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Tales of Two QB’s
Last January, Iowa just got spank by Tennessee in the Tax Slayer Bowl 45 to 28 in a game that wasn’t even close as the lop sided score indicated. Kirk Ferentz made a decision as he named C.J. Beathard the starter for the 2015 season and 2014 starter Jake Ruddock moved on to Michigan in a move that benefitted both quarterbacks.
In 2014, Ruddock got the nod since he rarely made mistakes and could manage the game more efficiently whereas Beathard was the better athlete but not yet the efficient passer than Ruddock was. The problem with Ruddock was that he may have been competent but he was also unspectacular whereas there was something about Beathard could make that play that will have you talking the next day. Symbolic of Ruddock plight was the following tweet by a Sports Illustrated reporter, “Iowa complete a pass on 4th down and 2; fail to make first down.” Part of Ruddock problem was the conservative nature of the Iowa offense and too often, third down and short were not always gimme.
This year, Ruddock is now quarterbacking Michigan to a 5-1 record with his only loss to Utah, presently a top ten team and near the top of the PAC 12. That loss saw Ruddock throw three interception and he presently has more interception this year that he had all last year but Michigan victory over Northwestern showed all of Ruddock good qualities as he managed the game efficiently. Ruddock hit 17 out of 23 for 176 yards and a rushing TD. He did what was required.
Meanwhile, Iowa faced a surprising Illinois team that won a close victory over Nebraska the week before and was 4-1. Illinois played Iowa tough all game but one play showed Beathard at his best and why Iowa turned to him.
Third down and 27, Beathard moved to the left on the run from a rush where he unleashed a 50 yard completion. This was the reason that Iowa moved to Beathard as he made plays that the 2014 Ruddock would not have made. Throughout the first six games, Beathard always seem to make that one big play that turns the tide for Iowa whether it is a big run or pass with his shot gun arm. Beathard has only seven college starts, so he has definite upside but Iowa is 6-0 because of solid Iowa defense, the running of Jordan Canzeri who ran for 256 yards against Illinois and Beathard play making.
As for Ruddock, he is manager of a team that has solid running and a stifling defense. Ruddock is the overlooked quarterback in the Big Ten but Michigan is looking like a team that could compete for the championship under Coach Jim Harbaugh. Even in the tough Big Ten eastern conference competing with Ohio State and Michigan State, Harbaugh has the Wolverines thinking title.
In the Big Ten Western conference, Iowa has returned back into competition for a possible shot at the Big Ten conference title game and Iowa has already defeated the perennial Western champion Wisconsin Badgers in Camp Randall for a crucial road win even though Beathard had his worse game and it was the Iowa defense that saved the day.
At the beginning of the year, Ferentz went with Beathard and for Iowa, this was the best choice as Beathard has the talent to become a great college quarterback and even a high NFL draft pick if he continues to improve. With a big arm and the ability to run from defensive linemen and linebackers, he has the physical tool to play in the NFL plus he has been trained in the Pro set in college. Ruddock may not have the physical tool of Beathard but he is cerebral quarterback and who knows, under Harbaugh tutorage, he might become a possible late round draft pick. On Michigan, Ruddock doesn’t have to win the game but he does need to be efficient and as the season progress, the game manager might be guy who sends Ohio State and the Michigan Spartans packing. Who knows, the Big Ten championship may see the Tale of two quarterbacks play out in a final chapter.