During the 2011 season I was able to meet and break bread with many of the member of the Black Heart Gold Pants brain trust. Despite putting their faith in the wrong black & gold college team, they are good guys and they know their football. Ross WB of their ilk was kind enough to answer my questions this for the weekly blogger Q&A;
T-Mill: Iowa has one regulation touchdown in its last two games. Purdue hasn't taken a snap in the red zone since September 28. Is this a PUNT TO WIN Ferentz wet dream?
Ross: Uh, I hope not. If Iowa is doing a lot of punting in this game, well... let's just say I probably won't be sober or conscious for much of the second half. This needs to be the game where Greg Davis Gets His Groove Back. If the Iowa offense can't look fairly competent against Purdue, well, I don't have much confidence in any other wins this season and it's going to be another long, ugly off-season with a lot of the same discussions we had last off-season. (Iowa football: because America Needs Farmers and Recycled Football Talking Points!) That said, I'm sure we'll still punt a few times. We'll probably even punt inside the Purdue 40 at least once, because that's just A Thing We Do. #B1G
T-Mill: I feel part of Purdue's struggles come from playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country (Five possible BCS teams and two definite bowl teams). Is Iowa an easier opponent in comparison?
Ross: I guess that really depends on who you're comparing Iowa to in this situation. Let's use Football Outsiders' good ol' F/+ rankings to break down Purdue's schedule so far:
Indiana State: N/A
Notre Dame: 26
Northern Illinois: 64
Michigan State: 16
Ohio State: 7
According to those rankings, Iowa's smack in the middle in terms of the teams you've played: better than Cincinnati, Indiana State, Northern Illinois, and Nebraska, but not as good as Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State. I think that's pretty accurate spot for Iowa at this point. So yes: Iowa is easier than MSU and OSU; we don't have the boa constrictor of a defense that Sparty has, nor the thermonuclear death machine of an offense that the Buckeyes have. But the stats suggest that Iowa's on par (or, really, better) than Cincinnati, Nebraska, and Northern Illinois and those teams pantsed Purdue pretty good, too. That said, I don't expect Iowa to put up 40+ in this game unless your offense feels like giving up some touchdowns to Iowa's defense. As you noted above, the Iowa offense is having Some Issues lately.
T-Mill: Is this a must-win game for Iowa to go to a bowl. Conversely, if they somehow lose will there be some actual heat on Ferentz?
Ross: Technically, no, it's not a must-win game for Iowa to make a bowl. Iowa has five wins and needs just one more win to avoid a second consecutive trip to the Queso Bowl; wins over Michigan or Nebraska are not exactly inconceivable... although they are much harder to envision if Iowa craps all over themselves and loses this game. I do think losing this game would increase the heat on Ferentz a few degrees; it would be the worst team Iowa has lost to since... I'm not even sure. I would have said Central Michigan last year, but they did end up making a bowl. Maybe one of those crappy Minnesota teams that upset Iowa a few years ago. It would also be a sign that the problem hasn't improved nearly enough for the lows of 2012 and it would make a 5-7 record in 2013 a much more likely possibility. Would that equal Ferentz getting fired in December? I still have my doubts about that, mostly because I don't see anyone lurking around with a $15 million buyout check. At the very least, though, it would ratchet up the pressure for next year to extremely high levels.
T-Mill: Will the MOST HATED RIVALRY intensify next year once we're divisional foes?
Ross: How can it not? Jim Delany and company didn't admit it when they announced the new divisions earlier this fall, but I think we all know the real reason why Purdue was selected to go west: our fanbases would have descended on Chicago in a righteous fury and burned that motherfucker to the ground if we were denied the annual privilege of facing one another in football. OUR BLOOD FEUD WILL NEVER DIE. HATE SPRINGS ETERNAL.
T-Mill: AIRBHG has been strangely calm this year. Are you worried as you enter the ACL graveyard that is Purdue?
Ross: I'm always terrified of AIRBHG. He's contented himself with some minor injuries this year (Mark Weisman hasn't been the same since the Michigan State game; that's probably not a coincidence, given that they play defense with an unholy fury), but I'm always waiting for his wrath to manifest itself in something more spectacular, like an exploded knee or a dismemebered arm or some sort of epic run-in with the police. I'm sure it will happen before too long.
T-Mill: Finally, a prediction?
Ross: I think Iowa shakes off its offensive funk here, at least to an extent. IOWA 27, PURDUE 13