There has not been a ton of hate thrown around this week even those Purdue travels to the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Iowa City on Saturday. It is hard to hate when a Purdue win would be the biggest upset in decades for the program. Instead, we mostly have apathy towards football.
Can you blame us? We have basketball this weekend.
Well, there is still football to talk about, and today we have Ross Binder from the propaganda rag Black Heart Gold Pants here to discuss Purdue-Iowa. I answered some of his questions earlier this week too:
T-Mill: There is not a lot of hate this year. Be honest, are you seeing other rivals?
Ross: I mean... it's not you, it's us. We went on a diet and got a makeover and now different people are paying attention to us, you know? Colin Cowherd and Doug Gottlieb and David Pollack keep talking to us and even though it's not particularly nice, we can't stop listening to 'em. Then there's all those folks in Big XII country who are super-aggrieved and coming up with all kinds of conspiracy theories. And I know we thought we were done with our exes in Ames, Madison, and Minneapolis, but then we go and win a trophy from them and -- BAM -- you remember all over again why you were so crazy about them in the first place. I hope we can still be frenemies, though.
T-Mill:Is Purdue pretty much a speedbump on the way to Indy?
Ross: Honestly? I don't think so. Given some of the issues that have sprouted up for Iowa lately (particularly on defense; see below) and how well Purdue has played some of the better teams on their schedule (a 27-24 loss to Michigan State, a 21-14 loss to Northwestern), I certainly don't think Iowa can just show up and win this game in a rout. If Iowa isn't fully focused on Purdue and ready for this game, I think Purdue is talented enough to make this game a challenge for Iowa.
T-Mill: Iowa is very, very balanced and has three solid running backs. After seeing what Illinois did to Purdue, does Beathard even pass? Which back re-creates Shonn Greene vs. Frank Duong?
Ross: I'm sure Beathard will throw a few passes, but this looks like a game where Iowa will try to get away with throwing as few as possible -- maybe 15-20. (For the record, Beathard's season low in terms of attempts is 21, against North Texas and Wisconsin.) Iowa's definitely going to try to establish the ground game and run it down Purdue's throat. I would dearly love to see a recreation of Greene vs. Duong on Saturday and the best running back to do that figures to be LeShun Daniels, Jr. He's the biggest (6-0, 225) of the four running backs in Iowa's rotation and definitely the likeliest to just bowl a dude over. Iowa's other two main running backs, Jordan Canzeri and Akrum Wadley, are more likely to make a quick cut and leave a defender grasping for air. As luck would have it, Daniels is fresh off a 26 carry, 195 yard, 3 TD performance against Minnesota, too.
T-Mill: Is there really a weakness on the defense?
Ross: Iowa just gave up 400+ yards in back-to-back games, so I wouldn't exactly call the Iowa defense airtight right now. Giving up a lot of yards to Indiana is one thing -- they actually have a very good offense, especially with Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard healthy. Giving up 434 yards -- 7.6 yards per play!!! -- to Minnesota's offense, on the other hand, is much less forgivable. In general, Iowa is probably a bit more vulnerable through the air than on the ground, especially if you target Iowa's linebackers in space (as Minnesota did time and again with their tight ends) or Greg Mabin (aka "Iowa's cornerback who isn't a Thorpe Award semifinalist"). If Purdue can do that, they might be able to make some hay against Iowa's defense.
T-Mill: What is one thing that can give Purdue even a small amount of hope?
Ross: Well, the defense is trending in an unpleasant direction -- as I noted above, they've given up 400+ yards in back-to-back games and their performance against Minnesota was really alarming. There's definitely some vulnerability on that side of the ball right now, which ought to give Purdue some hope. There's definitely some very real trap game potential here for Iowa -- this game comes after a very emotional night game win over Minnesota and before a short week game against Nebraska (a game that Ferentz and the Iowa players seem to have circled on their calendar since last year's embarrassing meltdown). And that's without even considering all the distractions and extra attention that comes from being 10-0 and ranked #5. Ferentz and the Iowa players are all saying the right things now about their focus being on Purdue, but it would hardly be a surprise if their focus wasn't 100% on Purdue this weekend.
T-Mill: Finally, by how many points does Iowa win this?
Ross: The Vegas line for this game has been moving upward all week, from Iowa -17.5 to Iowa -22 as of this writing, which is surprising. Clearly, there has not been much action on Purdue to cover, so there's not a lot of faith among bettors in you guys keeping it close. I'm not sure what to think of the final score for this game. Iowa hasn't really blown anyone out since a 40-10 wipeout of Northwestern about a month ago (although they did comfortably beat Maryland by double digits, 31-15) and their last two wins have been pretty close. There's also some chatter about inclement weather (maybe windy and snowy), which could make it a bit harder to score. I think Iowa wins, and I think Iowa wins by double digits... but I'm not at all convinced they cover that big spread. I'll say Iowa by 13 or so, something like Iowa 27, Purdue 14.