Hawkeyes, Boilermakers face off in West Lafayette with both teams looking to keep their Big Ten West title hopes alive
Both the Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) and Purdue Boilermakers (4-4, 3-2) are seeking to bounce back after the debacle that was last weekend and hoping to keep pace with first-place Northwestern in the Big Ten West standings.
Iowa was in prime position to steal a road victory last week against Penn State, but the offense was inconsistent the entire afternoon with quarterback Nate Stanley having his worst performance of the season, completing just 18-of-49 passes for 205 yards and two interceptions. A win this weekend would set up an enormous matchup next week with Northwestern in a battle for first place in the division.
As for the Boilermakers, they could not extend their four-game winning streak last weekend in East Lansing as the offense fell flat against Michigan State. The defense didn’t fare much better as it allowed 318 passing yards and two touchdowns to the Spartans' backup quarterback. Another challenge awaits this week going up against the No. 11 scoring defense in the country in Iowa.
Iowa at Purdue
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 3, 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Purdue -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Better quarterback play needed
There is no sugar-coating it — Nate Stanley was awful last weekend against Penn State as he completed just 36 percent of his passes for 205 yards and two costly interceptions, one of which in the red zone late in the fourth quarter that would’ve given Iowa the lead had it been completed. The weather certainly did not help as the rain was on and off all game long, but the flaws with Stanley and the entire Iowa offense were blatantly obvious last Saturday. Heading into this weekend, Stanley will also be dealing with a thumb injury that he sustained in the second half against Penn State, however it is not expected to impede him from playing against the Boilermakers. Something to monitor, though, if Stanley’s accuracy issues continue on Saturday.
2. Shore up the back end
A lot of the blame last week went to the Purdue offense (and rightfully so) as it mustered just 339 yards of total offense and 13 points against the Spartans — both of which were season lows. But the defense does not get a pass as they allowed MSU backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi to throw for 318 yards and two touchdowns in his first-ever start. Now heading into Week 10, the Boilermakers are dead last in the Big Ten and 127th nationally against the pass, allowing just under 300 yards per game. One way in which head coach Jeff Brohm wants to fix the issue — tighten up the coverage on the outside. "It bothered me a great deal,” he said to the media this week. “It still bothers me. I don’t like to give that much cushion. Now, we are going to try and stop the run. That means more guys in the box and we’re going to be isolated more on the outside. There will be more one-on-one matchups, but I want to get up in their face."
3. Balance needed
Last week was actually good preparation for Purdue as they go from facing the No. 1 rush defense in the country in Michigan State to the No. 4 ranked run defense in Iowa. Things went as expected against the Spartans front seven as the Boilermakers mustered just 62 yards on the ground. As a result, quarterback David Blough was forced to throw it 49 times which is rarely a recipe for success if the play-calling is as predictable as it was. Yards will be tough to come by on the ground yet again this week, but the Boilermakers need to at least show a threat of running the football to avoid becoming one-dimensional on offense for a second straight game.
Coaches will say that every game is a must-win, but this matchup between Iowa and Purdue is a MUST-win if they are to stay alive in the Big Ten West race. Iowa has a massive game coming up next week against first-place Northwestern and cannot get caught looking ahead because a loss here would essentially make next weekend irrelevant. For Purdue, while the chances are slim, there is still an outside chance they can end up in Indianapolis with a win here and the results fall in their favor in the coming weeks. The Boilermakers have been tough to beat at home, but defense travels and the Hawkeyes have a good one. Iowa pulls out a late victory in West Lafayette.
Prediction: Iowa 26, Purdue 23
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.