State has a potential QB gauntlet on their hands. No one is better than Stroud in college football, and the Spartans better get a dramatically better performance from Payton Thorne this time around.
Week 7: Penn State vs. Michigan
As mentioned before, the Wolverines need to figure out their starting quarterback and do it early on. Penn State’s Sean Clifford looked like he could be the next great Nittany Lions QB early on in his career, but he’s been a middling performer since. Both need better play from their quarterbacks to compete with OSU, but will they get that here?
Week 8: Iowa vs. Ohio State
Is this perhaps the only defense that can slow down Ohio State in 2022? Even if Iowa does figure out the OSU attack, will Spencer Petras even be able to move the football against the Buckeyes? Seems doubtful, given his ranking here.
Week 9: Michigan State vs. Michigan
It’s a midseason battle for potentially second place in the Big Ten East, as neither seems to hold a candle to Ohio State this season. Will Thorne be up for the challenge of topping his in-state rivals, or will the Wolverines have their QB situation figured out? More importantly, which Wolverines’ QB will be starting here, and just how have they fared through nine weeks?
Week 10: Maryland vs. Wisconsin
Can Taulia Tagovailoa solve the puzzling defenses on his schedule? He doesn’t get Iowa and Minnesota this year, fortunately, but the Wisconsin defense certainly isn’t going to be an easy test. Tagovailoa lit up the scoreboards early but faltered down the stretch. If he’s out to prove he’s a top-notch quarterback in the conference, this is the game to do it.
Week 11: Wisconsin vs. Iowa
A back-to-back serving of the Badgers as Graham Mertz can once and for all prove he was the right man for the job in Madison. Against an Iowa secondary that may boast a few NFL draft picks, is Mertz up for the challenge? Either way, this game has Big Ten West implications written all over it.
Week 12: Illinois vs. Michigan
Tommy DeVito and Artur Sitkowski vs. Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy. If that doesn’t do it for you, you’ve not read this far down. Who is starting for each team, and just how did we get here? Among a ho-hum Week 12 schedule, the storylines are there already.
Week 13: Michigan vs. Ohio State
The Game pits Stroud on a revenge tour against Michigan. If he is who we think he is (he is), this game could see Stroud’s Heisman Trophy wrapped up when it’s all said and done. They won’t rest on their laurels to put the exclamation point on Michigan early this fall in Columbus.