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Know Thy Opponent 2019: Iowa Hawkeyes

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Our Most Hate Rival gets its turn to host this year.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Brohm has had Iowa’s number. Despite being favored both times Iowa has played Purdue with Brohm, the Boilers have come out with impressive wins each time. Two years ago a banged up Elijah Sindelar with only true freshman Nick Sipe and prayer as his backups went into Iowa City and won thanks to a huge day from Anthony Mahoungou. Last season Purdue blew a fourth quarter lead, but a short field goal from Spencer Evans sealed a third straight home win over a ranked opponent.

Just two weeks before losing at Purdue the Hawkeyes were 6-1 and dreaming of a Division title. They still finished a solid 9-4, but the loss in West Lafayette was disappointing. They are still going to be a solid team because that is just what they are under Kirk Ferentz. The longest tenured coach in FBS always has a team that has a minimum goal of 8 wins and, with a few breaks can get to 10. They’ll be good again in 2019 and have a chance at winning the West.

What I do know is that our raw, seething hatred for Iowa is eternal.

Iowa Hawkeyes

2018 Record: 9-4, 5-4 Big Ten West

Bowl Result: Beat Mississippi State 27-22 in Outback Bowl

Blog Representation: Black Heart Gold Pants, Go Iowa Awesome

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 (152-101 in 21stseason at Iowa, 164-122 overall)

Last Season for the Hawkeyes

The Hawkeyes got off to a great start last year. Their 6-1 start included a 13-3 win over Iowa State in El Assico and a nice rivalry win at Minnesota 48-31. The lone blemish was a 28-17 loss at home to Wisconsin, but they entered a game at Penn State on October 20thwith real Big Ten title aspirations. The Nittany Lions won 30-24, then Purdue pretty much ended those hopes with a 38-36 win in West Lafayette a week later. Iowa closed strong by destroying Illinois 63-0 and beating Nebraska 31-28 before winning their bowl game.

Overall, 9-4 is pretty good, but Iowa mostly beat the teams it should have and lost to the teams it shouldn’t have. Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Penn State all won at least eight games, making Purdue their worst loss. Conversely, while Iowa State and Mississippi State were both 8-5, the only other team they beat with a winning record was Minnesota. Basically, the Hawkeyes weren’t bad, but weren’t great.

This season hey have a pair of relative gimmes with Miami (OH) and Middle Tennessee State on their non-conference slate to go with El Assico against Iowa State. They open conference play at home with Rutgers and play Purdue after going to Michigan and hosting Penn State.

Iowa Offense

Iowa football is one of the easiest things to preview, really. They are going to rely on a strong running game with some playaction passing and a lot of throws to tight ends. They will also have a defense that relies heavily on a strong line and linebackers. If they have a seasoned quarterback and great running back, pencil them in for eight wins.

Iowa definitely has the seasoned quarterback part. Nate Stanley threw for 2,852 yards and 26 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions last season. He enters his senior year with over 5,000 career yards passing and 52 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. He also screams “immobile Iowa quarterback” with -111 yards rushing in his career (but one touchdown!).

In the backfield Mekhi Sargent had a decent year with 796 yards and 9 TDs, while Toren Young added 637 yards and 5 TDs, giving them a very nice 1-2 punch. As far as the line goes, it is Iowa. You know it is going to be fine. Tristan Wirfs is a big player to build around at 6’5”, 322 pounds while the only seniors are twins Landon and Levi Paulsen.

If Iowa has a weakness offensively it is at receiver. It lost its top four targets last year including tight ends TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant. Those two caught a combined 88 passes for almost 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. Brandon Smith (29-361-2) and Ihmir Smith-Marsette (23-361-3) are the top two receivers, but replacing those tight ends is a tough task.

Iowa Defense

Last year the Iowa defense was very good, finishing 7thnationally at just 17.8 yards per game. David Blough threw for 33 yards and 4 TDs against them, with Terry Wright catching 6 passes for 146 yards and 3 TDs. Wright and Blough are gone, but so are seven starters for the Hawkeyes.

Of course, it is Iowa, so the new starters are well developed and have been quality reserves. AJ Epenesa returns as one of the best defensive ends in college football after notching 10.5 sacks a season ago. He leads a front four that also features Chauncey Golston, who also had another 3.5 sacks on the other end. Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff might be first time starters in the middle, but both have played extensively in the past.

At linebacker Dijmon Colbert has the most experience with 52 tackles a year ago, the most for a returning player. He will play on the outside along with Nick Nieman, who had 43 tackles. Kristian Welch likely takes over in the middle of their classic 4-3 scheme and he had 49 tackles with an interception last year.

The secondary is having an almost complete makeover with Amani Hooker now in the NFL. Geno Stone had four interceptions and 39 tackles last season, however, and will man one of the safety spots. Michael Ojemudia and Matt Hankins will now be asked to play larger roles at corner, and it was Hankins that Mahoungou burnt to a crisp two seasons ago.

Iowa Special Teams

Iowa Struggled big time last year in the punting game and couldn’t do better than 40 yards per kick. Colten Rastetter will return as a senior at the position, however. At kicker the Hawkeyes must replace Miguel Recinos, who was 17 of 22 on field goals.

Kyle Groeneweg is gone as a dangerous punt returner after he returned 24 kicks for a 10 yard average and a touchdown. Smith-Marsette will likely handle kick return duties again after averaging 29 yards last year.

Game Outlook

As I have mentioned several times above, Iowa is pretty similar each season. They have a strong defense, good running game, and a quarterback that doesn’t make mistakes. Guys who are first time starters have experience as reserves from previous years, so it is like a machine at this point. This was still a 9-4 team a year ago and you don’t get to 9-4 by accident.

The determining factor is me. I will be attending this game as Iowa is one of only two Big Ten stadiums I haven’t been to yet. Since we always suck when I am there it means Iowa is winning this game.

Way-too-Early Prediction

You think I am kidding? Iowa 27, Purdue 17