Normally we have some fun around here when it comes to Iowa and, specifically, our brethren at Black Heart Gold Pants. We joke about them being Our Most Hated Rivals and enjoy revelry over our shared love of black and gold. This year, however, feels different. Purdue is mired at the bottom of the conference for a third straight season, has very little to play for at 2-8, and despite the lack of any sign of progress we're told there is progress and to expect no changes.
On the other hand, you have Iowa. The Hawkeyes had relatively low expectations coming into the year, but have been on a solid run of steady play where they are simply the better team every week. That has seen them rise to No. 5 in the playoff rankings, and they control their own destiny to play for a Big Ten and national title. At minimum, they will play for the Big Ten crown barring a massive collapse.
Even with the shared jackassery with BHGP what is there to get excited about? Iowa has done everything asked of them. They have won at Wisconsin. They have survived late game scenarios. They have blown out a good team on the road in Northwestern. Now they get two relatively easy games before the Big Ten championship game, while Ohio State has to survive its two toughest tests in consecutive weeks.
Perhaps what is so frustrating is that Purdue could be Iowa if not for better planning on our part. Historically there is not a huge difference between the programs pre-2000. They have made the right moves and done what they needed to do to get better. Purdue did not.
I was originally going to go to this game to knock Iowa off my list of Big Ten stadiums, but decided to head to Miami for a few days instead. This choice was made back in August and, right now, looks like a good one, because Iowa is simply better than Purdue by almost every metric.
2015 Record: 10-0, 6-0 Big Ten
Bowl result: Lost to Tennessee 45-28 in TaxSlayer Bowl
Blog Representation: Black Heart Gold Pants
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 46-36-3
Last Purdue win: 11/10/2012 27-24 at Iowa
Last Iowa win: 9/27/2014 24-10 at Purdue
Who to Watch on Offense
Jordan Canzeri - RB - Iowa is excellent at moving the ball on the ground even if their passing and rushing yardage totals are nearly identical. They still have 439 rushing attempts to 273 pass attempts thanks to three very good backs and a mobile quarterback. Canzeri leads the way with 729 yards and 9 TDs, all while missing two games.
LeShun Daniels - RB - Canzeri missed the Maryland and Indiana games, but Daniels was more than good enough to take over. Last week he ran for 195 yards against Minnesota and on the season he has 559 yards and 6 TDs. He is pretty much a straight power back running behind a solid offensive line.
Akrum Wadley - RB - As if the two guys above weren't good enough, Wadley has 426 yards and 7 touchdowns as the third guy, and that included 204 yards against Northwestern. Since Canzeri was over 200 yards against Illinois (he had 256) all three are capable of having a good game. Considering how horrible Purdue was against the run when Illinois, the worst rushing team in the Big Ten, came to town all three of these backs have to be salivating.
C.J. Beathard - QB - The Iowa passing game is not particularly explosive, but it is very efficient. Beathard has completed 61% of his passes for 2,044 yards and 10 TDs against only three interceptions. His top target has been Matt VandeBerg, who has 55 receptions for 587 yards and two scores. In the red zone look out for George Kittle, who has only 14 receptions for 180 yards, but a team high 4 touchdowns. Beathard is also very good on the ground with 268 yards and six rushing TDs.
Who to Watch on Defense
So what will Shoop do this week? Purdue closed last week with four straight three and outs. Now he gets to face one of the top rushing defenses in America as Iowa is 9th nationally at barely over 100 yards per game. They are 16th in scoring at 18.4 points per game too, so this is a defense that does not give up a lot. They are still 15th in scoring defense in the Big Ten because Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern allow less.
Nate Meier - DE - the senior defensive end is having a solid year with 6.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 59 tackles overall. He is excellent at getting into the backfield with eight quarterback hits.
Josey Jewell - LB - One of the Big Ten's leading tacklers, Jewell has 90 stops, 6 for loss, 2.5 sacks, and an interception. We can expect to see him all over the field and involved in almost every play.
Desmond King - DB - Do not throw it anywhere near Desmond King. He will intercept it. The junior DB has an astounding 8 interceptions on the season and has returned one 88 yards for a touchdown. The rest of the team only has five interceptions total.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Marshall Koehn - K - Considering the disaster that has been Purdue's kicking game, Koehn is a huge advantage. He hit the game-winner from 57 against Pittsburgh and is 13 of 17 on the year. Paul Griggs, meanwhile, did have his only career game-winner in Iowa City as a freshman.
King - KR, PR - even if he doesn't pick off a pass King is dangerous. He is used as a solid return man averaging 14.8 yards per return on punts and 25.1 on kickoffs.
Well, if Purdue is going to follow the M.O. of the season it will challenge another ranked team on the road in Iowa like it did at Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Northwestern. In four road games to date Purdue has not played that poorly, which is a big surprise since the toughest opponents have come away from Ross-Ade. Purdue led in the fourth quarter at Marshall, was down by 3 with the ball late at Michigan State, trailed Wisconsin by 3 for much of the third quarter, and was tied with Northwestern until late in the fourth quarter.
Yeah, we don't know how, either.
This is the complete opposite of Purdue's home record, where Virginia Tech, Minnesota, and Illinois, all who could easily miss bowl games, came to West Lafayette and curb-stomped the Boilers, especially in the third quarter. Those games were rife with poor tackling, terrible offense, and players well out of position.
Basically, if good Purdue shows up it will challenge before falling late. If bad Purdue shows up it will be over just after halftime. That's what we know about the Boilers after 10 games. So far there have only been two scenarios that have lead to a win:
A. playing an FCS team.
B. A walk-on quarterback has a turnover meltdown repeatedly deep in his own territory.
Well, Iowa is not an FCS team, and they have only nine turnovers in 10 games compared to the five that Ryker Fyfe gave up. Even when Purdue has played just about as well as it can, as it did at Northwestern, Michigan State, and even at home against Bowling Green, it has not been enough. There are still player out of position on defense and long dry spells on offense. Neither of these have been corrected in 10 games, so why should we expect it now?