J.J. McCarthy has essentially played perfect football in 2023 as he paces our Big Ten QB Rankings. However, he’s starting to finally feel pressure from below as Drew Allar enters the elite tier following a terrific beginning to his career as the starter for Penn State.
Our weekly iteration of our 2023 Big Ten QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through seven 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.
All QB Rankings: 1-133 | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind.
With the amount of midweek games in Week 7, we’ve paused the written analysis on each quarterback across the country and will save that for a renewed Week 8 ranking following each conference’s games for this weekend.
Reminder – we also released our Midseason All-B1G Team and Midseason All-Americans this week.
Tier 1: The Elite Big Ten QBs
1) J.J. McCarthy | Michigan
Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (no change)
Yards: 1,512 | TDs: 14 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 78.2% | YPA: 10.6
Save for a slow start to the Indiana game in Week 7 and a sluggish outing against an underrated Bowling Green secondary, J.J. McCarthy has essentially played perfect football in 2023. He’s undoubtedly the best quarterback in the Big Ten and charging up the top tier nationally.
McCarthy is consistently seeing the field brilliantly, picking his shots wisely, and has the benefit of a tremendous offensive line in front of him. He’s been absolutely dominant with play action, but perhaps even better without it as he’s been as stable as they come in 2023.
McCarthy is must-watch television and could carry this Michigan team into the College Football Playoff.
2) Drew Allar | Penn State
Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (no change)
Yards: 1,254 | TDs: 12 | INT: 0 | Comp. %: 65.2% | YPA: 6.9
We’ve finally reached the part of Drew Allar’s growth where we put him firmly in the Elite Tier of our Big Ten QB Rankings. The big-armed signal-caller has been terrific for Penn State in 2023, seemingly growing in front of our eyes.
He’s thrown for 1,254 yards but it could be much more as he’s had some potentially costly drops from his receivers. Still, Allar has picked apart defenses, taken his time to settle in, and been dominant once he’s found his footing.
Like McCarthy above him, Allar is performing incredibly well inside of stable situations and within the structure of the offense. And for a young quarterback like Allar, that’s something you like to see as they mature and get more comfortable in the pocket.
Tier 2: Well-Above-Average Big Ten QBs
3) Kyle McCord | Ohio State
Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (no change)
Yards: 1,651 | TDs: 11 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 64.1% | YPA: 9.7
Fresh off arguably his best performance to date, Kyle McCord is teetering on joining the Elite Tier soon in our Big Ten QB Rankings. McCord threw three touchdowns against Purdue and did so despite some wide receiver hiccups.
He’s started to settle in as the season has gone along for Ohio State, taking what defenses are presenting him and exploiting coverage mismatches to his star-studded wide receivers more frequently.
He loses a bit of accuracy and his decisions haven’t quite been the best when he’s forced to get the ball past the sticks, but other than that, McCord’s got it.
4) Taulia Tagovailoa | Maryland
Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (no change)
Yards: 1,926 | TDs: 16 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 63.9% | YPA: 7.7
Sometimes Taulia Tagovailoa giveth, sometimes Taulia Tagovailoa taketh away. Though not quite the gunslinger you’d expect, at times, Tagovailoa is absolutely a gunslinger who pushes football into windows that are shut or trusts his arm a bit too much to make ill-fated decisions.
He’s not seen the short area of the field particularly well this year, but when he does test the deep waters, Tagovailoa has shown brightest. With back-to-back losses marring what was a terrific start, Tagovailoa was certainly not to blame for half those decisions, but will have to play better as the Big Ten schedule continues.
Tier 3: Above-Average Big Ten QBs
5) Hudson Card | Purdue
Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (+1)
Yards: 1,617 | TDs: 7 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 60.6% | YPA: 6.6
The defenses have certainly not been kind to Hudson Card or the Purdue Boilermakers to open the season as they’ve played some of the best defenses any one team has played in 2023. Fresh off a slow performance against Ohio State, Card still has done enough in 2023 to know that he’s the guy for Purdue.
Still, he’ll have to play better, with more accuracy, more poise, and better decision-making as the season goes along if they want to make a bowl game. The opposing defenses — save for Michigan — do get a bit easier down the back-half of their schedule.
Tier 4: Average Big Ten QBs
6) Gavin Wimsatt | Rutgers
Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (+1)
Yards: 1,095 | TDs: 7 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 50.9% | YPA: 6.5
Say what you will about the limitations of the Rutgers offense, Gavin Wimsatt, Greg Schiano, and the Scarlet Knights can flat-out get it done. Sitting a game away from bowl eligibility, Rutgers heads into their Week 8 bye week on the heels of a come-from-behind victory over Michigan State, thanks to the run game, their defense, and Wimsatt.
Throwing for a touchdown and keeping key plays alive with his legs, Wimsatt gave the Scarlet Knights exactly what they needed, when they needed in against the Spartans in Week 7. It’s not been “sexy” by any means, but the Rutgers offense thrives on the ground and with Wimsatt’s ability to extend plays.
More of that will be crucial when they return to the field in Week 9 as their schedule certain stiffens, but a single win with games against Indiana, Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State, and Maryland left on the schedule seems possible.
