Iowa Football Preview, Prediction: Purdue in Town for Homecoming
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Jeff Brohm contemplated going back to his alma mater, Louisville, as its head coach last offseason. Instead, he decided he had unfinished business left at Purdue.
Had Iowa had a say in the matter, the Hawkeyes would have encouraged him to move on. They’ve not had much luck against the Boilermakers since he came to town two seasons ago.
They’ve beaten Iowa in two straight. They’ve hurt the Hawkeyes with big plays.
Brohm has followed the same plan in making it happen.
“You’re going to have to find a way to get a lead and make them play a little bit different brand than they want to, because when they can play Iowa Football, they have a good chance of winning and coach (Kirk Ferentz) has done a good job there. They are consistent, steady every year,” he said.
Purdue pressures defenses with the deep ball more than any other team in the Big Ten. Opponents must limited the times those shots connect. That’s Iowa’s charge when it welcomes the Boilermakers to Kinnick Stadium Saturday (11 a.m. CT, ESPN2) for its Homecoming game.
“No matter what cash, dime, nickel, regular, we better defend the ball deep,” Ferentz said. “These guys throw the ball as deep as anybody we played, in my opinion, over the last two years. They did it Saturday. Threw the ball down the field well. I’m even more focused on our deep zones than I am our underneath zones.”
Purdue ended a three-game skid last weekend with a 40-14 drubbing of Maryland in West Lafayette. Freshman quarterback Jack Plummer, who is playing in place of injured starter Elijah Sindelar, was named the conference’s offensive player of the week after completing 33 of 41 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m stating the obvious here, but the quarterback played extremely well, did a great job,” Ferentz said.
Senior tight end Brycen Hopkins stood out as Plummer’s top target against the Terrapins. He caught 10 balls for 140 yards.
Receiver David Bell has emerged as one of the top true freshmen in the league. He hauled in nine balls for 138 yards and two scores. Classmate Milton Wright added a 59-yard touchdown catch.
“They throw the ball really well. Coach Brohm was a quarterback. I’m sure that has a lot to do with it.
They threaten you all over the place. We’ve had a hard time defending these guys,” Ferentz said.
Purdue’s running game has struggled in ’19. It lost projected starter Tario Fuller with a broken jaw before the season. He returned in a reserve role last week.
The Boilermakers’ 63.5 rushing yards per game are by far the fewest in the Big Ten. Rutgers is next at 105.2.
They’ve also struggled to stop teams. After improving on defense a year ago, Purdue’s 29.8 points allowed per game puts it only ahead of Illinois and Rutgers in the conference.
The Boilers aren’t getting much help from their return game. They rank 13th in kick return average and last on punt returns.
Some of that can be attributed to the absence due to injury of dynamic true sophomore receiver Rondale Moore, one of the most dangerous players in the Big Ten. He’s listed as doubtful for this week’s game.
“You know what, probably too early to tell. I’m not real optimistic about it,” Brohm said on Monday.
The Hawkeyes desperately need a win after starting the season at 4-0 and rising to No. 14 in the AP rankings. Setbacks at Michigan and against Penn State last Saturday in Kinnick have them at 1-2 in the Big Ten. Their offense is averaging 7.5 points in the pair of losses, failing to help a defense ranking third in the conference in fewest points allowed.
While that lack of balance might tear apart some locker rooms, Iowa isn’t playing the blame game.
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“Everybody on the team is going to take ownership for what they need to improve or what they did wrong,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “And when you have teammates that do that, it’s easy to not point fingers, it’s easy to stay together as a team.”
It’s the Hawkeyes’ first skid since losing three in a row against Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern last season. Those defeats came by a total of 12 points.
TV ANNOUNCERS: Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht and Rocky Boiman on ESPN2.
SERIES: Purdue holds a 48-38-3 advantage in the series that began with a 16-0 Iowa win in 1910. Purdue has won the last two meetings. Iowa had won four straight before Purdue won, 24-15, in 2017, the last meeting in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes are 21-20-2 all-time in games played in Iowa City.
