Iowa is an 18 point favorite going into this game on Saturday, which seems absurd. They have only scored 15 points total in the last two games and while Purdue is 2-4, it has a solid passing game that is among the nation’s best. Jeff Brohm is 2-0 against the Hawkeyes as well. I know this is a ranked team against a team with a losing record, but I think it is a great opportunity to end our road losing streak against ranked teams.
The last time Purdue beat a ranked team away from Ross-Ade Stadium was October 9, 2010 at Northwestern. Even then, the Wildcats were barely ranked and in only one of the two major polls. To go back and find the last time Purdue won a road game against a team ranked in both polls you have to go back to 2003 at Wisconsin. That’s… a while. I am not totally sold this Iowa team because the offense has been suspect and we know Ferentz is going to be conservative as hell. When Purdue won two years ago in Iowa City it was born off of a solid first half drive, hitting on two big plays, and keeping everything in front. No one loves a 3-yard out on 3rd and 5 like Kirk Ferentz, and plays like that only do us favors. If Purdue is going to win on Saturday it will be because of plays like that.
Of course, I am going to Iowa City, so we’re probably screwed. They are also Our Most Hated Rivals, and anything can happen with so much hatred on the field.
2018 Record: 9-4, 5-4 Big Ten West
Bowl Result: Beat Mississippi State 27-22 in Outback Bowl
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 48-38-3
Last Purdue win: 38-36 at Purdue on 11/3/2018
Last Iowa win: 49-35 at Purdue on 10/15/2016
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (156-103 in 21st season at Iowa, 168-124 overall)
2019 so far for Iowa
It has been an interesting season so far for the Hawkeyes. They had three blowout wins over Miami (OH), Rutgers, and Middle Tennessee, but they have struggled against the better teams they have played. They won El Assico 18-17 in an El Assico-style game, but the last two weeks have been rough after a 4-0 start. They couldn’t manage any offense in a 10-3 loss at Michigan, then last week at home they flailed away again in a 17-12 home loss to Penn State.
This is a team with an excellent defense, but a mediocre at best offense. They are giving up just 10.2 points per game and now one has scored more than 17 points on them, but in their four games against Power 5 teams they have only scored 30, 17, 17, and 3 points. The 30 is also against Rutgers which is, well, Rutgers.
That is what makes the 18 point spread so odd. Yes, I know Purdue’s defense is not Penn State or Michigan’s, but we also have the No. 1 passing offense in the conference. They are only averaging 24.8 points per game, so can they even score enough for an 18 point spread?
Who to Watch on Offense
Nathan Stanley – QB – Stanley is the most experienced quarterback in the conference and a steady presence in the backfield for Iowa. He has 1,511 yards passing and 9 TDs against 4 INTs, but unlike the last two quarterbacks we have faced he is not a threat to run the ball (-31 yards rushing on the season). His line has struggled to protect him this year, as he has been sacked 16 times. If guys like George Karlaftis can get after him and force the Hawkeyes into long third downs it will greatly help Purdue.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette – WR – Smith-Marsette leads the team with 24 receptions for 386 yards and 3 TDs. Brandon Smith is right there with him with 24 receptions for 301 yards and 4 TDs, giving them a solid 1-2 combo at receiver. Both combined for just three receptions in the game against Purdue last year.
Mekhi Sargent – RB – Sargent has 329 yards rushing and two TDs, while Toren Young has split time in the backfield with him with 313 yards and a TD. Their running game has not been nearly as dominant as it has been under Ferentz, but it is still solid. It has not had to do as much because the defense has been so good.
Who to Watch on Defense
Kristian Welch – LB – Welch leads the team with 47 tackles and plays all over the field. He has a sack and a pass break up and is yet another strong Iowa linebacker. As usual, this is a very good team defense. Iowa is giving up just 160 yards through the air, which is third in the Big Ten. The game will be won or lost based on how well they match up with our passing game.
AJ Epenesa – DE – Epenesa led the Big Ten with 11 sacks last season and was a First Team all-Big Ten selection. He was even projected as a first round NFL draft pick after this season by many outlets. He has only three sacks so far as Iowa has struggled with its pass rush. As a team Iowa has only 10 sacks, but given Purdue’s offensive line struggles we need to watch out for Epenesa.
Michael Ojemudia – DB – Ojemudia is a true leader in the defensive backfield with two interceptions and 22 tackles. The Hawkeyes rely on him not only to make plays, but to be a leader for the pass defense.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Keith Duncan – K – Last week Purdue faced the only team at the FBS level that has not made a field goal yet. This week we get one of the leading kickers in the nation. Duncan is 13 of 15 on field goals with a long of 49 yards. To illustrate how much the Iowa offense has struggled Duncan is 7 of 8 from beyond 40 yards. They have had to try a lot of long field goals and fortunately, Duncan has put points on the board.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette – P – Smith-Marsette is very dangerous on punt returns, averaging more than 21 per return with seven returns total.
I am surprisingly confident about this game. If Purdue is going to steal a game against an opponent it shouldn’t beat in order to make up for the Nevada collapse this game is it. One of the benefits of having Kirk Ferentz around is that he is very predictable. He never changes. Iowa’s ability to just do what it does better than its opposition is what varies each year. They do not take risks often and pressure teams. They rely on a superior offensive line for sustained drives and a stout defense to clean up the rest.
That is why I think Purdue can win a game in similar fashion to how it won two years ago. Purdue got one sustained drive, hit on two big plays to Anthony Mahoungou, then let the Iowa offense flail around a bit. We got a few turnovers and got a late field goal off of one of them. This is not a team that plays from behind well, so if we can get an early lead I like our chances. I think Purdue gained a lot of confidence last week and can steal one against a team with a struggling offense.