Brown: Iowa's Beathard would write history with victory over Northwestern

Rick Brown
Iowa's C.J. Beathard will face a top-notch defense from Northwestern Saturday.

EVANSTON, Ill. – No quarterback in the history of Iowa football has won the first eight starts of his career.

Not Kenny Ploen, Randy Duncan, Wilburn Hollis or Gary Snook. Not the Chucks, Long and Hartlieb. Not Matt Rodgers, Drew Tate or Brad Banks.

C.J. Beathard will try to become the first Saturday against Northwestern at Ryan Field. If the junior pulls this off, it will be a testimony to his play, good coaching and the medical staff.

Beathard got beat up in last week’s victory over Illinois, one that enabled Iowa to jump five spots to 17th in the Associated Press poll. The Wildcats, 5-1, are 20th, setting up the first Top 25 duel between these programs since 1996.

All Beathard has to do to make history, and keep the only undefeated record in the Big Ten’s West Division intact, is move the ball against one of the best defenses in the Big Ten.

“The thing that stands out to me about them, they obviously play very, very well on defense,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Northwestern is eighth nationally in scoring defense at 12.2 points a game. The Wildcats are ninth in total defense, at 269.5 yards a game. You can break down every aspect of this game that you want. But to me, Iowa’s offense against Northwestern’s defense will tell the story of this game.

Beathard will try to get by on guts, guile, his arm and Jordan Canzeri’s legs. Just as concerning as Beathard’s physical well being is the offensive line that has to protect him. Left tackle Boone Myers will miss his third straight game. Right tackle Ike Boettger will also be out. James Daniels will become the first true freshman to start at tackle in the 17 seasons Ferentz has been the head coach.

Slugfest alert: What to expect from Iowa vs. Northwestern

You might look at Northwestern’s 38-0 loss at Michigan last week and wonder what all the talk about this defense is about. A fluke, and not the real Wildcats, Ferentz will tell you. A kickoff return, a pick six and a late score by the reserves padded the point spread.

This is a salty defense, Ferentz said. One that is playing at a high level. One that is unbeaten at Ryan Field. A defense that stands between Beathard and history.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.