Purdue has nothing to lose, so why not spoil Iowa’s undefeated dreams?
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa reached its first major milestone last week when it secured the best start in school history.
The sixth-ranked Hawkeyes (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP) can claim another program first, a West division title, with a win over scuffling Purdue (2-8, 1-5) on Saturday.
A spot in the Big Ten title game is crucial for Iowa, which likely needs a victory there over Ohio State, Michigan State or even Michigan for a shot at the playoffs.
But the Hawkeyes have apparently come too far to think they can overlook the Boilermakers.
Purdue has some success playing ranked opponents on the road, losing at Michigan State 24-21 earlier this season and at Northwestern just 21-14 last week.
That was apparently enough to earn coach Darrell Hazell another year. Athletic director Morgan Burke announced last week that that Hazell will be back in 2016.
"That has not escaped my attention, and when I get with our team, we’re talking about Purdue, all about that," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "If you’re looking backward instead of forward, pretty soon you’re going to be going down. And I don’t think we’re going to be guilty of that. But if we do, shame on us."
Here are some of the key things to consider as the Hawkeyes host Purdue for the first time since losing on a last-second field goal in 2012.
FOUR-BACK ATTACK: Iowa expects to have all four of the running backs in their rotation — Jordan Canzeri, LeShun Daniels Jr., Akrum Wadley and Derrick Mitchell Jr., — available for the first time since mid-September. Canzeri, Daniels and Wadley have each rushed for 195 yards in a game this year, making the Hawkeyes the first team since LSU in 1997 to do so.
NOW FOR BLOUGH: One bright spot for Purdue this season has been the play of redshirt freshman quarterback David Blough. He was named the Boilermakers 10th different starter since 2008 in late September and seized control of the job. Blough was the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week on Nov. 2 after throwing for 274 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-45 upset win over Nebraska. "I think the biggest thing with them is that they’ve settled in with a young quarterback who’s a very good player. He’s doing a good job, and I think you can see their team growing under his leadership," Ferentz said.
C.J.’s FEET: Iowa’s C.J. Beathard was one of the nation’s better rushing quarterbacks before a hip injury took away his explosiveness. But Beathard appeared healthier than ever in last week’s 40-35 win over Minnesota, rushing for 50 yards and two touchdowns. "He’s very sneaky," Hazell said. "He’s just so slippery back there in the pocket. He moves from side to side, avoids the rush, and then takes off and runs away from people."
PUR-DON’T: Purdue’s defense has been its biggest downfall. The Boilermakers are 12th in the Big Ten with 34.4 points allowed per game, and they’re the only unit in the league to allow at least 2,000 yards on the ground and through the air. Iowa is 16th nationally with just 18.4 points allowed per game.
HAWKEYES DOMINANCE: Iowa has owned this series in recent years, winning seven of the last nine meetings with Purdue. In the two years the Hawkeyes lost to the Boilermakers during that stretch, they failed to reach a bowl game.