Re-ranking every Big Ten starting quarterback at midway point of season

New player at top of conference quarterback rankings

Dwayne Haskins, Shea Patterson and Trace McSorley are among the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten. (WDIV)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - In the week leading up to college football season, we ranked all 14 Big Ten starting quarterbacks from worst to best before they even stepped onto the field.

The regular season has now reached its midway point. Most Big Ten teams have played six games, while a few have already played seven. Either way, we have enough information to revisit our list and re-rank the Big Ten signal callers.

14. Artur Sitkowski -- Rutgers

Preseason rank: 12 (down 2)

Season stats: 88-177 (49.7 percent) for 758 yards, three touchdowns at 15 interceptions

Artur Sitkowski passes against Kansas at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 15, 2018, in Lawrence, Kansas. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

What a disaster.

There's no other way to describe the first seven games of Sitkowski's college career. The true freshman has thrown nearly twice as many interceptions as any other player in the country, and he's only connected on three touchdown passes.

Sitkowski was a highly recruited player out of high school, but he's been put in a terrible situation, starting as a true freshman without much talent around him. He threw three interceptions in his debut and three more in a blowout loss to Kansas.

It doesn't seem to be getting any better, as Sitkowski has thrown seven picks in his last two games against Illinois and Maryland. He completed twice as many passes to Terrapins defenders as he did to his teammates in the 2-16, four-interception effort.

13. Zack Annexstad -- Minnesota

Preseason rank: 14 (up 1)

Season stats: 88-167 (52.7 percent) for 1,142 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions

Zack Annexstad passes to Tyler Johnson across the middle against Ohio State at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 13, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The true freshman walk-on moves out of the cellar thanks to Sitkowski's struggles, but the first half wasn't a banner effort for the Minnesota passing attack.

Annexstad is completing just over half his pass attempts for under 7 yards per throw. He's thrown a respectable number of touchdown passes, but that's come with seven interceptions in six games.

After three games, Minnesota was undefeated and Annexstad had four touchdown passes compared to no interceptions. But in the last three games, the Gophers are winless behind four touchdowns and seven picks from their starting quarterback.

12. AJ Bush -- Illinois

Preseason rank: 13 (up 1)

Season stats: 40-73 (54.8 percent) for 482 yards, one touchdown and one interception; 64 carries for 282 yards and three touchdowns

AJ Bush Jr. looks to pass against Rutgers at Stadium on Oct. 6, 2018, in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

Bush's passing stats aren't much better than Annexstad's, but his ability to impact the game with his legs sets him apart. Despite being on a team that has allowed 17 sacks in six games, Bush is third on the team with 282 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

The journeyman grad transfer missed the South Florida and Penn State games but returned to beat Rutgers and get smoked by Purdue.

Bush only has one touchdown pass in four games, and although he's taking care of the ball and making plays on the run, it's been an average first half.

11. Kasim Hill -- Maryland

Preseason rank: 11

Season stats: 55-103 (53.4 percent) for 654 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions

Kasim Hill gets off a pass while being pressured by Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu while playing Texas at FedExField on Sept. 1, 2018, in Landover, Maryland. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Hill beat Tyrrell Pigrome in a quarterback battle that went right up to opening week, and he's been serviceable through six games.

Maryland has by far the fewest passing yards in the Big Ten -- 723, and the next-closest is Illinois at 932 -- but it has also attempted the fewest number of passes.

Pigrome comes in as a running option, a role in which he's gained 151 yards on 24 carries. Hill has only thrown two interceptions in six games, so he's keeping the offense afloat, at the very least.

10. Alex Hornibrook -- Wisconsin

Preseason rank: 5 (down 5)

Season stats: 80-134 (59.7 percent) for 1,063 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions

Alex Hornibrook throws a pass while playing Michigan on Oct. 13, 2018, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

In his third season at Wisconsin, Hornibrook has taken a step back. After throwing 25 touchdown passes and completing 62.3 percent of his attempts a year ago, the junior is on pace to fall short well short of those numbers.

