Iowa CITY, Iowa - It's an unwritten rule that coaches and their athletes must respect the opponent. Taking another team lightly is a cardinal sin in sports.
Human nature can challenge that approach. Iowa could face that this week with a contest against Big Ten doormat, Purdue.
"Purdue has had a couple losses that were a little bit one sided, yet they lost to a pretty good Notre Dame team by seven points, and Michigan State is playing really good football this year and Purdue gave up one touchdown to Michigan State's offense," Hawkeye Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. "That's what we've got to be ready for. We've got to be ready for a team that's playing at that level. There are no easy days here in this conference, that's for sure."
You can bet that Ferentz has been pounding home those points in practice this week. He also can lean on Iowa's 27-24 home loss last season to the Boilermakers when it was a five-point favorite against a team that came to Kinnick Stadium having dropped its previous five contests.
Purdue enters Saturday's game (11 a.m. CT, BTN) with seven losses in a row. Darrell Hazell's first season as head coach is reminiscent of Ferentz's inaugural campaign leading the Hawkeyes in 1999 when they were outclassed on a weekly basis during conference play.
"They have a new staff, and their situation is a little bit like ours when we came here in that a lot of their guys came from different areas," Ferentz said. "Some of them were with Coach Hazell at Kent but not all of them. There's a real feeling out process in terms of your roster and what it is you're trying to do and then you what you would like to do versus what your players can do.
"You know, so there's a lot of give and take there, so I'm sure they're going through that, too. But we have to be ready for their best football, that's for sure."
To really understand Purdue's struggles this fall, consider this: It hasn't run a play in the red zone since Sept. 28. That's three hours, 25 minutes and 27 seconds of game time and 181 plays ago. Seriously, let that sink in.
A 20-14 home win against Indiana State of the FCS represents the lone victory for the Boilermakers this fall. The Sycamores are 1-8.
HAWKEYE HUDDLE: Hosted by the National I-Club and UI Alumni Association, the Hawkeye Huddle will be held on Saturday, November 9, from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., EST, at the Four Points by Sheraton, 1600 Cumberland Ave., in West Lafayette. Admission to the Hawkeye Huddle is free and includes cash refreshments, door prizes, Hawkeye DJ, Iowa cheerleaders, and Herky. Visit www.jointheiclub.com for additional I-Club information.
Iowa is 5-4 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers are 1-7 and 0-4. Neither team is ranked or receiving votes in any of the main polls.
Purdue holds a 46-34-3 in a series that began in 1910.
Iowa opened as a 14.5-point choice on Sunday at the Las Vegas Hilton. That number jumped to 15 as of Thursday morning. The total stood at 45.
-Boilermakers are 2-8 Against The Spread in their last 10 home games.
-Hawkeyes are 5-12 ATS in their last 17 road games.
Iowa Kickoff Coverage v. Purdue Return Men, Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert: The Boilers dynamic duo receives plenty of opportunities with a a porous defense allowing plenty of scores and ensuing kickoffs from the opponent. Mostert ranks 11th in the FBS with a 28.7 return average. Hunt returned a kick 99 yards for a score earlier this season. The Hawkeyes rank 113 out of 123 FBS teams in kick coverage, yielding 25.32 per return.
Iowa WR Kevonte Martin-Manley v. Purdue CB Ricardo Allen: Iowa's last two opponents, Northwestern and Wisconsin, have, for the most part, kept the Hawkeye running backs and tight ends from stinging them. The Boilermakers likely will borrow the formula of pushing up on the line of scrimmage and daring Iowa to beat it with the deep ball. I'm not sure that will be enough to stop the Hawkeyes' ground game, but the visitors might be able to open things up by taking some shots down the field. It's about time Martin-Manley becomes a reliable part of this sluggish offense and he'll be going up against a good one in Allen.
Purdue- Sam McCartney (hip, questionable), Devin Smith (illness, doubtful).
POINTS OF INTEREST
-The Boilermakers look to snap a six-game skid.
-Saturday's game is Purdue's first against an FBS opponent that has not been ranked or received votes this season. All seven losses have come against teams that have been ranked or received votes this season.
-Purdue started three freshmen on offense with two linemen and the quarterback and 18 different freshmen played against Ohio State last week.
-The Purdue offense has started underclassmen at all six skill positions during a single game this season, including five freshmen. Both are the most in the country.
-Three of Purdue's top four leaders in all-purpose yardage are freshmen.
-True freshman wide receiver Deangelo Yancey had back-to-back 100+ receiving games in the Northern Illinois and Nebraska games (117 and 146), a first for Purdue since Keith Smith had four in a row in 2009 (136, 101, 126, 125).
-The last four teams Purdue has played are a combined 32-3 (.889) this season.
-Punter Cody Webster's 43.2-yard career average is fifth among active punters in the FBS. His career average is No. 1 in the nation for punters with more than 120 punts. He currently is 10th in the nation in punting average with a season average of 44.8 yards, which tops the Big Ten.
-Eleven different athletes have played on the Purdue defensive line this season.
-Senior CB Ricardo Allen has four interceptions returned for touchdowns, which is a school record and currently leads all active players.
-Akeem Hunt and DeAngelo Yancey have accounted for 40 of Purdue's 120 first downs this season.
-The combined record of the four teams to defeat Iowa this season is 32-3. The Hawkeyes five wins are against teams that are 17-28.
-Iowa is one win from securing bowl eligibility for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons.
-Iowa ranks atop the Big Ten in punt return average (18.6). Purdue leads the Big Ten in net punting (43.1).
-Iowa's defense has held 8-of-9 opponents under their rushing average this season.
-The Hawkeyes are 5-0 when winning the turnover margin (Missouri State +1, Iowa State +1, Western Michigan +2, Minnesota +1, Northwestern +1), and 0-4 when losing the turnover margin (Northern Illinois, -2; Michigan State, -1, at Ohio State, -1; Wisconsin, -1). The Hawkeyes are plus-1 overall this season.
-Iowa has allowed eight red-zone touchdowns this season, tied for the third-lowest total in the nation. Purdue has seven red-zone touchdowns, the lowest total in the Big Ten.
-Iowa has one Indiana native on its roster - freshman LB John Kenny, who has not played this season and is eligible to be redshirted. Purdue has no Iowa natives on its roster.
-Iowa has three linebackers ranked among the Big Ten's top 11 tacklers. Senior LBs Anthony Hitchens, James Morris, and Christian Kirksey rank second, seventh, and 11th, respectively, among Big Ten tacklers.
-The Hawkeyes have recorded 10 interceptions through nine games, tied for the 30th highest total in the country.
The Iowa players and coaches have to take the Boilermakers seriously. I don't.
Purdue is a bad football team in a down conference. This would be one of the worst and most embarrassing losses in Ferentz's 15 years at the helm and cause a message board meltdown I'd prefer not to consider.
Hazell is gutting this thing the way Ferentz did when he took over at Iowa. The program is undergoing a culture change that takes time. He's a good coach and Purdue has a solid football history, but it's a pushover right now and should be a relief for the Hawkeyes navigating a tough schedule.
With the amount of underclassmen, particularly freshmen, that Hazell employs, