Know Thy Opponent 2013: Iowa Hawkeyes

Gregory Shamus

Purdue broke a 20-year losing streak at Iowa in 2012. Can they make it two in a row over the Hawkeyes?

As you know, we hate Iowa. We have always hated Iowa. Even though we currently hold the Trophy of Badassery, it is not enough for those corn-loving Nile Kinnick-worshipping miscreants to suffer. Soon we will be division rivals as well, which was surely a move by Jim Delaney to avoid the possibility of two Purdue-Iowa football games every season, however remote it may be.

Of course, this season the chances of Iowa and Purdue meeting in the Big Ten championship game seem even more remote. Iowa is projected for the No. 7 slot in the Big Ten Bowl pecking order and Purdue is not expected to be eligible. Both teams have a ton of questions on offense and a defense with some issues to work out as well. It is entirely possible that the loser of this game will be knocked out of bowl contention, while the winner absolutely needs it to reach 6-6.

2012 Record: 4-8, 2-6

Bowl result: None

Blog Representation: Black Heart Gold Pants

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 46-34-3

Last Purdue win: 11/10/2012 27-24 at Iowa

Last Iowa win: 11/19/2011 31-21 at Purdue

Last Season for the Hawkeyes

It was a pretty brutal season as the Hawkeyes had one of the worst offenses in the country in going 4-8. They only scored over 20 points in five of 12 games, and still somehow managed to lose three of those. The offense was a disaster as they lost a game 9-6 in a glorified field goal kicking contest to Iowa State and 13-7 to Nebraska. Even in the wins Iowa struggled. They edged Northern Illinois 18-17 on a late Damon Bullock touchdown and needed four field goals to beat Michigan State 19-16 in double overtime.

AIRBHG was particularly cruel to Iowa last year, as they were reduced to walk-on fullback Mark Weisman leading them in rushing. He performed very well, but it wasn't enough as the Hawkeyes twice lost games on last-second field goals to Central Michigan and Purdue.

The loss to Purdue was somewhat monumental as the Boilermakers won in Iowa City for the first time in 20 years. A late Robert Marve scramble set up a 46-yard field goal by Paul Griggs as time expired to give Purdue 27-24 win and break a five game losing streak. It started a modest three game winning streak as Purdue finally had something to cheer about football-wise, but even this win was fraught with many of the Danny Hope hallmarks. Micah Hyde had a 9-yard fumble return for a touchdown and another fumble at midfield set up a second Iowa TD. A missed 20-yard field goal by Sam McCartney on the final play of the first half also stung.

What we remember most though is that offensive coordinator Gary Nord did not make the trip due to a back injury and Purdue finally looked competent on offense. The multi-QB plan was ditched in favor of Marve, who threw for 266 yards and 2 TDs. He also had a 17-yard scramble after Purdue got the ball near midfield with 16 seconds left after a turnover on downs. The offense generated 490 yards, so it is far from a coincidence that it did so without the Nordfense calling plays.

Iowa Offense

One of the worst offenses in the country resided in Iowa City last year, yet offensive coordinator Greg Davis somehow kept his job. Iowa was 102nd nationally in passing, 104th in rushing, and 113th in scoring at a paltry 19.3 points per contest. This was with one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Big Ten running the show as a senior. Now they must bounce back with a new signal-caller and AIRBHG waiting in the wings to strike down their latest running back.

James Vandenberg threw every pass last season, accounting for 2,249 yards passing and only seven touchdowns against eight interceptions. Iowa will have a player that has not taken a collegiate snap yet under center in 2013, as Cody Sokol, Jake Rudock, and C.J. Beathard are the three players battling for the starting job. Currently, Rudock is listed at the top of the depth chart, but that can change.

The Hawkeyes do have the advantage that the top two running backs are returning, at least for now. AIRBHG can always change things. Weisman rushed for 815 yards and 8 TDs while Damon Bullock had 513 yards and three scores. Jordan Canzeri, who was the projected started before tearing his ACL last year, is also back after rushing for 114 yards on 31 carries in 2011. He also caught six passes for 28 yards and a touchdown. In tomorrow's Q&A Adam Jacobi of BHGP will have much more to say about the position.

Kevon Martin-Manley was the top receiver a year ago and he returns after catching 52 passes for 571 yards and two scores. C.J. Fiedorowicz (45-433-1) is one of the Big Ten's better tight ends and his only touchdown of 2012 came against Purdue. Outside of them, however, only Jordan Cotton (12-172-1) has much experience at receiver. Bullock and Weisman caught a combined 33 passes out of the backfield, but much of that comes from the conservative nature of the offense.

Martin-Manley was the only player with more than one TD reception last year as the passing game was less than a threat at well under 200 yards per game. The offensive line did it no favors by giving up 22 sacks. Brett Van Sloten and Conor Boffeli return as senior leaders on the line, but there is not a lot of depth with three redshirt freshmen on the two-deeps.

Iowa Defense

As bad as the offense was, the defense at least good enough to give the Hawkeyes a chance. In five of the seven losses Iowa fell by less than seven points, and four of those were by three or less. Iowa State, Central Michigan, Indiana, and Purdue were far from world-class defenses too, so that gives you an idea of just how bad the Iowa offense was.

There is some promise to build around as Anthony Hitchens and James Morris anchor the defense at linebacker after 100+ tackle seasons. Both are very active players that get to the ball quickly and with Christian Kirksey coming back as the No. 3 tackler the Hawkeyes have three linebackers that combined for 332 tackles in 2012.

Where Iowa needs a boost is on the defensive line. If Robert Marve can scramble for 17 yards on a thrice torn ACL in a key moment of the game you know the D-line is pretty bad. Iowa generated only 13 sacks last season and Dominic Alvis had the most of any returning player with three. Teams also rushed for 162 yards per game on the Hawkeyes, so look for Brandon Cottom and Akeem Hunt to have a big day. Ralph Bolden had a stunning 100 yard day against Iowa last season.

The secondary lost Micah Hyde as the defense's lone all-Big Ten player, but it only had 10 interceptions a year ago. Tanner Miller should provide leadership at safety after 69 tackles as a safety. B.J. Lowery is also a returning starter at one of the cornerback spots.

In terms of newcomers Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie were both 4-star defensive linemen two years ago and each redshirted in 2012, so they could showcase their talent this coming year.

Iowa Special Teams

Mike Meyer needed to be almost perfect last season as a placekicker and he did his job, hitting 17 of 21 kicks with a long of 50. A sign of a sputtering offense is a lot of field goal attempts inside 30 yards, as that is well inside the red zone. Meyer was 11 of 11 on such attempts.

Iowa had one of the worst punting games in the league last year as Connor Kornbrath punted 53 times for only a 37.9 average. In the return game Hyde needs to be replaced as a punt returner, but Kirksey was effective by taking both of his return attempts for touchdowns. Jordan Cotton also had a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Game Outlook

This game looks like a must-win for Purdue if the Boilers hope to make a bowl game in 2013, just as it was in 2012. I feel like as long as Purdue beats the four I schools (Indiana State, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana) it can find two more wins elsewhere to get to a bowl game. Given Iowa's miserable offensive situation and the fact we're playing at home I like our chances.

Unfortunately, it the first game after an absolutely brutal stretch and Purdue could easily be 1-7 coming in. Most people agree that a best-case scenario is 4-4 based on who we play early. Anything more than that will have coach Hazell getting Coach of the Year honors. Therefore, the Iowa game needs to be a win.

We ran on them last year and the defense held them in check. Purdue wins easily if not for three fumbles that set up 14 points. The first fumble set up a 22-yard TD drive and the second was returned for a score. As long as we avoid mistakes that practically hand them points Purdue should be fine.

I feel like this could be a game that would be much better to have earlier in the season. Aside from Indiana State (who was ranked in 1-AA much of 2012), Iowa is the first non-bowl team Purdue faces all year. It could be a confidence builder and it does at least open the door for a much easier final four game stretch. Will there be anything to play for this point, however?

Prediction

I think this is the first game where we can really see coach Hazell start to leave his mark. It has all the makings of being a game Purdue should win, and maybe easily. Danny Hope often struggled in those games (Toledo, Northern Illinois, Rice, etc.). Purdue needs to come out and take care of business against a punchless offense that doesn't have a ton of hope to improve much. Purdue 27, Iowa 13

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