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Purdue Boilermakers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes: Preview, predictions and prognostications

When: 12 p.m. ET
Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
TV: ESPN2
All-Time Series: Purdue leads 46-36-3
Last Meeting: Iowa 24-10, in 2014
Line: Iowa -18

The black and gold bowl was a protected crossover rivalry in the Legends and Leaders era of the Big Ten. While the games have been pretty lopsided in Iowa’s favor during the Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz eras, these two teams are close historically. Will that be the case this weekend, where Purdue plays spoiler to Senior Day and Iowa’s potential division championship celebration?

Let’s count to 5 and see whether the Hawkeyes will finalize those tickets to Indianapolis for the B1G Championship Game a week early.

1 Burning Question: Will the pressures of 10-0 and Senior Day get to the Hawkeyes?

Although the line listed above was correct at the early-middle of the week when our staff picks below were made for this game, money has been heavy on Iowa in this game and the line has dramatically shifted to Iowa -23! The Hawkeyes have not beaten any team other than North Texas and Northwestern by that type of margin this season, so excuse the Hawkeyes if this looks like a sleepy walkthrough between rivalry games against Minnesota last week and Nebraska this week.

Plus, the pageantry of emotion of Senior Day can sometimes lull the veterans into a strange zone, outside the normal game day comfort zone. Add all this up, and Purdue may have a chance to punch Iowa in the mouth, so to speak, and hang around while the pressure builds to maintain the perfect season.

If Iowa loses this game, the trap game factor and those strange circumstances and pressures will likely be partially to blame. Purdue can certainly hope so!

2 Key Stats:

— 211.7 and 209.6. That’s Iowa’s rushing offense average (2nd in B1G), and Purdue’s rushing defense average (last in B1G), respectively. Make no mistake about it, this is a game where Kirk Ferentz and his coaching staff would prefer to lean heavily on the stable of running backs and not so much on C.J. Beathard. Keeping the key quarterback healthy heading into a short week before Black Friday is crucial, and the good news is Purdue has struggled to contain good running backs all season long. Expect some season-high workloads for everyone except Jordan Canzeri, who of course had some ridiculous numbers for carries early in Big Ten season. Also note that Purdue’s rushing offense ranks last in the Big Ten (128.9 yards per game) while Iowa’s defense ranks third (104.6 yards per game), which indicates only one team should be able to grind time of possession in this contest.

— 13 (Iowa) and 12 (Purdue). That’s the interception totals on the season. These teams stand at the top of the pack in the Big Ten when it comes to generating turnovers with pass coverage. With talented players like Iowa’s Desmond King looking to set new program records in this department, look for both teams to try and capitalize on any mistakes David Blough and C.J. Beathard may make. Indeed, if this number and turnovers in general slant in Purdue’s favor, then that is one path to a potential program-enhancing victory for the Boilermakers.

3 Key Players:

Markell Jones, Purdue RB – In a season filled with fresh faces (again) and some struggles on offense, one bright spot that has emerged is Jones, who is running for 69 yards per game. Jones has also had 9 touchdowns over his 10 games played, which ranks 7th in the Big Ten in that category. As noted above, the Hawkeyes appear to have a huge advantage in the comparable rushing attacks, which means Jones will need to have a breakout day to help Purdue keep up with the Iowa stable of running backs. Likewise, Jones doing well may take pressure off David Blough, which is critical when facing defensive backs like…

Desmond King, Iowa KR/DB – There are a lot of unsung heroes on the Hawkeye football team, but King is not one of them. In addition to already tying the program record at Iowa with 8 interceptions, he has contributed 7 pass break-ups and he ranks in the top 3 in the conference at kick return and punt return average. This is the most dangerous big-play weapon on the field for the Hawkeyes, and he doesn’t even play offense! Purdue will always have to cover kicks and punts well to avoid the biggest threat King provides.

Josey Jewell, Iowa LB – It’s also time to give some love to the “other guys” on the Iowa defense. Jewell is coming off a great game against Indiana a couple weeks ago where it felt like he made 20+ tackles and was always involved in sniffing out the play. He has rocketed up the conference charts to 5th in tackles with 90 already on the season, which of course also leads the team as well. Purdue will likely test the mid-range passing and run defenses of Iowa to try and generate offensive productivity, which leaves Jewell and his fellow linebackers as the most important line of defense this week against Purdue’s schemes. Look for another huge game for Jewell against an Indiana football team.

4 Bold Prognostications:

C.J. Beathard doesn’t play the second half – Despite all the potential for a trap game or a slow start alluded to above, I think Iowa will take care of business in the first half and hold a comfortable lead, at least by their standards. When that occurs, there will be no reason to further jeopardize the groin or any other aching part of the most important player to the Hawkeyes’ offense. Whoever the backup quarterback is, he better be ready to play on Saturday afternoon.

David Blough throws two interceptions, one to King to break the Iowa record – This is Iowa’s final home game and it would be incredible to see how this fan base cheers or reacts to a very old record finally falling. Blough has been prone to mistakes this year, especially when pressured, and I expect the Iowa defensive line to generate good pressure in this contest. Thus, King breaks the interception record with his ninth and provides yet another big play to push Iowa towards another program record, 11-0.

Leshun Daniels has the most carries for Iowa – The Hawkeyes will spread the opportunities around with the likes of Jordan Canzeri, Akrum Wadley, and Derrick Mitchell to go along with Daniels, but this is a game where Daniels skill set should shine against the Purdue defense. Canzeri and maybe Wadley could end up with one or two explosive plays that end up in a bigger yardage output, Daniels should be the workhorse than Iowa rides to long touchdown drives.

Purdue converts three fourth downs – One stat that looks better for Purdue is fourth-down efficiency, where the Boilermakers convert 51.5% of the time. Iowa is one of the worst teams in the conference at defending such plays, giving up 53% conversions on fourth down. With Purdue potentially reaching desperate times in this one, I expect a number of fourth down attempts as Darrell Hazell has nothing to lose and everything to gain in this game. If that happens, the numbers say Purdue will pick up multiple fourth-down conversions, which will stand out in the final stat line.

5 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Iowa 41-10  (78-20 overall; 46-51 ATS)
Dave: Iowa 34-14  (81-17 overall; 51-45 ATS)
Greg: Iowa 45-13  (74-26 overall; 54-42 ATS)
Matt: Iowa 37-21  (78-20 overall; 56-40 ATS)
Phil: Iowa 31-10  (33-12 overall; 15-27 ATS) *joined in Week 5

Dave is a FWAA member and a Columnist focusing on Big Ten football for talking10. Before joining talking in 2014, he was a Featured Columnist for three years at Bleacher Report and previously wrote for seven years on SouthernCollegeSports.com. He was born in Hawkeye Country and went to college in Columbus, so there’s plenty of B1G running through his blood.

Dave is a patent and trademark attorney in his day job. If you have any questions in those areas or about his latest articles, please contact him on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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