BETTING LINES: Iowa opened as a 15-point favorite at VegasInsiders.com. It moved 18.5 as of Wednesday morning at the Elite Sportsbook in Riverside. The total was at 49.5.
-Boilermakers are 4-1 Against The Spread in their last 5 games in October.
-Purdue is 15-7 ATS in its last 22 road games.
-Hawkeyes are 4-1 ATS vs. a team with a losing record.
-Iowa is 2-6 ATS in its last 8 conference games.
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PURDUE PLAYERS TO WATCH
–David Bell, WR – The apple of Iowa’s eye during the last recruiting cycle, the talented Indianapolis wideout decided to stay home. The Boilermakers are glad he did. With Rondale Moore sidelined, Bell has shined. During the last three games combined, he’s caught 20 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns.
–George Karlaftis, DE – The freshman from West Lafayette High has performed beyond his years. He has produced four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. He’s also intercepted a pass and broken up two others. Iowa needs to account for this kid.
–Brycen Hopkins, TE – A senior from Nashville, Hopkins ranks among the best at the position in the Big Ten. While the receivers stretch the defense out, he settles in underneath and is dangerous after the catch. He’s caught 24 passes for 345 yards and three scores.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Purdue: Purdue has beaten the Hawkeyes with big pass plays the last two seasons and they will be needed again.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes have to find a consistent running game. It would help even more this week to keep Purdue’s potent offense on the sideline as much as possible.
-Paced by Rondale Moore’s team-best 7.3 receptions per game, 12 different Boilermakers have at least one catch on the year and 10 different players have scored at least one touchdown via the passing game thus far.
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-Including 12 starters, the Boilermakers have had 30 true or redshirt freshman play in the first six games.
-Purdue is one of four Power 5 Conference schools scheduled to play 11 Power 5 games in 2019. In addition to nine Big Ten games, the Boilermakers also squared off against the SEC’s Vanderbilt and the Big 12’s TCU.
-Eight of Purdue’s 12 opponents in 2019 appeared in bowl games last season and went a combined 6-2 in the postseason.
-Cory Trice’s 37-yard pick-six against Maryland last week marked the fourth straight season Purdue has returned an interception for a touchdown.
-Iowa has allowed seven touchdowns in six games. Among Big Ten schools, only Penn State (5) and Wisconsin (4) have allowed fewer. Iowa is one of six schools to allow just two rushing touchdowns or fewer.
-Iowa holds a 59-43-5 (.567) record in 107 Homecoming games. Iowa has won seven of its last nine Homecoming games. Iowa is 19-5 on Homecoming since 1995, and 15-4 since 2000, including winning seven in a row from 2000-06.
-Hawkeye wideout Ihimir Smith-Marsette leads the team in receiving yards (386) and all-purpose yards (582). He is tied for the team lead with 24 receptions. He has 934 career receiving yards. He needs 66 yards to become the 42nd player in program history to reach 1,000 yards receiving.
-Iowa kicker Keith Duncan has made 13-of-15 field goal attempts and 14-of-14 PAT attempts. The 13 field goals made tie for second in the country. He leads the team and ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring with 53 points. Duncan has connected on 7-of-8 kicks of at least 40 yards.
-Hawkeye quarterback Nate Stanley has nine touchdown passes this season and 61 in his career, tied with Drew Tate for second all-time in program history. He trails Chuck Long (74) on the all-time list.
Purdue – George Ade
Iowa – Chris Offutt
HOWE I SEE IT: It’s going to become clear how good Iowa’s last two opponents were when you see it take on Purdue. No disrespect to the Boilermakers, who have beaten Iowa two times in a row, but they’re not in the class of Penn State and Michigan, particularly on defense.
Purdue is a dangerous offense, which means the Hawkeyes’ offense must pick it up from the 15 combined points it’s scored the last two weeks. And if it can’t do it against the Boilers, who allow 29.8 points and 444.5 points a game, there’s really a problem.
In fairness, Purdue has sustained a lot of injuries this season. In reality, it’s not close to as good as it’s been the last two years.
The Hawkeyes should get back on track on Saturday.
PREDICTION: IOWA 27, Purdue 16