SO. MUCH. HATE.
It’s time for us to travel to that hellscape that is Iowa City to face Our Most Hated Rivals. Since it comes up every year at this time, here is the explanation as to why Iowa is Our Most Hated Rivals. The Hawkeyes have now won four games in a row over us, but with an inconsistent offense Purdue might have a chance in Iowa City this weekend. They are playing for bowl positioning, while Purdue still needs another win to have a chance at a bowl bid by beating Indiana next week.
2016 Record: 8-5, 6-3 Big Ten West
2017 Record: 6-4, 3-2
Bowl Result: lost 30-3 to Florida in Outback Bowl
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 46-38-3
Last Purdue win: 27-24 at Iowa on 11/10/2012
Last Iowa win: 49-35 at Purdue on 10/15/2016
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (141-96 in 19th season at Iowa)
The last two weeks have been very odd for Iowa. Two weeks ago they exploded for 55 points on Ohio State in one of the most unexpected complete beatdowns in college football. They followed that up by having a completely ineffective offense and gaining only 66 total yards at Wisconsin last week. It is such a strange dichotomy. It is odd to see the same team play two good defenses in a row and have completely opposite results.
We have come to expect that for Iowa, however. In three out of four weeks they played in games that ended 17-10, losing two and winning one of them (over Minnesota). They were one of Northwestern’s three overtime victories, as they lost 17-10 a few weeks ago. They also nearly pulled off a huge upset as they were a play away from beating Penn State before losing 21-19.
What we need to look for is the Iowa offense. The defense is pretty good in giving up 20.1 points per game (24th nationally, 5th in the Big Ten), but ours has been slightly better at 19.3 points per game (19th nationally, 4th in the Big Ten). Their offense is three points better than Purdue, but that comes from wild fluctuations such as 48 against Ohio State (7 came from the defense) and 0 against Wisconsin. This will probably be a strong defensive contest, as Iowa has failed to score more than 20 points five times in 10 games. They could breakout, as they have been over 40 three times.
Who to Watch on Offense
Nathan Stanley – QB – Stanley was great against Ohio State with 226 yards and 5 TDs, but awful last week with 41 yards and an interception. The strength of Iowa’s offense is still on the ground, but Stanley has been solid at about 16 completions per game and nearly 200 yards. He has 22 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions, which does not bode well since Purdue has forced just one turnover in the last four games total. He is not much of a runner at -27 yards for the season.
Akrum Wadley – RB – Among the many, many reasons Darrell Hazell was fired was Wadley rushing for 176 yards and a score last season on us. The senior has rushed for over 2,500 yards in his career and it at 784 yards and 5 TDs this season. He could easily finish with a 1,000 yard season, but he is not quite as good as Justin Jackson, whom we limited last week. James Butler has done well in spelling him, but Purdue will only have success if it can slow down Wadley.
Nick Easley – WR – Easley leads the Hawkeyes with 41 receptions for 421 yards and 4 TDs. He has a nice running mate in Noah Fant, who has 23 receptions for 353 yards and 7 TDs. Fant was held without a catch last week, but he had two TDs against Ohio State. Both of these guys are capable possessions receivers that will test our secondary. Wadley has also caught 24 passes for 310 yards and 3 TDs out of the backfield.
Who to Watch on Defense
Josh Jackson – CB – Do not throw it to this guy’s side of the field. Seriously, just don’t. Last week he had a pair of pick sixes that resulted in Iowa’s only scoring in Madison. He has five interceptions in the last two games and seven on the season. Right now he is the hottest corner in the league and a danger to have six going the other way if you throw at home. He was probably Iowa’s lone bright spot last week.
Josey Jewell – LB – Jewell is currently leading the big Ten with 102 tackles and he has 9.5 for loss. He is arguably the best linebacker in the conference, and he leads a defense that gives up 370 yards per game, but has done a great job of stopping teams from scoring. He also has an interception and a fumble recovery on the season.
Anthony Nelson – DL – Nelson is currently second in the conference with 6 sacks, just half a sack behind Chase Winovich and Garrett Dooley. With Purdue already having offensive line issues Nelson could be in for a huge afternoon. If he can create constant pressure on Elijah Sindelar like Chase Winovich did Purdue will be in trouble.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Miguel Recinos – K – Recinos has been solid at kicker, going 9 for 11 with a long of 48 yards. He also has gotten 24 touchbacks on 50 kickoffs.
Matt VandeBerg – PR – VandeBerg has not put up huge numbers returning punts, but his 5.75 yard average isn’t bad. It is far better than Purdue’s “automatic fair catch” punt return unit. Given that we had punt return issues last week this could be a problem.
Which Iowa team will show up? That is the biggest question to ask here. If the same Iowa that beat Ohio State to a pulp shows up Purdue is done. The Hawkeyes were way too good two weeks ago and probably could have beaten anyone in the country that day.
That has not been the norm though. Mostly, this offense has struggled to score points and Purdue’s defense has mostly done a good job of limiting a team to about 20 points. The only team to crack 30 on us was Louisville, when last year we gave up at least 30 points 8 times. This season Purdue has held teams under 20 five times in 10 games, showing marked improvement in that category.
That might mean the first team to 20 wins. The edge there is to Iowa, as they have had the slightly more consistent offense. After being red zone magicians the first three weeks of the season Purdue has fallen on very hard times there. Empty red zone trips have cost us against Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Northwestern. Purdue has to have more contributions from its receivers and has got to find a way to finish drives or it won’t matter how good the defense does.
That’s what makes this game interesting. On paper it looks like we will be in it throughout. It will be critical to start faster and get an early score or two. That has been an issue of late, so if Purdue can find a way to put a touchdown or two on the board in its first few drives we’ll look like the team that thumped Missouri again. If not, we’re on our way to another loss.