Ranking the Big Ten quarterbacks through Week 4 by PFF grades

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For some quarterbacks, Week 4 was exactly what the doctor ordered. For others, they’d like to have the week back, given their performances.

Sean Clifford and Taulia Tagovailoa shined, while Cade McNamara and Payton Thorne had rocky second halves. Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell continued to split time for Purdue while C.J. Stroud got a week off to nurse his injury.

It was a wild week in college football and across the Big Ten, as many teams had in-conference games for the first time. Taking a look at PFF’s cumulative grades ($), not just this past week, here’s how each quarterback ranks against the others.

List

What Jim Harbaugh said in his Week 5 press conference previewing Wisconsin

Graham Mertz - Wisconsin

Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Grade: 44.2

Context

Mertz has not lived up to his five-star status through Wisconsin’s three games this season. He’s completing 56.8-percent of his passes, throwing for just 6 yards per attempt, and has thrown just one touchdown to six interceptions.

Brandon Peters - Illinois

Photo: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Grade: 53.8

Context

Peters made his return against Maryland two weeks ago and isn’t faring much better than Artur Sitkowski (he’s actually grading slightly lower). He’s not thrown any touchdowns and has one interception to go along with 47.4-percent completions.

Hunter Johnson - Northwestern

Photo: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Grade: 55.3

Context

Johnson was actually replaced by Ryan Hilinski (who grades out lower than Johnson) but considering that Johnson still has the bulk of the reps, we’re keeping him here. He’s thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions thus far.

Noah Vedral - Rutgers

Photo: Isaiah Hole

PFF Grade: 55.4

Context

Vedral actually rose this week after his performance against Michigan, as he was No. 13 last week. He made few mistakes in Week 4, but the biggest being his game-sealing fumble caused by David Ojabo.

Tanner Morgan - Minnesota

Photo: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Grade: 57.9

Context

Two years ago, Morgan was thought of as a potential first-round NFL draft pick. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. He’s thrown three touchdowns to two interceptions, with both picks coming against BGSU this week. He’s only completing 52.8-percent of his passes.

Jack Plummer - Purdue

Photo: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Grade: 67.8

Context

Plummer has split time with Aidan O’Connell (more on him later) and while he’s been serviceable, there’s a legitimate QB controversy in West Lafayette. He’s not turned the ball over and is completing 70.3-percent of his passes. He’s thrown seven touchdowns thus far.

Michael Penix Jr.

Photo: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Grade: 69.3

Context

Penix got some redemption this past week, having gone 35-for-53 for 373 yards. He came in last place a week ago in PFF’s cumulative grading, but performed so well in Indiana’s comeback road win at Western Kentucky that he moved all the way up to the middle of the pack. Still, on the season, he’s only completing 55-percent of his passes.

Payton Thorne - Michigan State

Photo: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Grade: 70.5

Context

Thorne had his worst game against Nebraska, going 14-for-23 for 183 yards with a touchdown and his first interception of the year. Like Michigan’s Cade McNamara, he wasn’t able to do much of anything in the second half in Week 4.

Adrian Martinez - Nebraska

Jordan Glasgow and Chase Winovich give Adrian Martinez chase. Photo: Isaiah Hole

PFF Grade: 70.8

Context

Martinez has come on as of late and completed 70.6 of his passes in the loss to MSU. However, it was for only 7.4 yards per attempt and he threw a costly interception. Still, he’s thrown 1,268 yards with five touchdowns and two picks through five games.

Aidan O’Connell - Purdue

(Nikos Frazier/Journal & Courier via AP)

PFF Grade: 77.8

Context

Yes, Purdue gets two quarterbacks on the list since O’Connell has gotten so much play lately. He’s completed 66.7-percent of his passes, but he’s thrown three touchdowns-to-four interceptions. Still, PFF gives him a pretty high grade overall.

C.J. Stroud - Ohio State

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

PFF Grade: 81.3

Context

Stroud did not play for Ohio State against Akron, but he still comes in at No. 5 on the list. He’s thrown eight touchdowns and three interceptions and is second in the conference in yards per game.

Spencer Petras - Iowa

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras (7) gets set under center Tyler Linderbaum (65) and offensive lineman Kyler Schott (64) lines up during a NCAA non-conference football game against Kent State, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

PFF Grade: 83.5

Context

Petras isn’t asked to do much in Iowa City, but he’s managing the offense to go along with a solid defense. He’s completed 59-percent of his passes, thrown four touchdowns and one interception thus far.

Cade McNamara - Michigan

Photo: Isaiah Hole

PFF Grade: 83.8

Context

Despite not having had his best performance against Rutgers, particularly in the second half, McNamara still holds a top grade according to PFF. He did lose six points and dropped on spot, but the last time he had a mediocre passing performance (Washington, Week 2), he followed it up with a big game. We’ll see if he does so this next week at Wisconsin.

Sean Clifford - Penn State

Photo: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Grade: 85.6

Context

Playing an FCS team certainly does a lot to help your stats and confidence. Sean Clifford rose after beating Villanova and is now the second-rated QB on PFF’s list. He passed for a season-best 405 yards and 15.6 yards per attempt on Saturday and threw four touchdowns and one interception.

Taulia Tagovailoa - Maryland

PFF Grade: 92.4

Context

Tagovailoa maintains the top spot on the list, and it’s no surprise. He leads the conference in passing yards, yards per game, and completion percentage. He threw for 384 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against Kent State. The INT thrown was his first of the season.

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