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Purdue Boilermakers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Prediction

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The Purdue Boilermakers travel to Iowa City to meet the No. 6 Iowa Hawkeyes this weekend, on a mission to upend Senior Day and a school-record 7-0 mark by the Hawkeyes inside Kinnick Stadium.

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For its part, an Iowa victory assures t head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes at least a share of the Big Ten West Division crown and their first-ever appearance in the conference championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 5.

Purdue leads the all-time series against the Hawkeyes 46-36-3, with the last Iowa loss coming at home in 2012.

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Purdue at Iowa

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Iowa -21

Three Things to Watch

1. An improving “Spoilermaker” squad

Although it's been said the only score that matters is the final score of the game you're currently playing, one look at the Boilermakers' 21-24 road loss to Northwestern last week, coupled with a 55-45 win at home against Nebraska earlier in the season, can give you a pretty solid idea of the direction this team has taken following its October bye week. They've played Nebraska and Northwestern right down to the final minutes. Their only blowout came against a much-improved Illinois squad. This week's news that head coach Darrell Hazell will return to his post for the 2016 season will only intensify the Boilermakers' emotional resolve to win "the big one" for their coach.

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2. The arm of Purdue QB David Blough

In his first play from scrimmage against Northwestern, Boilermaker freshman QB David Blough looked deep and found WR Dominique Young for a 68-yard touchdown. On the season Blough leads the B1G on passes of 60-plus yards. And if there's any place the Hawkeyes got lucky in escaping Minnesota, it was off the “big plays” such as those Blough has shown he can deliver. It's an area the Iowa staff has undoubtedly been talking about all week long, and rightly so.

In each of the last three games the Hawkeyes have played, they've seen their pass yards allowed per game go up, currently standing at No. 48 in the nation at 209.6. That's a trend you can bet the Boilermakers quickly discovered, and they'll look to exploit it at every opportunity with their future star Blough under center.

3. An emotional letdown by the Hawkeyes

There was electricity inside Kinnick Stadium for the matchup with the Gophers. And the Hawkeyes certainly delivered one for the books. But the feeling since that 40-35 border rivalry victory has been anything but electric around Iowa City. More than 8,000 tickets still remained for the season's final home game as of Wednesday afternoon for a game that could, potentially, be the division clincher for the Hawkeyes on the road to Indianapolis while also keeping them near the striking point to that College Fotoball Playoff top four that puts them into the season-ending tournament.

But it's not just a possible championship matchup. It's yet another school all-time record for wins, which would move the Hawkeyes to 11-0 while bidding farewell to this group of seniors. The Hawkeye Nation needs to regroup and respond in a big way to keep the momentum heading north.

Final Analysis

The contrast in the two head coaches' weekly press conferences was unmistakable. Kirk Ferentz didn't directly address a question about the Boilermaker squad until more than halfway through his meeting with the press. I'm pretty sure he tossed that one out himself, just to make it official.

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On the other side of the B1G universe in West Lafayette, Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell was all-Hawkeyes.

That is not a good position for this Iowa squad to be standing as it balances on the edge of its first B1G West Division championship, with two and possibly three games remaining in the regular season. The coaches and team leaders will need every ounce of motivational trickery to get this team focused on the Boilermakers. But if there's one area where this Iowa squad has proven to excel, that's exactly it.

Prediction: Iowa 41, Purdue 30

— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently based in Southern California. Boleyn attended both the University of Iowa and UCLA, and is a former contributing writer for The Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.