Peyton Ramsey brings the right qualifications to Northwestern's open QB position
It’s impossible to know what Northwestern’s season could have been like if it had an experienced, capable quarterback under center last year. But we may not have to leave those thoughts to our imagination for much longer.
On Monday, former Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey announced that he’s committed to Northwestern to finish his college football career. The ex-Hoosier has one year of eligibility remaining and will be immediately eligible for the 2020 season as a graduate transfer.
I can only imagine that Pat Fitzgerald is still grinning from ear to ear after receiving the news. And perhaps Ramsey has the road map to getting Northwestern back on the road to Indianapolis — or at least headed in the right direction.
Ramsey comes to Evanston on the heels of the program’s worst season of the Pat Fitzgerald era — finishing 3-9 with just one victory in B1G play, a 29-10 win over Illinois in the season finale. The Wildcats averaged a meager 117 passing yards per game, the lowest total in the B1G, and fifth-worst in college football. The quarterback room finished with six touchdown passes to 15 interceptions and a modest 50 percent completion rate.
To say Northwestern’s passing attack needed some help would be an incredible understatement.
But with Ramsey agreeing to use his final year of eligibility at Northwestern, there’s reason to hope the ‘Cats won’t find themselves in the same dilemma they did a year ago. The former IU starter brings everything this program needs to the quarterback position.
Ramsey isn’t going to be the type of high-profile player who steals the college football spotlight — he’s not Northwestern’s equivalent of Justin Fields. To be fair, though, nobody really could replicate Fields’ importance to the Buckeye offense.
Ramsey also isn’t going to be the guy who launches 75-yard bombs for touchdowns on every-other drive. That wasn’t his game at Indiana, and it won’t be at Northwestern, either. So for anyone thinking the Wildcats will suddenly own one of the most prolific offenses in the B1G next season — chill.
During his career at Indiana, Ramsey was one of the most consistent starting quarterbacks in the B1G. He owns a 66.5 percent career completion rate and has racked up over 6,500 passing yards and accounted for 56 total touchdowns.
Ramsey was capable of moving the chains consistently, making smart decisions, and had the ability to advance the football with his legs. None of those traits were displayed by any of Northwestern’s quarterbacks — Hunter Johnson, Aidan Smith or Andrew Marty — last season.
It may sound oversimplified, but just the ability to pick up first downs with some frequency would be a huge improvement. And yes, there was a big differential between the total number of first downs Indiana had last year (primarily with Ramsey at quarterback) compared to Northwestern:
- Northwestern: 212 first downs (12th in B1G)
- Indiana: 304 first downs (3rd in B1G)
That’s the difference between a 3-9 season and an 8-5 campaign.
But it’s not just the numbers that Ramsey brings to Northwestern’s offense. Some of the characteristics that the Wildcats lacked last season after Clayton Thorson’s career came to an end in 2018 are the very things the ex-Hoosier brings to Evanston.
Ramsey is an experienced starting quarterback who has already faced several challenges throughout his career. He’s shown serious mental toughness over the last three seasons in Bloomington, and it’s the kind of intangible Fitzgerald desperately wants at the most important position on the field.
When Ramsey lost the starting job to Michael Penix Jr. before the start of the 2019 season, he didn’t immediately bolt for the NCAA transfer portal and look for a new home. He stuck with the Hoosiers, and ultimately became one of the most important pieces in Indiana’s historic 8-5 season, which resulted in a Gator Bowl bid and the program’s first Associated Press ranking in 25 years.
It was only this offseason, when the writing was on the wall and Ramsey didn’t want to jeopardize his final year of eligibility, that he decided to leave Bloomington.
Ramsey may not be the five-star quarterback that everyone lauds over, but his 32 games of experience, consistency as a passer, high football IQ and familiarity with facing tough challenges are characteristics Northwestern needs under center.
Those traits could also be the difference between another losing season and Northwestern’s quick resurgence to relevance in the B1G West race.