7) Luke Altmyer | Illinois
Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (+1)
Yards: 1,571 | TDs: 8 | INT: 9 | Comp. %: 63.3% | YPA: 7.2
It wasn’t the prettiest of outings for Luke Altmyer nor for the Illinois Fighting Illini, but they overcame the Maryland Terrapins and their ferocious front four in Week 7 anyways. Altmyer has rebounded nicely after rather slow performances through the Penn State game this season, throwing five touchdowns against just two interceptions in his last four games.
This offense pits to his strengths and it should be noted that he’s seemingly improved in every game this year, save for that aforementioned Penn State game. Altmyer may never be the quarterback to test the deep waters regularly, nor will this offense ask him to, but he’s shown he can still manage a couple of consistent drives for the Illini all the same.
8) Tanner Mordecai | Wisconsin
Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (-3)
Yards: 1,127 | TDs: 3 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 63.7% | YPA: 6.3
What could have been for this Wisconsin offense in their first year under Phil Longo and with Tanner Mordecai at the helm. Instead, they’ve struggled to make ends meet and Mordecai has just three passing touchdowns in six games.
The offense was held without a touchdown against Iowa in Week 7 as the Hawkeyes bottled up their passing and rushing attack all the same. Mordecai wasn’t inaccurate with his throws, but he certainly wasn’t accurate with some of his decisions against Iowa as they couldn’t quite pull the trigger on any successful drives.
Mordecai has plenty of arm talent, a ton of moxie, and the wherewithal to make this offense go, one wonders why it hasn’t done just that this season.
Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done Big Ten QBs
9) Tayven Jackson | Indiana
Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (no change)
Yards: 914 | TDs: 2 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 60.9% | YPA: 7.1
Against Michigan, no Indiana quarterback fared too well. Not too well at all. In fact, it was Donaven McCulley who threw the lone touchdown of the day for the Hoosiers on a double-pass from the former quarterback himself.
Tayven Jackson threw two interceptions and Brendan Sorsby completed just six of his 15 pass attempts as the Indiana offense just simply got shut down by Michigan.
Even not against Michigan, the Indiana offense hasn’t looked anything but stuck in mud for the most of the 2023 season and something will have to give as they move on down the stretch.
10) Ben Bryant, Brendan Sullivan | Northwestern
Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (no change)
Yards: 926 | TDs: 6 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 59.0% | YPA: 5.8
The majority of the back half of the Big Ten QB Rankings were on bye weeks in Week 7 and Northwestern was no different. Last we saw the Wildcats, however, was going to the wire against Howard.
In that outing, Brendan Sullivan returned as the starter and threw for two scores while rushing for another. Sullivan has some interesting intangibles as the Northwestern quarterback but decision-making and accuracy haven’t shown up as consistently as you’d like.
11) Heinrich Haarberg | Nebraska
Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (no change)
Yards: 631 | TDs: 4 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 52.1% | YPA: 6.6
The Nebraska quarterback situation was always set to get worse before it got better in the first year under Matt Rhule. With Jeff Sims out, it’s been the Heinrich Haarberg show over the last few outings, and he’s battled through some accuracy issues to a 3-1 record over their last four.
Still, Haarberg is a much better rusher at this point than he is a passer. Considering Rhule certainly needs a passer in his wide-open offense, there is a recipe for success with Haarberg in 2023. They just can’t avoid getting down early as this team is not built to come from behind at this stage.
12) Noah Kim | Michigan State
Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (no change)
Yards: 1,090 | TDs: 6 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 56.9% | YPA: 6.8
We really liked what we saw from Noah Kim early on in the season for Michigan State. Kim was sharp with his reads and showcased a strong enough arm. However, after three interceptions against Iowa and six over his last two starts, it was Katin Houser who we saw against Rutgers in Week 7.
Houser did little with his arm to stake claim to the position as the Spartans continue to flounder, but he did contribute to three touchdowns. He threw for 133 yards on 29 attempts, hardly testing the waters deep with any consistency and this situation has a lot to prove moving forward.
13) Athan Kaliakmanis | Minnesota
Last Week’s Ranking: 13th (no change)
Yards: 797 | TDs: 6 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 55.9% | YPA: 5.9
It feels like forever ago that this Minnesota offense had Tanner Morgan letting seam shots rip and throwing his receivers open to the deep portions of the field. And, well, that’s likely because it was after the long season it’s been with Athan Kaliakmanis at the helm.
Fresh off a beatdown at the hands of Michigan, the Gophers will hope to utilize their Week 7 bye week to install some pass plays that get this ridiculously talented wide receiver group the ball in space because that’s certainly one of the things that’s been lacking this year.
14) Cade McNamara, Deacon Hill | Iowa
Last Week’s Ranking: 14th (no change)
Yards: 311 | TDs: 2 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 38.6% | YPA: 4.4
It could be said that no quarterback in the country may have to do as little as the starting quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes does in order to get a win. That should certainly be evident in Deacon Hill who has started the last two games for the Hawkeyes and thrown just 147 yards on 12-of-35 passing.
That’s right, Hill has thrown a single touchdown, completed 34.2% of his throws, and chipped in with -43 rushing yards over his first two starts this year and somehow, some way, the Hawkeyes are 2-0 on those games.
It’s a shock that this team — with all their offensive woes — is still ranked inside the top 25. Their defense is great and their special teams are awesome, but as good as those other units are, with Hill or Cade McNamara leading the team at quarterback, their offense is equally, if not more, unimpressive.