Big Ten

Big Ten preview: C.J. Beathard finally takes reins of Hawkeyes offense


Big Ten preview: C.J. Beathard finally takes reins of Hawkeyes offense

It’s C.J. Beathard’s time to shine in Iowa City.

Not long after the calendar flipped to 2015, Kirk Ferentz wanted to make it known that Beathard was the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback. This after two years of tabbing Jake Rudock over Beathard, watching the Iowa offense stay serviceable but unexciting and hearing fans clamor for Beathard to take over the job.

In January, through the release of a strange wintertime depth chart, Ferentz declared Beathard “the guy” and sent Rudock packing for Michigan.

“You know, it wasn't an easy decision by any standard, and it hasn't been for a couple years,” Ferentz said earlier this month during the team’s media day. “We've talked a lot about it and looked at it and looked at the information that was in front of us, but things change. That's one thing about life and that's one thing about sports, certainly no two days are the same and no team is the same the next day. There was a consensus that we thought it was the best thing to do, and I think there's a stronger consensus right now that we did the right thing.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Can Hawkeyes escape rut of mediocrity?]

Rudock beat Beathard out for the starting job ahead of last season, keeping the job he’d won the season before. And through much of 2014, Rudock stayed on the field while Beathard mostly stuck to the sideline. Beathard did get action, most notably leading a second-half comeback against Pitt and playing the Big Ten opener against Purdue while Rudock recovered from injury.

But under Rudock’s guidance, Iowa again stumbled to a mediocre finish, this time a 7-5 mark in the regular season, keeping the unfortunate streak of not winning more than eight games since that 2010 Orange Bowl win intact. After his father made comments about a potential transfer, Beathard got significantly more action in the Hawkeyes’ blowout TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Tennessee. Shortly thereafter, Beathard was announced as the 2015 starter and Rudock transferred to play for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.

Here’s some of that data Ferentz & Co. used to make this decision: Rudock completed 61.7 percent of his 345 attempts for 2,436 yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions, and Beathard completed 56.5 percent of his 92 throws for 645 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. Obviously in-game stats weren't the only factor.

Bottom line is that Beathard now has the reins of the Iowa offense, and it’s time to show what he can do.

“The way he's grown, the way he's accepted being a leader, it's very, very clear,” Ferentz said. “He's just a totally different guy. His demeanor is different, and he's a much more mature guy and he's accepted the responsibility. When you play quarterback, there's a lot of responsibility that goes with it. I think he's embraced it. He's excited about it.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Can Penn State compete with big boys in Big Ten East?]

But is Beathard going to be the QB that Iowa fans have believed will magically turn things around on the offensive side of the ball?

Rudock led an inconsistent passing attack on a team that despite having two of the best offensive linemen in the country couldn’t establish a consistent rushing attack. Those key players — the quarterback, the running back and those two linemen — are all gone. Beathard has a few solid pass catchers to work with. But it might pan out that Beathard is going to have the offense’s fortunes almost completely on his shoulders. That’s a lot of pressure for his first time out as a full-time starter.

It’s probably why Ferentz didn’t promise too much change in the Hawkeyes’ offensive attack.

“It's not necessarily going to look all that different,” Ferentz said. “Quarterback obviously is a key position and every player brings his own personality. The thing I'd offer up is there's a lot of different ways to be successful and a lot of different styles of quarterbacking. We've seen that here in 15 years to be successful. The bottom line is he's got to play within his skill set and his personality. The big question mark always where is he at in terms of preparation, and the maturity that is required when you touch the ball every play. We were confident in January that he was ready to accept that.”

Regardless of the outcome, Beathard and those clamoring for him to get the starting job have gotten what they wanted. Beathard’s the starter. Now he has to do something with it.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?