The Iowa quarterback looked like his early season self at times. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. -- C.J. Beathard vs. Jake Rudock remains a credible possibility not only for the Dec. 5 Big Ten Conference championship game but in postseason awards.
It would probably be an upset if Beathard, Iowa’s junior quarterback, was named first-team all-Big Ten. The flashier stats and national name recognition of Michigan State’s Connor Cook -- who likely will be the first Big Ten QB selected in the NFL Draft’s first round since Kerry Collins in 1995 -- might be hard to topple.
But a strong case could be made for Beathard as a first-teamer over Cook or second-teamer over Michigan’s Rudock (the graduate-transfer and former two-year Iowa starter), Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong and Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld.
One thing that makes the all-Big Ten conversation fascinating is that it’ll be hard for Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, last year’s unanimous media first-team choice, to gain support after sharing snaps and starts all season with Cardale Jones. And only the regular season is factored in -- the Big Ten will announce the all-conference teams over two nights on its TV network’s BTN Live show: the defense and special teams on Nov. 30, the offense on Dec. 1.
Among Beathard’s many bullet points is his 10-0 record since being named the starter over Rudock in January -- following Iowa's 7-6 disappointment in 2014. And he’s been playing through limiting hip and groin injuries since Oct. 10 against Illinois.
“C.J.’s putting it on the line again,” Iowa center Austin Blythe said after Saturday’s 40-35 win over Minnesota. “That’s just the kind of competitor he is.”
Below is a breakdown of the six leading candidates for all-Big Ten QB, in alphabetical order, with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Tommy Armstrong, jr., Nebraska
The numbers: 185-for-338 passing, 2,560 yards, 21 TDs, 12 INTs; 79 carries, 278 yards, 6 TDs.
The case for: Leads the Big Ten in total offense with 283.8 yards per game. Though he is 5-5 as a starter, those five losses were by a combined 13 points.
The case against: Cornhuskers have a losing record.
J.T. Barrett, soph., Ohio State
The numbers: 56-of-85 passing, 622 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs; 58 carries, 403 yards, 8 TDs.
The case for: Has won back the starting job from Cardale Jones for the defending national champions, and he clearly makes the Buckeyes go. Leads the league in pass efficiency (151.4 rating). Was named Big Ten QB of the year as a freshman. Would get heavier consideration if he leads wins over Michigan State and Michigan to finish the season.
The case against: Began the season as a backup and missed the Minnesota win because of a OWI suspension. A teammate (Jones) has 838 more passing yards than him.
C.J. Beathard, jr., Iowa
The numbers: 163-of-267 passing, 2,044 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INTs; 72 carries, 268 yards, 6 TDs.
The case for: Clutch, efficient performer has been credited for leading culture change inside the Iowa Football Performance Center since being named the 2015 starter in January. Of his 55 non-sacked carries, Beathard has rushed for 29 first downs and six TDs. He is 12-for-18 for 253 yards on third-and-long (10 yards or more). Owns 11-0 career record as starting QB, and with only freshmen as backups has been by far the most indispensable player on a team ranked No. 6 nationally. Hawkeyes average 33.6 points a game and can clinch Big Ten West title with a win over Purdue on Saturday.
The case against: His passing yardage (204.4 a game) ranks eighth in the Big Ten, and 30 of Iowa's 40 offensive TDs have come on the ground.
Connor Cook, sr., Michigan State
The numbers: 175-of-311 passing, 2,482 yards, 21 TDs, 4 INTs; 39 carries, 77 yards, 0 TDs.
The case for: Pro-style passer has been accurate and efficient leading a team whose only loss was on a controversial play at Nebraska. Was second-team all-Big Ten a year ago behind Barrett.
The case against: Spartans have been less impressive than last year’s 11-2, Cotton Bowl-championship outfit -- with narrow escapes over Purdue and Rutgers. Cook’s front-runner status could be dampened if the Spartans finish the year with losses to Ohio State and Penn State.
Jake Rudock, sr., Michigan
The numbers: 185-of-288 passing, 14 TDs, 8 INTs; 45 carries, 144 yards, 4 TDs.
The case for: Became the key addition to a Michigan roster that was well-stocked at every position except quarterback as a graduate-transfer from Iowa. Was named Big Ten offensive player of the week Monday after a 441-yard, six-TD performance at Indiana. If Wolverines can win out (at Penn State, home against Ohio State), they would likely reach Big Ten title game and Rudock will be seen as a big reason for coach Jim Harbaugh’s first-year success.
The case against: Higher interception rate than other leading contenders Cook and Beathard. Michigan ranks seventh in the Big Ten in total offense.
Nate Sudfeld, sr., Indiana
The numbers: 178-of-297 passing, 2,449 yards, 16 TDs, 5 INTs; 37 carries, 29 yards, 3 TDs.
The case for: Leads the Big Ten in passing (272.1 yards a game) and is second to Barrett in efficiency. Hoosiers have averaged 30.3 points a game against the league’s big dogs -- Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan -- and had a chance in the fourth quarter in all of those games. Team scored just seven points in the one game he missed (Penn State).
The case against: Indiana’s 0-6 Big Ten record will be the ultimate stain for Sudfeld.