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IOWA CITY — Saturday’s game between No. 2 Iowa and unranked Purdue is 357 days since the last time the two Big Ten West foes battled.
That game — a 24-20 Purdue win — still lurks for many people in Iowa City, including quarterback Spencer Petras.
“It’s definitely kind of in the back of your mind,” Petras said. “We have our work cut out for us.”
Here’s what to expect when the Hawkeyes try to avenge their 2020 loss.
Iowa offense vs. Purdue defense
Iowa’s offense is going from playing the second-best Big Ten team in points allowed last week to the third-best this week.
Purdue has seen improvements on defense after an overhaul of its defensive staff last year.
Now, the Boilermakers “clearly have an identity,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
They are tied for last in the Big Ten in sacks and interceptions, but led by defensive end George Karlaftis, they have pressured opposing quarterbacks into making low-percentage throws.
Purdue’s 52.5 percent completion rate allowed is second in the conference.
Iowa’s running game has not been what fans hoped through the first six games. It ranks 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams with 3.2 yards per carry. After rushing for 100-plus yards in four of Iowa’s six games in 2020, running back Tyler Goodson has surpassed the 100-yard mark in just one game in 2021.
The Hawkeyes could have a relatively promising opportunity to run the ball Saturday against a Purdue defense that ranks ninth among Big Ten teams in yards per carry.
Iowa defense vs. Purdue offense
Purdue is likely going to throw the ball a lot. It’s just not clear who exactly is going to be throwing the ball.
The pass-heavy offense made a switch at quarterback from Jack Plummer, who started the first four games, to Aidan O’Connell, the more experienced arm who earned his first start of 2021 against Minnesota.
Purely looking at stats, Plummer has had a better season, throwing seven touchdowns and no interceptions. O’Connell has four touchdowns and five interceptions.
O’Connell has more experience, though, and still started the Minnesota game after two interceptions coming off the bench against Illinois.
Whoever does start will have the benefit of throwing to star wide receiver David Bell, whom Iowa courted heavily in the recruiting process.
“David Bell is one of the best players that I've seen in quite some time,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “We certainly haven't had much luck defending him.”
As frustrating as Iowa’s challenges running the ball may seem to some fans, Purdue has experienced even worse running woes.
The Boilermakers average 2.8 yards per carry, the worst rate in the Big Ten. The only other Power Five teams to average fewer than 3.0 yards per carry this season are Notre Dame and LSU.
Some years, a team would love to be in the same conversation as Notre Dame and LSU. This is probably not one of those years.
What’s at stake
Iowa likely won’t get much credit in the rankings for a win at home against an unranked Purdue team. A win would move the Hawkeyes one game closer to their first division title since 2015 although it is too early to talk about clinching quite yet.
An upset would significantly hurt any College Football Playoff aspirations on Evashevski Drive.
Purdue has a lot of recent success against Iowa, winning three of the last four meetings. The Boilermakers don’t seem to have the talent to take on Iowa’s defense, even without injured starting cornerback Riley Moss.
Iowa 27, Purdue 13
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