Last season Purdue had a pair of road wins and they turned the entire season around. The first was a blowout win at Missouri and it showed Purdue was going to be much more competitive than originally thought. The second was the 24-15 win at our Most Hated Rivals in Iowa. That essentially got us to a bowl game after we had dropped games against Nebraska and Rutgers.
There are a few similarities to last year’s game, too. Last year we went to Iowa City two weeks after they blew out Ohio State at home. Now they come to us two weeks after we blew out Ohio State. Last year they struggled offensively, not scoring an offensive touchdown at Wisconsin before playing us. This year the same is true, only they played at Penn State. They still enter as a top 25 team, and both top 25 teams that have come to Ross-Ade Stadium this year have left with a loss.
It should be an interesting game. They are still alive for the West while a loss all but hands the division to Northwestern. We can win the West ourselves, but we would need to win out, have Iowa beat Northwestern, and have either Minnesota or Illinois also upset the Wildcats. There is also Purdue’s bowl placement. A Purdue win opens the door for a New Year’s Day Bowl game and eight wins for the first time in 11 years.
2018 Record: 6-2, 3-2
2017 Record: 8-5, 4-5 Big Ten West
Bowl Result: Beat Boston College 27-20 in Pinstripe Bowl
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 47-38-3
Last Purdue win: 24-15 at Iowa on 11/18/2017
Last Iowa win: 49-35 at Purdue on 10/15/2016
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (143-97 in 20th year at Iowa, 155-118 in 23rd year overall)
So far this season the Hawkeyes have beaten up on a bunch of lesser opponents aside from a nice win over an Iowa State team that surprisingly made the playoff top 25. The two losses came mostly as the result of late turnovers. They led Wisconsin 17-14 with a minute left before giving up two late touchdowns. They were inside the five against Penn State before throwing an interception. They have comfortable wins in conference over Minnesota, Maryland, and Indiana.
Who to Watch on Offense
Nathan Stanley – QB – Stanley has had moments of greatness this year and has been lousy at times. The only game where he did not throw at least one interception was the 13-3 win over Iowa State. At Indiana he threw for six touchdowns and 320 yards, but he had only 86 yards the next week against Maryland. Against Purdue last season he was mostly ineffective by completing just 16 passes for 176 yards, a late TD, and a Simeon Smiley interception. Perhaps the biggest difference last season was the pass rush. Stanley has only been sacked nine times in eight games. Purdue sacked him six times and pressured him all night.
Torian Young – RB – Normally Iowa has a fairly strong running game, but they rank nationally in the 70s at only 161.6 yards per game. That’s slightly less than our own 162.4 yards per game. Young is their top rusher at 421 yards and 2 TDs. Mekhi Sargent has similar numbers at 388 yards and 4 TDs. The two running games are mostly a wash, but their run defense is far better.
Noah Fant – TE – Fant has been a very reliable receiver and one of the best tight ends in the conference. He has 31 receptions for 368 yards and a team high six touchdowns. Stanley has effectively spread the ball around, however. He has five receivers with over 200 yards receiving and both Nick Easley and T.J. Hockenson have three touchdowns apiece.
Who to Watch on Defense
First, the bad news. Iowa’s run defense is only slightly worse than Michigan State’s they entered last week tied for third with the Spartans nationally. After playing us the Spartans are better, but the Hawkeyes only give up 84.4 yards per game on the ground. They are going to try and make Purdue one dimensional like Michigan State did.
Then there is good news. Defensive backs Trey Creamer and Matt Hankins were suspended for the Purdue game as of Sunday. Hankins was an injured starter and Creamer had provided depth, but they are now thinner at a position that will be tested.
Anthony Nelson – DE – Michigan State caused us problems because they got pressure on David Blough early and often with their defensive line. Nelson will be a key in doing the same. He has 6.5 sacks on the season and has 28 tackles overall. He is a massive end at 6’7” 271 pounds.
A.J. Epenesa – DE – On the other end Epenesa is also great at getting to the quarterback. He has six sacks of his own this season and has forced a pair of fumbles. Purdue’s tackles will have their hands full with both of these guys.
Geno Stone – DB – All three of Stone’s interceptions have come in the last four games, so he is riding a hot streak against Big Ten competition. Along with Amani Hooker and Jake Gervase, the Iowa secondary is quite productive. They have the second best pass defense in the league at 180.5 yards per game given up.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Miguel Recinos – K – Recinos has been productive, hitting on 12 of his 15 attempts this season. He has a long of 49, while Purdue has not hit a field goal beyond 40 yards the last two seasons.
Colten Rastetter – P – Nearly half (13 of 28) of Rastetter’s punts have been downed inside the 20 yard line. He averages better than 42 yards per punt and four of his kicks have been over 50 yards.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette – KR – Smith-Marsette hasn’t broken one yet, but he is a threat to. He averages over 33 yards per kickoff return and has a long of 60 yards.
This is a tricky game because Purdue is coming off of one of its worst offensive games of the year against Michigan State and the Hawkeyes have a better defense. I am deeply concerned with our own pass defense too. We’re dead last in the Big Ten there and we just had a freshman have a great game in his first career start. Nathan Stanley is better than Rocky Lombardi.
This feels like a game where Iowa can grind us down a lot like Michigan State did. They may not be great offensively, but they are a typical Iowa team on defense. They are going to have a great defensive line that dominates against the run and they have a sound secondary. Their front four can do more than enough against the run and by getting seven guys back into coverage it can disrupt Purdue’s offense quite a bit.
Purdue must tighten up its pass coverage lest it get picked apart like MSU did. Fortunately, coach Brohm recognized this and mentioned it in the press conference as an area concern. On offense we just need to execute better. If Brohm has time early he has done very well. If he is pressured early it shakes him up for the entire game.
I expect a low scoring affair like last year. We’re playing at home against a near sellout crowd, so hopefully there is some magic there. This is probably the best defense we’ll face all season, however.