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October and November should be interesting.

The Big Ten is muddled, and Iowa is mired in a quarterback quandary. So while critics dismiss the conference as mediocre, you'll want to tune in and see how everything plays out.

Let's start with the most pertinent subplot heading into the final week of September: Who will start the Hawkeyes' league opener at Purdue, Jake Rudock or C.J. Beathard?

Rudock was listed as the starter on Monday's depth chart, but he sat out the second half of last week's win at Pittsburgh with a hip/leg injury.

Beathard replaced Rudock and engineered a 24-20 triumph.

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"We have two good quarterbacks," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I wish we had that kind of depth everywhere."

Fortunately for Iowa (3-1 against nonconference foes), the Big Ten schedule is full of teams dealing with other uncertainties:

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PURDUE (2-2)

11 a.m. Saturday on the Big Ten Network

Reason for concern: Last year's game in West Lafayette, Ind., was a lot closer than the 38-14 score might indicate. The Hawkeyes gave a lackluster effort early, and Boilermakers quarterback Danny Etling picked apart the secondary.

Reason for confidence: The Boilermakers lost 38-17 to Central Michigan, and the Chippewas went on to lose against Syracuse and Kansas by a combined score of 64-13.

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INDIANA (2-1)

Oct. 11 at Kinnick Stadium

Reason for concern: The Hoosiers may have earned the Big Ten's best nonconference win with last Saturday's 31-27 upset at 18th-ranked Missouri.

Reason for confidence: Iowa is off next week, which could give Ferentz's staff more time to figure out the quarterback situation and cement an identity for the offense.

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The Hawkeyes rallied in the second half for a 24-20 win.

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MARYLAND (3-1)

Oct. 18 at College Park, Md.

Reason for concern: It seems coach Randy Edsall has the Terrapins on the right track. He built Connecticut into a respectable program (70-63 in 11 seasons) and guided Maryland to a bowl last year after a 2-10 finish in 2011.

Reason for confidence: The defense is allowing 199.3 rushing yards per game.

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NORTHWESTERN (1-2)

Nov. 1 at Kinnick Stadium

Reason for concern: No Big Ten rival has given the Hawkeyes more fits during the Ferentz era, having won six of the past nine meetings.

Reason for confidence: The Wildcats have been spiraling downward since midway through last season, losing nine of 11 games.

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MINNESOTA (3-1)

Nov. 8 at Minneapolis

Reason for concern: We all know who hates Iowa. The Gophers were seen as a possible sleeper in the Big Ten's West Division, but they were humbled 30-7 by Texas Christian.

Reason for confidence: The Hawkeyes will be making their fourth trip to the Twin Cities in five years, so they shouldn't be rattled by another rowdy reception.

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ILLINOIS (3-1)

Nov. 15 at Champaign-Urbana

Reason for concern: Wes Lunt, a quarterback transfer from Oklahoma State, is completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 309.3 yards per game, with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Reason for confidence: The Illini can be mistake-prone, with a total of seven turnovers in their last three games.

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WISCONSIN (2-1)

Nov. 22 at Kinnick Stadium

Reason for concern: The Badgers fell off the national radar following a 28-24 loss to Louisiana State, but they held a 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

Reason for confidence: Wisconsin will have a chance to make amends when it plays Nebraska, a week before visiting Iowa City. Depending on how the Nebraska game goes, the Badgers could be primed for a letdown in Iowa City.

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NEBRASKA (4-0)

Nov. 28 at Kinnick Stadium

Reason for conern: Unbeaten but largely untested. Last week's win over Miami of Florida would have looked better if the Hurricanes hadn't lost their opener to Louisville 31-13.

Reason for confidence: We'll know more about the Cornhuskers when they visit Michigan State on Oct. 4 and Wisconsin on Nov. 15.

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