Hornibrook drops the furthest on this list, thanks to a combination of his struggles and stronger performances from those previously ranked lower.

In Wisconsin's biggest game of the season so far, Hornibrook completed just seven of 20 passes against Michigan for 100 yards and two interceptions. He had one touchdown pass to each team.

Hornibrook isn't a bad option at quarterback, but he hasn't turned into a difference-maker. Wisconsin doesn't typically ask much from its quarterbacks, but there needs to be some threat of the pass to help Jonathan Taylor and the running game.

9. Adrian Martinez -- Nebraska

Preseason rank: 9

Season stats: 96-154 (62.3 percent) for 1,167 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions; 66 carries for 290 yards and three touchdowns

Quarterback Adrian Martinez #2 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers awaits a snap during the game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

There have been plenty of growing pains for Martinez in his first six games, but in general, the true freshman has been a bright spot during a dark start to the Scott Frost era.

Martinez hasn't been as good a passer as Hornibrook, but he's been the most effective running quarterback in the conference. Martinez has rushed for 290 yards and three touchdowns while completing 62.3 percent of his passes.

He's showing signs of becoming a true dual-threat quarterback, but he has to cut down on the interceptions and become more consistently accurate.

He should get his first win soon, with home games against Minnesota and Bethune-Cookman on deck.

8. Clayton Thorson -- Northwestern

Preseason rank: 6 (down 2)

Season stats: 159-254 (62.6 percent) for 1,755 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions

Clayton Thorson #18 of the Northwestern Wildcats passes the ball against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half on September 8, 2018 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Thorson was a dynamic player for Northwestern the last three years because of his versatility, but the threat to run has gone out the window as his injuries add up.

After rushing for 18 touchdowns in his first three seasons, Thorson has stopped running as a senior. His longest run went for six yards, and he's reached the end zone just twice.

The passing numbers have started to improve, though. Thorson is second in the conference with 1,755 passing yards and has exploded since the Michigan game.

In comeback wins over Michigan State and Nebraska, Thorson completed 72 of 111 passes for 828 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.

If he could cut down on the turnovers, Thorson would be higher on the list.

7. Peyton Ramsey -- Indiana

Preseason rank: 8 (up 1)

Season stats: 172-253 (68 percent) for 1,624 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions; 72 carries for 189 yards and three touchdowns

Peyton Ramsey runs for a touchdown against Iowa at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 13, 2018, in Bloomington, Indiana. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Turnovers have been the only major issue for Ramsey through seven games, as he's upped his completion percentage and yards per attempt considerably.

When Ramsey took over as Indiana's starting quarterback last season, his running ability was a major factor. He's carried the ball 72 times this season, picking up 189 yards and three touchdowns.

Indiana has already played a tough conference schedule, with losses to Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. But Ramsey has played fairly well in those big games.

As a sophomore, Ramsey looks to have a solid future as the Hoosiers' quarterback.

6. Brian Lewerke -- Michigan State

Preseason rank: 4 (down 2)

Season stats: 135-225 (60 percent) for 1,587 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions

Quarterback Brian Lewerke #14 of the Michigan State Spartans drops back to pass during the first half of the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun…

Lewerke has been one of the top disappointments at quarterback so far this season, but he's also the Big Ten quarterback with the best chance to break out in the second half.

After emerging as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference last year, Lewerke needed only six games this season to match his interception total. His yards per attempt and completion percentage have improved, but he's also missed several passes that he would have made last season.

Lewerke has been sacked 15 times this season, but his other 40 carries went for 197 yards and two touchdowns, so he's still a major threat to run.

If he can shore up the accuracy issues, Lewerke can get back into the top five by season's end.

5. Nate Stanley -- Iowa

Preseason rank: 7 (up 2)

Season stats: 108-174 (62.1 percent) for 1,473 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions

Nate Stanley throws a pass against Indiana at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 13, 2018, in Bloomington, Indiana. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Iowa is off to a great start this season -- albeit against weak competition -- and Stanley deserves a lot of the credit.

His completion percentage has risen by 6.3 percent and he has increased his yards per attempt by 1.6.

With five interceptions through six games, Stanley likely won't match his sparkling 2017 ratio of 26 touchdowns to six picks. But turnovers aren't an issue, and his improvements in every other area more than make up for a couple of additional mistakes.

Stanley plays behind an elite offensive line, which has allowed just six sacks this season, and he's taking advantage.

4. David Blough -- Purdue

Preseason rank: 10 (up 6)

Season stats: 128-187 (68.4 percent) for 1,695 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions

Quarterback David Blough drops back to pass against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 29, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

Blough is the only player on this list who lost the quarterback battle out of fall camp, but since taking over, he has been one of the best in the conference.

The senior has been Purdue's full-time quarterback since the Missouri game, when he threw for 572 yards and three touchdowns. Since that game, the Boilermakers are 3-0 with blowout wins over then-No. 23 Boston College, Nebraska and Illinois.

Blough is second in the conference with an average of more than 9 yards per pass attempt, and he's got an excellent touchdown-to-interception ratio.

If he can handle the upcoming three-game stretch against Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa, he'll be in the conversation for the Big Ten's second-best passer.

3. Trace McSorley -- Penn State

Preseason rank: 1 (down 2)

Season stats: 92-170 (54.1 percent) for 1,241 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions; 79 carries for 447 yards and six touchdowns

Trace McSorley throws a pass against Ohio State on Sept. 29, 2018, at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Through six games, McSorley's stats aren't deserving of the No. 3 quarterback ranking in the conference, but we're not ready to drop him any farther just yet.

Coming off a season in which he completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 8.4 yards per attempt, McSorley's numbers are way down. His team has already suffered a pair of losses at home, and he didn't throw the ball particularly well in either of them.

He's still the best running quarterback in the Big Ten, racking up 447 yards and six touchdowns. Penn State's hopes of a conference title are gone, but McSorley still has three ranked matchups on the schedule to redeem himself.

2. Shea Patterson -- Michigan

Preseason rank: 3 (up 1)

Season stats: 109-159 (68.6 percent) for 1,311 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions; 32 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown

Shea Patterson looks to throw a pass against Maryland on Oct. 6, 2018 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Since opening the season with a loss to Notre Dame, Michigan has been one of the most dominant teams in the country, largely due to Patterson's ability to adapt to his new offensive system.

He ranks second in the conference and 14th in the country with a 68.6 percent completion rate, while throwing just three interceptions.

Patterson has led Michigan to the No. 6 spot in the AP Poll, and the Wolverines are one of only two remaining undefeated teams in Big Ten play. It's the first time Harbaugh has had a dynamic offense to go with his elite defense in Ann Arbor.

Patterson has also been great in the running game. Factoring out 10 sacks, he's run the ball 22 times for 206 yards and a touchdown this season. He led Michigan's comeback against Northwestern by running for several critical first downs and set up the first touchdown against Wisconsin with an 81-yard dash.

1. Dwayne Haskins -- Ohio State

Preseason rank: 2 (up 1)

Season stats: 175-242 (72.3 percent) for 2,331 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions

Dwayne Haskins throws a 39-yard touchdown pass against Indiana at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The gap between Sitkowski and the rest of the conference is rivaled only by the one between Haskins and his Big Ten brethren.

The first-year starter is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, completing 72.3 percent of his passes for 9.63 yards per attempt. He leads the country in touchdown passes, and ranks third in completion rate and passing yards.

Ohio State is No. 2 in the country because Haskins is leading a lethal passing attack.

Haskins is less of a running quarterback than previous Ohio State starters, but he can still use his feet when he has to.

In the last two games, Haskins has thrown for 867 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Ohio State still has several games against bad pass defenses on its schedule, so Haskins should continue to put up video game numbers.

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