14. Northwestern Wildcats
Starter: Brendan Sullivan
Backups: Ryan Hilinski, Jack Lausch, Cole Freeman
For all the crap Iowa’s offense deservedly gets, Northwestern was even worse last season, averaging a putrid 13.8 points a game. From that offense, they lost their left tackle and presumed first round draft pick Peter Skoronski, as well as their top rusher and top two receivers. This is a quarterback preview, but Northwestern’s 2023 offense has “DOA” written all over it.
The good news (bad news?) is Northwestern does return all their quarterbacks. Ryan Hilinski had that one great game against Nebraska to usher Scott Frost into the afterlife, but other than that he was either bad or injured the rest of the way. Sophomore Brendan Sullivan emerged a bit - he was pretty accurate and also could run a bit. Still, he never passed for more than 160 yards in a game and also struggled with injuries.
Walk on Cole Freeman got a little work and impressively threw for no touchdowns and five picks. Jack Lausch was a lightly recruited true freshman last year who is at least getting mentioned as an option.
Normally, I would give some OTE Kudos to a team that returns all their signal callers. However, Northwestern is pretty f’in far from a normal situation. They were terrible last year, and lost all their best players, and no quarterback on the roster has demonstrated an ability to play consistently or stay healthy. You don’t even have the Newbie Transfer Who Will Save The Day. Or even a new offensive coordinator. The Northwestern offense is literally the land of no hope, and so they find themselves last in this ranking.
13. Indiana Hoosiers
Starter: Tayven Jackson
Backups: Brendan Sorsby, Broc Lowry, Dexter Williams
Escaping the Scarlet Rot of Northwestern, we find the Hoosiers. They were bad last year, hitting 99th in scoring offense behind Connor Bazelak. But bad in just a normal way, Hoosier football kind of way, instead of historically awful. Bazelak was eventually benched in favor of Dexter Williams, who was also bad throwing the ball but ran it enough to make you squint and see a starter. Unfortunately, he tore up his knee in their last game against Purdue and the timetable on his return is unknown.
So, to the unknowns we go. The quarterback race is between two redshirt freshmen in Brendan Sorsby and Tennessee transfer Tayven Jackson. Tom Allen says they aren’t going to name a starter, but here at OTE we can say confidently that Jackson was ranked 198th in the country in high school, while Sorsby was 1013th. Let’s put those Star rankings to the test. Sorsby threw six times last season compared to four for Jackson, so I’m sure Hoosier fans are in the lab analyzing the velocity and placement of all those passes. Freshman Broc Lowery appears to be the Break Glass option.
Having a four star recruit in the fold gives Hoosier fans something to be excited about, and offensive coordinator Walt Bell did field a good offense in 2014 or so. You can’t be Bad until you play and prove it.
12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Starter: Gavin Wimsatt
Backups: Evan Simon, Raeden Oliver, Ajani Sheppard
Speaking of bad offenses, Rutgers was also pretty rough last season, though Greg Schiano did finally Do Something and shot both Sean Gleeson and Nunzio Campanile into the Atlantic. Incoming is former
Minnesota Penn State Rutgers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who was previously fired by Schiano in 2010. A lot can change in 13 years, I suppose.
At his disposal is some talent and experience, if not much production. Simon and Wimsatt both played quite a bit, though neither did much you would describe as Good. Wimsatt in particular had a rough go passing the ball, not even hitting the 45% mark in completions. He was a top 200ish recruit, so he’ll get more opportunities. That kind of accuracy will get you benched pretty fast, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see both quarterbacks split time again.
After those two, Rutgers has a a early enrollee freshman in Ajani Sheppard, as well as local legend (and I think walk on) Raeden Oliver. Things have probably gone wrong if either of them play any meaningful time, but it is Rutgers. Something will probably go wrong. Chop chop.