**Expect Clayton Thorson to redshirt.**
Siemian fought through a heel injury but still struggled late in the 2013 season. Save for an excellent outing against Illinois in the finale, he seemed erratic and lacked confidence. He threw two costly picks to Minnesota in the stunning loss, and went 4-of-13 at Nebraska. He's the presumed favorite to win the starting spot; there's simply no proof he can do enough to impress fans.
How he'll win the job: Experience could win out with offensive coordinator Mick McCall. Siemian showed strong command of the offense and lofty potential working with Christian Jones in the Illinois win. This team – and this coaching staff – appreciate loyalty. Plus, if the younger options make "freshman mistakes," he's a lock.
How he'll lose the job: He might be a lower upside candidate; we know he'll bring some nice passes and the occasional mobility. Also, as InsideNU.com smartly points out, he's much less effective working alongside Venric Mark. Here, Alviti seems like the best option — though McCall can always devise a "gameplan" that conceals NU's weaknesses.
Alviti sat out his true freshman season but chucked 55-yard cannons nearly every practice. At Maine South HS (Ill.) he plodded through the state playoffs in multiple years with his dual-threat style. He's more like Colter than Siemian, but certainly falls somewhere in between. We'll have to see how much goodwill he fostered amongst the coaching staff when we head toward spring practice. It could be a competition.
How he'll win the job: Frankly, he has the most natural talent, and it's not close. One of the team's top recruits in recent memory, he can sling the ball downfield and would work well as part of a zone-read based offense. Better, in my opinion, he doesn't have to be the focal point, and this offense should always defer to Venric Mark. In sum, he might be the best fit.
How he'll lose the job: His decision-making seemed questionable – at best – through much of scout team work this year. Despite his ability to pick apart a strong first-team defense, Alviti had a tendency to overthrow receivers and force too many throws into tight spaces. Also, McCall might consider Siemian the obvious starter as a senior — making it impossible for Alviti to rise above second on the depth chart.
Oliver has been silent for his Northwestern career. You get the feeling that he could start elsewhere with his impressive skillset; various factors have kept him from starting or seeing significant action for the Wildcats. The Baton Rouge (La.) spends his time excelling on the scout team. He's thrown four career passes.
How he'll win the job: If Mick McCall wakes up and redefines his offense based on a power arm that can air out vertical passes and throw 50 times each game, he'll go with Oliver. That will probably never happen, but Oliver continues to flash his arm strength throughout practice. At times last year, I would've lobbied for him to start over an injured Siemian.
How he'll lose the job: He's not in excellent position. Oliver falls in between the youth ideal and the promise of experience. Perhaps Alviti will enter spring ahead of him on the depth chart, which would be difficult for the redshirt junior to overcome.
Outlook: I'm (boldly) predicting a quarterback hybrid of Siemian and Alviti somewhat similar to that of Siemian and Colter in previous seasons. It would be the logical progression, and in the worst case scenario, one could simply take the job full time.