Challengers: C.J. Beathard (rFR), Jake Rudock (SO), Nic Shimonek (FR), Cody Sokol (JR)
Probably the most wide-open QB race in the Big Ten is the situation at Iowa, where James Vanderberg departs after throwing every single pass for the Hawkeyes in his senior season. Yes, a 4-8 team is the only one where only one quarterback accounted for all the team's passes, and that QB was the sensationally underwhelming Vanderberg. Wrap your head around that one.
As a redshirt sophomore in his third year in the program, Rudock appears to be groomed as the heir apparent to Vandenberg, and his skill set is similar—he's a dropback passer without a cannon for an arm, but he can zip it in. Sokol was a prolific passer at Scottsdale Community College (the Fighting Artichokes!) in 2011 and he's got a bit more size than Rudock, and he's firmly in the mix.
C.J. Beathard was a former Ole Miss commit who ended up at Iowa after Houston Nutt got axed; he won a "team leader" award while redshirting in 2012, though the other winners were buried on their respective depth charts as well. Then there's Nic Shimonek, and if there's ever a situation where a 3-star true freshman pro-style QB can step into a starting role, it would probably mirror this. Nobody else on the team has thrown a pass in a D-I game either, he was personally recruited by offensive coordinator Greg Davis and he was offered early enough that Iowa clearly sees something there. He's also the tallest of the mix at 6'4" and he rushed for 16 TDs as a senior, though that usage is unlikely to continue at Iowa. He'll probably redshirt, but if he doesn't, don't act surprised.
This starting spot could go to anybody, but of the four candidates, the only one who was both on campus and not under redshirt in 2012 was Rudock, and he couldn't wrest a single snap from the woeful Vandenberg. That doesn't bode well for his chances. Shimonek is a long shot, being that he's not even on campus yet.
So assuming Iowa coaches weren't keen on burning a redshirt for Beathard or Sokol in what was essentially a lost season anyway, the race looks like it's between those two—and Sokol has the benefit of experience at the JUCO level and about 30 pounds of bulk (Beathard is only about 180 pounds). Sokol gets the edge here, but by the thinnest of margins. Long way to go here.