C.J. Beathard is not an elite quarterback. He entered the college game as a three-star recruit out of Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tennessee, near Nashville, and only received serious offers from three other schools besides Iowa: Ole Miss, SMU and Tulane.
That said, the fact that Beathard has served as a phenomenal game manager and has been instrumental in leading the Hawkeyes to an undefeated (thus far) season and spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State this weekend is quite the accomplishment for a player of his caliber.
Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t to say that Beathard is a bad quarterback by any means. He just happens to play in a system that favors the running back, as Jordan Canzeri is truly the heart and soul of Iowa’s offense and has been instrumental in the team ranking 31st in rushing offense.
But Beathard has more than held up his end of the bargain, as not all teams can be like Navy and win on running the ball alone. He has thrown for 2,354 yards with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions, even if his completion percentage is an average 60.7.
Beathard has also done decent work on the ground to the tune of 285 yards and six touchdowns, including a 57-yard run in one game.
And it is Beathard’s strong mental game that could wind up carrying Iowa to victory, and with it a likely spot in the playoff. The team won’t be able to rely on Canzeri as much, given how Michigan State has one of the strongest run defense’s in college football, so checking down to guys like Matt VandeBerg, George Kittle and Tevaun Smith is going to be critical. In fact, Beathard and Iowa’s coaching staff need to be sure to not do what Ohio State did two weeks ago and simply not pass the ball against the Spartans, though weather may have been a factor in that.
Fortunately, this game will be indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, so weather will be a non-factor.
That should give Beathard and his teammates plenty of room to be creative in the event that Canzeri is stifled. So long as he reads the defense effectively and doesn’t get flustered, Iowa will continue to shock the nation and continue marching towards a championship.
Otherwise, along with Ohio State, the team will just be another also-ran in the Big Ten.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports