Last season the most stunning upset was Purdue’s 24-15 win in Iowa City. It propelled Purdue to a surprise bowl game and was the start of our current 3-game winning streak. As always, we hate Iowa and relish the anguish this game caused. The Hawkeyes are coming back to West Lafayette this year, and I was able to talk with Max Brekke of Black Heart Gold Pants about them:
T-Mill: Purdue’s season was made the last two years by Iowa with you guys getting Hazell fired in 2016 and the upset in Iowa City. What is your encore?
Hopefully a nice, big, season-crushing victory is the encore performance for the last two years. Iowa’s been too good to Our Most Hated Rivals for two years too long, and it’s time for the Hawks to decimate Purdue during a season when they could actually be a formidable player in the Big Ten West, derailing their good season into another average one where they finish 6-6 overall and finish fourth in the West.
Wait, this isn’t where I was supposed to use my two minutes of hate...
T-Mill: You defense loses all three linebackers from a decent unit. Who steps in?
Right now, the listed starters for Iowa are sophomore Nick Niemann at outside linebacker (who will replace his older brother, Ben), junior Amani Jones at middle linebacker, and junior Kristian Welch at weak-side linebacker - those are the guys Iowa will probably roll with once the season begins, barring any camp injuries. Senior Aaron Mends was expected to finally get his chance at a starting job this fall, but suffered a major knee injury during spring ball and it’s not a guarantee he’ll be able to go in any significant capacity this season. Despite this, there’s some solid depth at the position, as redshirt freshman Djimon Colbert and senior Jack Hockaday figure to be ready to go if needed, and freshmen Jayden McDonald and Dillon Doyle (son of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle) could also be seen if there’s attrition at linebacker by the time Iowa hosts Purdue on Week 10. One thing’s for sure, though - it’s going to be incredibly hard to replace three multi-year starters in Niemann, Bower, and Jewell this fall.
T-Mill: Is Nathan Stanley one of the top 5 QBs in the league?
I definitely think that Stanley is one of the top 5 QBs in the Big Ten. Obviously you have McSorley and Lewerke in the conversation, and I’d be willing to listen to arguments for Dwayne Haskins and Shea Patterson as well. I think the question really becomes who you think is better between Alex Hornibrook and Nate Stanley, and while Hornibrook can be impressive at times, the thing that separated the two in 2017 was ability to limit interceptions, and I think that’s probably where Stanley edges him out at almost a third less (15 to 6). While that number didn’t cost a great Wisconsin team in 2017, it costs Hornibrook on my list. I think that the lowest on the list I could possibly see Stanley fall is 6th, but I’ll take him over just about anyone in the Big Ten any given Saturday.
T-Mill: AIRBHG has been quiet of late, but Akrum Wadley needs to be replaced. Who steps in?
Iowa has three candidates who are likely to see a significant amount of snaps in 2018. Those three guys are sophomores Ivory Kelly-Martin, Toren Young, and Mekhi Sargent, all of whom have some pretty solid experience at the collegiate level already. In 2017, Kelly-Martin rushed 20 times for 184 yards and 3 TDs last year, Young totaled 193 yards and 2 TDs on 45 carries, and Sargent earned first-team JUCO All-American honors while rushing 205 times for 1,449 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns at Iowa Western CC. While Akrum Wadley and James Butler will both be missed, there’s some really good depth at the position, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone - running the dang ball is what Iowa does and always will do to have success under Kirk Ferentz, and there never seems to be a shortage of solid running backs in the stable for the Hawkeyes. While none of these guys are necessarily known quantities heading into 2018, they’ve given plenty of reason to be optimistic.
T-Mill: As always, we hate you, so consider this spot for your two minutes’ hate.
Start the timer!
Let me start by making it incredibly clear - I speak for the entire Iowa fan base when I say that we don’t like you. In fact, we truly hate you, more than we hate Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa State combined. West Lafayette is a terrible, horrible town, filled with horrible, terrible Purdue fans. But really, I feel bad for you all. None of you will ever love your teams as much as Indiana fans love their basketball team and Notre Dame football, or as much as Notre Dame fans love to talk about themselves. Jake’s, the only good bar you had in your little town, hated y’all so much that they decided they couldn’t take it anymore, and closed down. And boy oh boy, don’t get me started on Brohm, who is most certainly going to leave you aft- *BUZZER SOUNDS*
Ah, shucks. Guess we’ll have to come back to that next time.
T-Mill: How do you see this game playing out.
Max: I think this is going to be a fun one. A la 2016, I think this one could be a fun shootout in West Lafayette, although one with potential to actually be competitive the whole way through. The Boilermakers bring back plenty of offensive firepower in 2018 and should be even better in Year 2 of the Brohm era, while Iowa’s offense could turn out to be fairly dynamic in their own right with Stanley and his tight ends leading the way through the air. I’m slightly more bullish on Iowa’s defensive capabilities than Purdue’s heading into the season, and while that could change, it’s convinced me to give the edge to the Hawkeyes in this game. Regardless, I think both teams will be good this season and I’m looking forward to this November matchup.