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Interviews with the Enemy: A Q&A with Black Heart Gold Pants

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Here come the Hawkeyes

NCAA Football: Iowa at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, we hate Iowa. We have always hated Iowa and we will always hate Iowa. That doesn’t mean we don’t respect their bloggers. This week we have Max Brekke stopping by to answer my questions about the Hawkeyes.

T-Mill: The Iowa defense has been excellent, especially against the run. Purdue struggled last week, but overall has had a great passing game. How do the two match up?

Max: I’m really interested to see how Iowa is able to fare against Purdue because they have the ability to beat you in a lot of ways, something the Hawks really haven’t seen a whole lot of in 2018. Iowa has a tremendous pass rush, and even when they don’t get to the QB, they have a way of influencing throws and decisions, which has helped a very young cornerback stable. Iowa is currently starting two true freshmen at cornerback, which is certainly frightening when going up against a phenom like Rondale Moore, so I’m interested to see how they fare this weekend.

As far as the running defense goes, I think I like Iowa to keep Purdue limited in this game. Outside of one long Trace McSorley TD run where I don’t think anyone thought he’d be able to run following his first half knee injury, Iowa really kept Penn State from doing anything on the ground, which has been the story of this season. D.J. Knox is a threat from the backfield, but I’d be very confident that the defense can keep him under 100 yards.

T-Mill: The Hawkeyes were scoring quite a bit offensively until playing Penn State. What had gotten into Kirk Ferentz?

Max: Up until the past couple weeks, Iowa had just figured it all out on offense. Nate Stanley was clicking with his receivers, the running game was good enough to keep defenses honest (seriously, who are these Hawkeyes?), and Brian Ferentz seemed to come into his own as an offensive coordinator. Putting up points against UNI was one thing, then doing it against Minnesota seemed to be a bit more out of necessity. What they did against Indiana was absolutely wild, though - it felt like every ball that Stanley threw in the first half was at least 20+ yards downfield. Then, up 42-16 with a chance to run the clock out to end the game, Ferentz dialed up a dang deep ball to start the drive. I’m sure part of this has been Brian trying to call an aggressive game, but it’s been really fun to watch an Iowa offense put up points (when it’s worked, at least).

T-Mill: At 6-2 Iowa has dominated lesser competition, but struggled against the two ranked teams it has played. Purdue is the opposite, going 2-0 against ranked teams. Does this concern you?

Max: One thing is for sure - I’m NOT worried about this Iowa defense going up against the Boilermakers this weekend. While Purdue has more playmakers than anyone Iowa’s faced all season, they Hawks have done a great job at keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard, and they’ve really only faltered when the offense has put them in tough spots - against Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Penn State (the three games they allowed the most points), they were tasked way too often with defending a short field, and those teams made them pay. When your backs start against the goal line, who can blame you for giving up six?

I am, however, worried about this Iowa offense. They scored one offensive touchdown against Maryland two weeks ago, then followed up that performance by scoring a whopping zero offensive touchdowns against Penn State (unless, of course, you want to count the fake field goal, which you shouldn’t). Add in a struggling Nate Stanley, and one who’s struggled mightily against better competition, and yeah, you could say I’m a bit concerned this week.

T-Mill: Nathan Stanley has not been strong the last two weeks. What’s going on?

The game against Maryland was understandable for him to struggle in because the winds were pretty steadily around 40 mph and gusting even higher. I think there were some people who were concerned with that performance, but most thought it was just an anomaly and that he’d return to his old self when conditions were better.

Then, came last weekend’s abomination - 18-for-49, two costly interceptions, and he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with his throws. Once again, the conditions weren’t good - it was really cold and wet in State College - but yeah. That performance isn’t going to cut it against most teams. It could be a crisis of confidence, or he might just not be able to shake off bad starts.

What’s concerning heading into this week, though, is that he hit his thumb on a lineman’s helmet following through on a fourth quarter pass against Penn State. For the remainder of the drive, his throws were all dropping well short of their intended targets and he looked like he might have some legitimate thumb damage. They taped it up and he performed fine afterwards, and it sounds like he’s looked good in practice after being diagnosed with a minor thumb sprain, but there’s a bit of worrying about whether or not he’ll feel any lasting effects from it.

T-Mill: As always, here is your section for a two minutes’ hate.

Max: No hate this week. I want to use this opportunity to say that I am so, so in love with the way the Boilermaker community has rallied around Tyler Trent and his family, and I think it’s just the absolute greatest thing. He’s such a tough, kind kid, and I really admire how he’s staying upbeat and using his platform as a way to encourage people to donate to cancer research.

I saw earlier this week that he plans to be in attendance for the Iowa game, and that he wants the crowd to do the wave with him. That would surely be a special moment, and I can’t wait.

T-Mill: Finally, what is your pick for Saturday?

Max: On our podcast earlier this week, I let my frustrations get the best of me and I said that I was picking Purdue to win 35-14. After taking some time to get my head out of my ass this week, I’ve been able to think more about the game and I think this is going to be a pretty low scoring one. Iowa’s defense has been tremendous all year, and I think the defensive line should be able to disrupt David Blough enough to keep Purdue from gashing them through the air repeatedly.

Still, I’m picking Purdue to win. Iowa’s offense has been boom or bust this season, and I just don’t believe in them right now, especially with a QB who might not be 100% this weekend. Purdue 21, Iowa 17.