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Iowa Hawkeyes staking season on 2 QB system

There is a saying in college football about teams with two quarterbacks, and it goes like this — “If you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.”

Yet, for the 2014 Iowa Hawkeyes, they are about to fly in face of conventional wisdom and go with a two quarterback system when it takes the field on Oct. 11 against Indiana. Iowa will go in to that game with both Jake Ruddock and C.J. Beathard getting reps behind center.

“We feel like we have two good quarterbacks, and we’ll look at it in these next 11 days and then we’ll go from there,” offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. “What you can expect is that we’ll probably play two with no set series, numbers or whatever. But we do feel like we have two guys that have earned the right to play and have played pretty well. So that’s the way we’ll approach it as we get closer.”

Part of this decision has to be the fact that Ruddock will be coming off an injury and who knows how healthy he’ll really be the rest of the season.

The other part is Davis and the Hawkeyes’ offense looking to find a scoring spark. Iowa ranks 13th in scoring offense this season, averaging 22.6 points per game. Yet, the rest of the stats would show that the pass game isn’t the main issue — its actually the inability to get the run game going.

Davis sees that part of the Hawkeyes’ game picking up, but not the passing game.

“There are some things, sure, that we feel like we were really slow getting the running game started. I don’t have a great answer as to why that was. I think the last two weeks we’ve picked that up.”

Thus, the want to go two quarterbacks and see who sparks the offense more.

But, the interesting part of this is that the two quarterbacks aren’t very different. It isn’t exactly like Beathard is a run-first quarterback who sparks that part of the game when he’s in, and it isn’t like Ruddock is a straight drop-back passer who can’t run the football.

Both are capable quarterbacks with their arms and their feet, but perhaps the only difference is a seemingly better deep passing game out of Beathard.

However, the numbers tell a different story about how “well” both of these quarterbacks are actually playing. In fact, it would suggest that one is much more suited to help this offense stay on the field and sustain drives.

Ruddock is second in the Big Ten with a 66.9 percent completion rate for 798 yards and five touchdowns to two interceptions. Those don’t seem like bad numbers, especially with an injury to speak of. However, he is 12th in the Big Ten with an average of 6.3 yards per attempt.

That speaks to an issue of getting the deep passing game going, something that is part Ruddock’s issue, but also part wide receivers never getting open and an offensive line not allowing time for the deep passing game to develop.

For Davis and head coach Kirk Ferentz, that means the option of quarterback C.J. Beathard becomes more viable. Yet, the numbers suggest Beathard isn’t the answer either.

He has appeared in three games, completing 54.2 percent of his passes for 363 yards and one touchdown to one interception.

Not exactly eye-popping numbers, and it is interesting that Iowa is making this choice after the Purdue game. Beathard got a long look at quarterback and was hardly effective.

He completed just 17-of-37 passes for 245 yards and had his only touchdown and interception for the year so far.

The numbers certainly suggest that Ruddock gives the Hawkeyes the best chance to win football games. While it may not always be perfect or pretty or full of deep strikes, when is the last time you saw a Big Ten champion playing with two quarterbacks?

Given Iowa’s upcoming schedule features Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern — the Hawkeyes have an opportunity to figure things out before they hit the grinder of their Big Ten schedule.

The question is, will Iowa find that spark or will this experiment cost the Hawkeyes a precious Big Ten contest? Whatever happens, the results will rest squarely on the shoulders of Davis and Ferentz and their two-quarterback experiment.

 

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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