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OTE 2020: Northwestern Roster Ratings Review

The ratings are virtual, the outrage is real.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Northwestern at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Do you know how to play video games?

While my Northwestern degree, portly shape, and propensity for being Extremely Online suggest that I enjoy holding a controller and yelling at small children through a headset while doing that weird dance thing where I put an L on my forehead, I very much do not.

Regardless, it appears we are really actually doing this thing where we simulate a whole Big Ten football season on NCAA Football ‘14. I’m told that’s played on an Xbox. As a cultural historian I definitely know what those words mean.

I am also told that to do this, we should review our teams’ stats ratings, because there are people who care about this enough to create whole updated team roster. What follows is my attempt to do so, thus “helping out” at a blog I ostensibly run when my bosses aren’t actively trying to make it harder for you to comment here.

MC ClapYoHandz has already taken a crack at the wisconsin badgers. You can read that here if you care about a garbage state, garbage team, and garbage people.*
*None of my in-laws read this; I’m in the clear.

Today, I worry about my people, the 2020 Northwestern Wildcats.

How are you ranking them?

I’m going to include the ratings MC ClapYoHandz suggested in his OTE 2020 Primer, because it beats the hell outta me trying to impose order on this thing:

90+ rating: Impact Player. This player certainly contends for All-Conference or even All-American honors and is constant problem for the opposition. Once you get to about 97+, there should only be maybe 5ish(?) guys in the country capable of that rating.
85-89 rating: Decidedly above average to great even for a Top 25 program. Almost guaranteed to be on the field and producing at a high level. Still high All-Conference caliber players here with occasional All-American ceiling. The best player on even an above average team can end up here.
80-84 rating: Very good player, very likely to start at the Top 25 level and be an asset. Plenty of P5 All-Conference Talent still here.
75-79 rating: Good player, a healthy chunk of P5 starters will end up here and you start to see bench players around here for good teams with a great player ahead. Still capable of seeing difference makers at this level, but a lot of players begin to fall into this category. Best player on an average team can be here.
70-74 rating: Below average to average player at P5 level. Might start but also represent a weakness in the lineup. Another range with a ton of players.
Below 70 rating: Almost certainly a below average average player that rounds out the bottom of the roster. Liability to have on the field at the P5 level. Most teams should have much fewer players in this range than the 70s. For attribute ratings, attributes of secondary importance to a position can fall into the 60s even for good players.

Dear any actual football player who’s reading this: I have no idea. I really don’t. It’s always bemusing as hell to me when the EA or NFL or NBA2KSuperBBallJam ratings come out and players REACT, giving ESPN something to fill a full two hours of programming on ESPN5: The Fünf! and its all-video game Sundays.

Please do not roast me for these ratings, because I am not good enough at this to actually be roasted, and also I won’t get your tweets unless you mail them to me. #SaveUSPS.

We get it, you don’t play video games.


Fine, so you suck at this.

Here’s my best attempt at calibrating the Northwestern Wildcats’ lineup anyway:


Northwestern notably has no problems at quarterback and this will go swimmingly.

OK, so this exercise is invalid right off the top. T.J. Green received a sixth year of eligibility way back in January, so I’m starting to think the people who made these rosters don’t even stay UP TO DATE on Northwestern football!

Also, fans of the Illinois Fighting Illini will enjoy that a stat called “Trucking”—which apparently has nothing to do with the player’s ability to haul a shipment of hazardous material from El Paso to International Falls in under 24 hours—is all the way up at 70 for Andrew Marty and down in the 40s for most quarterbacks, which makes sense given that a “below average to average [quarterback] at the P5 level” could truck the shit out of the Illini if HAT is on the line.

You’re a ruddy suburban god, Andrew.

Where was I?

Oh yes! Complaining about these rankings! You have also, mystery roster-makers, COMPLETELY neglected Aidan Smith, who I’m told was a quarterback for ALMOST ALL of last year.

Given what I’m told about what ratings mean, just give him numbers that set him around a 65 overall ranking, MC Clap.

Suggested Changes

  • Hunter Johnson: Agility down to, like, a lot less than 97. Acceleration at 97 miiiight be a tad high, but he was generally hit after .25 seconds, so I couldn’t tell you what he looked like at top speed. But strength up to like 71 or 72, because he went through a lot of shit last year and we were assholes to him and that takes a lot of personal fortitude.
  • Peyton Ramsey: Awareness up to 92, because he was clearly self-aware enough to get out of a situation where Michael Penix Jr. was the Starter Of The Future for the Indiana Hoosiers. Also, your boy was NINTH overall in completion percentage in 2019 (68%!) and you’re gonna stick him at a 78, equal with Johnson who, God love it, was...uh...yeah. So Ramsey’s accuracy goes up to 90. From 78. I’m not kidding. Fuck you, these are MY rankings. [I did note that Jack Coan, who was at 69.6%—great job—was an 86 according to MC Clap, so perhaps an 85 or 86 would be nice for Ramsey, too.]
  • Andrew Marty: Trucking up to 80, at least.
  • Jason Whittaker: You know how, in the Canadian Football League, teams have a quarterback that’s always a moose from the States who cannot actually throw a ball, but is 6’5” and also named Chris Streveler (go Bombers)? Jason Whittaker, a sophomore from Rockford, MI (way to lock down the state, D’Antoni!), is 6’5”, 222. As such I request a QB with 70 strength, 60 throw accuracy, 75 trucking, and 40 speed. GONNA PICK UP A LOT OF SHORT YARDAGE SITUATIONS.

Running Backs

Finally, an area where Northwestern has historically thrived and, once again, had absolutely no problems in 2019. I notice that Coco Azema is listed on here as a cornerback, a mistake I’m sure, so we’ll have to address him in a second.

Just including those last couple columns here to note that this person has clearly watched Northwestern football and has, correctly, never actually seen a player attempt a spin move. WE’D ERECT A STATUE TO THE FIRST TO TRY.

Northwestern has not one, not two, but THREE running backs with All-American acceleration?! UN-CANCEL THE SEASON, WE’VE GOT A BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP ON THE WAY!

I honestly don’t have a ton more here and we haven’t even gotten to wide receivers, so before I really need to start drinking in earnest, let’s bang this out:

  • Isaiah Bowser: I love him and I’m scared of him, so rather than be critical I will present this shred of information to reveal that I agree with his acceleration and think his speed is too low:

Mind you, that’s grading on the curve of “accelerated away from an Iowa defender,” but I still think it counts. If you’re actually still reading, MC Clap, and care: Make his “Break Tackle” 80 (he’s a fucking truck), raise Strength to 75 (see aforementioned), but, uh...perhaps drop the elusiveness a corresponding point or two.

  • Drake Anderson: I think 64 is a little harsh for awareness, but Drake and I have never shared a meal, so I couldn’t tell you if he would know to leave his fork and knife parallel and down in the right-hand corner of the plate.
  • Jesse Brown is 5’11” but a bowling ball, so I’ll let people fix my work in the comments.
  • Raise Coco Azema’s BEAT ILLINOIS stat to 100, because he’s All-fuckin’-American at that.

Wide Receivers

Oh boy.

I feel bad that I snickered at JJ Jefferson and his 67 catch ability. I’m sorry about that, J.J. You don’t deserve that from me, a fat man running a poorly-trafficked blog.

These probably seem good? I don’t know. I would raise Riley Lees’ catching ability, since he’s the closest thing to Flynn Nagel on this team and goodness that was a very Northwestern football sentence to write.

If you have thoughts about Kyric McGowan’s ability to catch the ball or run or do a bench press, raise those issues in the comments, please.

I’m also typing Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman’s name here just to prove that I can do it. Plus he’s an awesome human being from everything I can tell, mostly that he is from Minnesota.



Fire Bajakian.

Tight Ends

In 2019 Northwestern superbacks, as they were then known, caught 7 passes for 30 yards. Five of those for 21 belonged to Charlie Mangieri, two for 9 belonged to Trey Pugh.

Let’s pretend that I know enough about John Raine to think this is good.

Offensive Line

I am playing this one under protest and/or confusion about Rashawn Slater and his status now that he has declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.

I thought these guys deserved to have their “Kick Accuracy” highlighted here, and now I want Nik Urban to bang a 35-yarder on Tik Tok and blow up the asshole who gave him a 40 for kick power and accuracy.

Note that I started with protest and moved to confusion, which says about all you need to know about Off Tackle Empire.

It’s generally fair, I think, to call people like highly-touted OL Peter Skoronski a “good player” with no information other than I hope this virtual offensive line makes me drink a lot less than the real offensive line. (Unrelated, RT Ethan Wiederkehr being the lowest-rated of the O-line seems mean. I think he’s a nice guy.) Otherwise you may need to up Hunter Johnson’s Strength rating a little more, Clappy.

Also, I’d like a virtual OL coach version of Kurt Anderson, please. Or could we get him to narrate some of our games, critiquing and highlighting good virtual O-line play? I’m sure we have that in the budget. Thanks.

Defensive Line

Holy shit, why is this still happening.



Look at DT Joe Spivak. YOU LOOK AT HIM:



This man has the agility to pivot from one topic to the next. 100.

This man has the awareness—WHILE WEARING JEANS—to stop and think about a would-be tackler approaching. 100. And bump his stiff arm to 100, while you’re at it.

Speaking of wearing jeans in a football photoshoot, if that’s not a POWER MOVE, I don’t fucking know what is. 100.

Joe Spivak is criminally underrated in this SO-CALLED rating of Northwestern football, and I will not write another goddamn word until you show him the respect he commands.


What’s the lowest rating Joe Spivak should have at any skill set?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    (16 votes)
  • 68%
    99. Nothing is perfect except Dan Persa’s chin.
    (34 votes)
50 votes total Vote Now


If this season had actually happened I’m sure we would’ve had another debate about whether Paddy Fisher was the next Pat Fitzgerald or whatever. He’s a pretty damn good linebacker. Seems fine to me, and I guffawed at the 96 for “Awareness” not because I don’t think he’s aware or anything, but because that’s the most Pat Fitzgeraldian shit ever.

Bump that up to 98 and I’m good here.


Thank GOD the people who did these ratings too the time to break out whether someone was a strong safety or a free safety, otherwise I’d have questioned the integrity of this entire exercise.

Man, the old adage about DBs being wide receivers who can’t catch...

Anywho, Northwestern’s secondary had 3 INTs in all of 2019. That’s bad, right? Seems bad, anyways. So while I was prepared to get extremely Mad Online about Greg Newsome II only have a 68 rating for catching, he had 9 passes defended but no interceptions. I guess I have to roll with what the numbers tell me.

Honestly I’d actually say up Newsome’s awareness here to 80 or so. He’s a good CB. I similarly want to defend Cameron Ruiz but people are going to start thinking I’m a homer or something. Travis Whillock and JR Pace are an excellent safety tandem, though. People in the comments can tell you how they should be rated higher at things. They’re outstanding.

I miss football, guys.



Most of these stats are, of course, irrelevant, because Riverboat Pat Fitzgerald will always opt to go for it on 4th-and-anything between the opponent’s 45 and 20 yard lines. So please, Dungeon Master, increase Fitz’s “RISK” stat to 100 unless it’s nearing the end of the half and then have him opt to take three knees in a row and jog into the locker room.

(Seriously, though, Northwestern has a special teams problem.)

Until Charlie Kuhbander is (1) healthy and (2) asked to hit more than two field goals of 40+ yards in a season (to be fair, he was good from the two he attempted, of 40 and 44), I can’t give him an 81 for Kick Power. Give him an 80. LET NO ONE SAY I WASN’T CRITICAL HERE. In slightly more seriousness, if ratings above 80 are “Top 25” level and Kuhbander’s FG% in 2019 was 71%—almost the definition of “average” in the NCAA and well behind benchmark and not-at-all-shoehorned-in-funny-name Connor Assalley of Iowa State—the Northwestern placekicker’s numbers should probably both go down ever so slightly.

However, at punter! Northwestern brings in another graduate transfer, Derek Adams of Kent State. The man won a fucking Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl; please put some respek on his name.

Adams averaged over 43 yards per punt in 2019—having him at just an 82 for Kick Power is LAZY, game-maker people! Bump that shit up to an 88 or 89, stat. I will, in the interest of looking objective when I have no intention of actually being so, request that since Adams had 9 touchbacks in 2017, his accuracy be dropped from 82 to 80. If I can still be explaining why I got an A- in U.S. History since 1900 back in Spring Quarter 2011 (because I was constantly hungover and disliked my prof who then didn’t want to work with me on my PhD for some unknown reason), Adams can lose a point or two on his accuracy.

FINALLY. There is no long snapper on the Northwestern roster. WHAT THE HELL, GAME-MAKERS? Do you just expect C Sam Gerak to dead-snap the ball back to the kicker and punter? THAT’S NOT EFFICIENT!

I demand the creation of a Tyler Gillikin character immediately. Please respect the Patrick Mannelly Award nominee:

The man has been an unstoppable machine at long-snapper for the ‘Cats AND he’s going to medical school.

Give the Wildcats’ long-snapper what he deserves. Create his player THIS INSTANT, internet.

You may have issues with my ratings of Northwestern players. In the interest of full disclosure, I have no clue what I’m doing here. Please suggest ACTUAL changes in the comments, and I or MC ClapYoHandz will ensure those complaints are disregarded forwarded to the person in charge.