This week we get TWO blogger interviews! Go Iowa Awesome is a new site run by the former members of Black Heart Gold Pants, and I did an interview with them because they are blogging superstars. here is what Ross had to say about the Hawkeyes:
T-Mill: Is Purdue going to get the vengeance of AIRBHG with Daniels and Wadley this week against our poor run defense?
Ross: I'm definitely optimistic that the running game could really get going this weekend. Purdue has given up at least 262 yards rushing in each of their games this year against Power 5 (or Power 5-ish in the case of Cincinnati) competition and they have yet to hold a Big Ten opponent under 300 yards rushing. Iowa's running game has had some issues this season (North Dakota State and Northwestern absolutely stymied them), but they looked a bit better last week against Minnesota after reshuffling some of the starters on the offensive line. And if they can't get on track against this Purdue rush defense, the warning klaxons are really going to be sounding in Iowa City. I'm hoping to see at least 250 yards on the ground from Iowa, with both Daniels and Wadley eclipsing 100 yards rushing.
T-Mill: Iowa struggles to convert on third down. Purdue is the worst third down defense in the country. Who wins, the resistable force or the moveable object?
Ross: I think Iowa's problems on third down are twofold. First, their offense has struggled to produce on first and second down too often this year, which leaves them behind schedule and in a lot of third and long situations. Those are difficult to convert for any team, let alone a team with a fairly middling passing attack like Iowa has this season. Second, their third down offense has been horribly predictable -- they attempt to throw the ball on an incredibly high number of third downs, even on short- or medium-yardage third downs. That predictability has made them easier to defend. That said, I'm optimistic that Iowa will have better luck on third down against Purdue and that ties back into my hope from the first question. If Iowa is able to get their ground game humming against Purdue's so-far-very-accommodating run defense, then they should have more success on first and second downs, which should put them in more manageable third down situations. That ought to make it easier for them to have more success on third down than they've enjoyed so far this season.
T-Mill: Are Desmond King's numbers down because teams are just terrified of him or has he leveled off after a great season last year?
Ross: It's more the former than the latter. Teams have definitely been targeting King's counterpart on the other side of the field, Greg Mabin, a lot more this year -- and for good reason. He's not as good as King so it's certainly the match-up to try and exploit in the passing game. Minnesota's Mitch Leidner made the mistake of throwing King's way last week and came a few fingertips away from a likely pick-six. It's simply not worth testing King, although if David Blough wants to try it this week, I encourage him to do so. Despite limited opportunities, King's coverage this year has remained very solid, he's been strong in run support, and he's also been phenomenal in punt and kickoff returns. I certainly wish he had a few interceptions to his credit as well, but overall we don't have any real complaints with King's play so far this season.
T-Mill: What has Iowa's biggest problem been all year? Is Purdue the opponent where they get on track or are you concerned because of the struggles against Rutgers?
Ross: Iowa's biggest problem has been on offense -- they haven't been able to sustain drives for most of this year. I've lost track of how many times Iowa has gone three and out this year (especially over the last four weeks), but it's been... a lot. Put it this way: only Rutgers has punted more often than Iowa this year (51 times versus 35 for Iowa), which is not a great stat. The offensive line has been inconsistent overall, struggling to protect C.J. Beathard at times and struggling to open holes for the running game at other parts of the game. The receivers have struggled both to get open and to catch the ball, which it turns out is a fairly disastrous combination for a decent passing attack. And Beathard has struggled as well, often holding onto the ball too long and struggling to get into a rhythm with his receivers. The running backs have generally been very solid all year, but there's only so much they can do behind an inconsistent offensive line and a passing offense that defenses don't respect much. I think there will definitely be some concern if the Iowa offense is again stagnant and ineffective against Purdue, given the Boilermakers' struggles on defense this year. There's already a pretty good amount of panic in Hawkeye-land based on the middling performances of the last month, so one more unimpressive showing against a bad defense will be like pouring gasoline on that panic-fire. That would be really bad news ahead of a visit next week from what should be far and away the best defense Iowa has faced all year in Wisconsin. Long story short: yes, I really really want to see the Iowa offense look good against Purdue.
T-Mill: Finally, here is your place for a prediction and TWO MINUTES HATE
Ross: I'm predicting Iowa 35, Purdue 17. I think the running game really gets on track and grinds down the Purdue defense in the second half, leading to some long, time-sucking drives and late scores. I hope the entire Purdue team falls into the Ross-Ade sinkhole and is never seen nor heard from again. Honestly, though, I'm having a difficult time getting my hate juices flowing for Our Most Hated Rival in football this year. I mean, if y'all decide to cheapshot Beathard or go low on Wadley, I'm sure the hate will come flowing back with a vengeance, but at the moment, I'd character my dislike for you folks at more of a simmer than a boil. (I don't expect that it will take long to get the hate revved up come basketball season, though, and oh look, we're opening Big Ten play against one another. I already can't wait 'til Iowa runs Isaac Haas and his no-cardio-havin' ass ragged.)