IOWA CITY, Iowa – Jordan Canzeri and Jake Rudock grew close during their four years at Iowa. Though they’re not related by blood, they consider each other brothers from another mother.
There’s a limit to the bond, however. And it could break apart a bit if the dominoes fall in such a way that the Hawkeyes face Michigan in the Big Ten title game Dec. 5 in Indianapolis.
Rudock joined the Wolverines during the off-season as an Iowa graduate transfer. Canzeri has shook off injuries to lead Iowa in rushing.
“If they are the team we face in the Big Ten Championship, we’re enemies at that point in time but we’re brothers in life,” Canzeri said.
The 11-0 and fourth-ranked Hawkeyes have clinched the West Division and a spot in the league title game. Michigan (9-2) has positioned itself to join them if it beats Ohio State on Saturday and Penn State tops Michigan State.
One of the keys to Iowa’s success this fall is the ability to shut out the noise from outside the program. It would reach a fever pitch if Iowa and Michigan met.
“That would be really crazy,” Iowa Center Austin Blythe said. “I don’t know if it would be destiny or what but it’s got to be something.”
Rudock and Canzeri attended Blythe’s wedding this summer. The trio arrived at Iowa in the 2011 recruiting class and became close friends. They thought they’d finish up on the field together but it wasn’t meant to be.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz named C.J. Beathard, a junior, his No. 1 quarterback in January after Rudock had started 25 of the team’s previous 26 games. He was hurt in the other contest.
Ferentz said he shuffled the deck because it gave his team the best chance to win. Rudock decided to seek other options. New Wolverine Coach Jim Harbaugh was happy to take him.
The results for both teams have been amazing and unexpected. Beathard and Rudock have combined to go 20-2 this season for teams ranked in the Top 15 nationally.
“I’m happy for him and happy for the success he’s having this year,” Beathard said. “It’s worked out for the best. God has a plan for everybody and that’s the right plan and it’s worked out for everybody.”
Beathard ranks fourth among Big Ten signal callers in pass efficiency (139.9). Rudock sits fifth at 138.9.
Beathard has completed 175 of 287 passes for 2,257 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions. Rudock is 210 of 326 for 2,476 and 16 scores against nine picks.
Beathard has rushed 79 times for 280 yards (150 lost to 20 sacks) and six touchdowns. Rudock has carried 50 times for 145 yards (84 lost to 16 sacks) and four scores.
The quarterbacks aren’t quite as similar as their statistics might indicate, however. Beathard possesses a better arm, throws a more accurate deep ball and better extends plays with his legs. All of those things are evident for an Iowa offense averaging 34.2 points, second best in the Big Ten.
“I think C.J. had a better fit here as far as what he’s able to do with this team, the personnel, the way we do things. And I know Jake is doing a great things up at Michigan so that system fit him a little bit better,” Hawkeye Receiver Matt Vandeberg.
Canzeri, Blythe and Vandeberg all approached the question about whether or not they’d prefer to avoid playing their friend in the title game the same way. It didn’t matter.
“We’ll play whoever is in front of us from the East,” Blythe said. “That’s our job as football players as a football team.”
It a wild year of unexpected results, it almost seems fitting that Iowa would meet Michigan. If it happens, Canzeri said he’s told Rudock how he’d like to see it go down.
“If we have to play each other, I’m going to hope that (Iowa Defensive End) Nate Meier sacks him,” Canzeri said. “That’s all I’m going to be focused on because I want our defense to win the game.”