Northwestern is off to a surprising 5-0 start and just broke into the top 25. Their success this season has, in large part, been due to a much improved defensive unit. Their offense has been good too, though not spectacular, as two quarterbacks, the speedy Kain Colter and strong-armed Trevor Siemian have split time under center. For Northwestern to have a chance of winning the Big Ten, they will at some point have to pick one or the other as their main QB. In the Wildcats’ last game, a win over Indiana, it appeared coach Pat Fitzgerald was leaning toward Siemian as the choice for future starter as Siemian passed 32 times while Colter only passed thrice (though he did run for 161 yards and and caught nine passes). In my opinion, having Siemian take the vast majority of the snaps going forward is the wrong decision.
Colter is clearly extremely valuable as a moving piece on the offense–as he was against Indiana–moving from slot receiver to the backfield over the course of a drive. His success as such a utility player was evident as he ran for four touchdowns and accounted for a total of 294 yards of offense. But, he presents even more of a danger under center.
Siemian is a better passer and has better field vision than Colter, who is just six feet tall, but Kain is no slouch as a thrower, as evidenced by his 66.2% completion percentage this season. Overall, Colter is more dangerous in the pocket than Siemian. His tremendous speed gives the defense more to worry about. He can scramble out of the pocket and he allows NU the ability to run options and zone-reads. These factors will become huge as the Wildcats begin to face the Big Ten’s top defenses such as Penn State’s or Iowa’s. In fact, nearly every Big Ten school has a tough defense. Colter has the speed and skill to beat these defenses. Siemian has yet to show that he does.
I’m not advocating that Northwestern should completely give up on the two QB system, I simply think that Colter has the tools to more effectively put points on the board. Siemian would still be valuable should Northwestern need to run a one minute drill or throw a Hail Mary. Colter is going to do well wherever Northwestern puts him. If I were Coach Fitzgerald, I’d be lining him up right under center.