PURDUE (3-6, 0-5) at IOWA (4-5, 2-3)
IOWA RUSH OFFENSE VS. PURDUE RUSH DEFENSE
Iowa’s leading rusher Mark Weisman (groin) will likely be out today, leaving it up to sophomore Damon Bullock. The Hawkeyes’ rush offense was held to 96 yards against Indiana last week, just the second time this season the Hoosiers have held an offense to less than 100 rushing (other was UMass). Indiana’s duo of defensive tackles, Adam Replogle and Larry Black, were too much for Iowa’s inexperienced trio at guard and that shaped Iowa’s attack. This week, same deal. Purdue is 11th in rush defense in the Big Ten (193.44 ypg), but it is anchored by monster tackles, Kawann Short (6-3, 315) and Bruce Gaston (6-2, 300). Short, who suffered an ankle injury against Minnesota three weeks ago, has four sacks this season and is ninth on Purdue’s career list. Gaston has four tackles for loss. Sophomore end Ryan Russell also is a playmaker, with 5.5 tackles for loss. The Purdue has had three horrible games this season (allowing 304 rushing against Michigan, 467 against Wisconsin and 212 to Minnesota). Is three out of nine a trend? Perhaps. Iowa’s rush offense has disappeared without Weisman, who’s missed most of the last three games. The Hawkeyes have averaged just 108.6 ypg (3.6 ypc) during Big Ten play. The same trio of guards, freshmen Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh and junior Nolan MacMillan, will give it another try this week. Advantage: Even
IOWA PASS OFFENSE VS. PURDUE PASS DEFENSE
Purdue really leans on junior cornerback Ricardo Allen. He holds Purdue’s school record with four interceptions returned for TDs and has seven career interceptions. Last week against Penn State, defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar called back-t0-back corner blitzes for Allen, who pressured on the first and picked up the sack on the second. The Boilermakers have picked off 11 passes this season, second in the conference, but only three of those have come in conference play. Sophomore safety Landon Feichter has been a surprise for the Boilers. The walk-on leads the team in interceptions (four) and tackles (51). Purdue showed numerous blitzes against Penn State. The Boilers also played a lot of zone defense with huge cushions on the corners. Will Iowa’s pass offense be able to demand that kind of respect from Purdue’s corners? In Big Ten play, Iowa’s pass offense has been the strength, averaging 176.4 ypg for seventh in the league. Still, the production comes in drips. QB James Vandenberg’s four TD passes are tied for 15th in the league and the 5.6 yards per attempt is ninth. Coach Kirk Ferentz said he’d like to get the tight ends more involved (12 receptions for 85 yards during Iowa’s three-game losing streak), but the flow hasn’t gone their way. It’s still a young group, and, right now, the numbers say it’s not ready to contribute consistently. PSU QB Matt McGloin killed Purdue with nuance last week, using pump fakes and pulling defenders out of position with his eyes. Iowa hasn’t approached that level of execution this season. Advantage: Purdue
PURDUE RUSH OFFENSE VS. IOWA RUSH DEFENSE
Purdue basically genuflected to the run last week against the Nittany Lions. The Boilers passed 62 times and rushed just 26. It’s not a power running game, with senior Akeem Shavers (5-11, 203) leading Purdue with 489 yards and three TDs. Purdue’s offense tries to spread defenses east-west with a lot of screen passes, which sort of serves as the running game. The Boilers have fallen behind too far in too many games (160-40 is the collective halftime score in the last five games) to commit to running the ball. Plus, QB Robert Marve is limited with a torn ACL suffered week 2 against Notre Dame. Shavers did go for a 37-yard gain during the first drive last week on an outside zone. The Boilers do show zone read and they also run the jet sweep to playmaking receiver Antavian Edison. Iowa’s defense rebounded up front last week. After allowing 349 rushing yards against Northwestern the previous week, the Hawkeyes held Indiana to 67. It didn’t matter, because all the yards they shaved there went into a passing attack that ultimately controlled last week’s defeat. If Purdue has success here, it will win by two TDs, but it’s just not built for a slugfest. Senior Ralph Bolden missed the first five games after an ACL last season. He’s played the last four weeks and has seen his carries rise. Advantage: Iowa
PURDUE PASS OFFENSE VS. IOWA PASS DEFENSE
Marve started last week and took a huge amount of high-impact hits. With the ACL injury, he’s not as explosive as he once was, so he’s not a threat to run. He can still, however, extend plays and Iowa blew up in those situations last week, allowing IU a 77-yard completion on a broken play. Caleb TerBush relieved Marve (22 of 39 for 138 yards vs. Penn State) in the second half last week and completed 10 of 20 for 155 yards and a TD. Marve’s knee obviously affected some of his throws, keeping him from stepping through. The Boilers ran a ton of shotgun with receivers in stack release, trying to outnumber defenders on the edge and not doing a lot of business vertically. Edison leads Purdue with 47 catches for 525 yards and seven TDs. Gary Bush was the “screen guy” last week with nine catches for 47 yards. Dolapo McCarthy and Gabe Holmes give Purdue QBs a pair of 6-5 targets. Iowa has run more and more nickel, dime and linebacker-centric personnel groups. Opposing QBs have found holes in Iowa’s zone defenses, with the Hawkeyes allowing a 61.2 percent completion rate. Nico Law started at strong safety last week ahead of senior Tommy Donatell. Law finished with eight tackles and got to a lot of plays. Linebacker Christian Kirksey had his second pick six of the season. Iowa clearly has struggled with pace of play the last three weeks, with Penn State, Northwestern and Indiana dictating tempo. Purdue has that move, but hasn’t cranked it up the last couple of weeks. Advantage: Purdue
Purdue is No. 2 in the Big Ten in kick returns, averaging 23.38 yards. Iowa has held opponents to 20.4 yards a return this season, third in the Big Ten. The Boilers will test that. Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt are quality returners. Hunt is seventh in the Big Ten in kickoff returns (22.57-yard average) with a touchdown. Iowa counters with the Big Ten leader in kick returns. Jordan Cotton is tops in the conference with 28.0 yards a return. He also has a TD. With both offenses struggling, the yards found here could pay off. Advantage: Iowa
1) Playing for coach — In the grand scheme, if you really think about it, teams do this every week all over the country. For Purdue, it really might be true. Coach Danny Hope has earned the term “embattled.” Yahoo’s Pat Forde reported in his column this week the school already has “feelers” out to fill his position. Hope downplayed it publicly this week, but it’s got to have an emotional pull within the program. 2) The gung ho of it all — Push come to shove, the players will say they agreed with Kirk Ferentz’s fourth down call last week. They’re human, young and hungry. Of course, they wanted to go for it, but they also know they have a boss. Does this take away that aggressive nature? No, it doesn’t. They’re only a week older now. 3) Desperate hours — Purdue needs to sweep to earn a bowl bid. The Hawkeyes need to win two of their last three. They have a trip to Michigan and then play host to Nebraska, which is in the driver’s seat for the Legends Division and a Big Ten title game. Could the Heart of Dallas Bowl be on the line today? Advantage: Even
IOWA WILL WIN IF . . .
The defense pieces one together. The offense is no dance party, but Iowa’s defense has really caved in the last three weeks.
PURDUE WILL WIN IF . . .
The Boilermakers force Iowa to win this through the air. Iowa’s ground game faces the same obstacle it did against Indiana’s rugged defensive tackles last week. Iowa hasn’t beaten anyone through the air this season.
PREDICTION: Iowa 28, Purdue 27
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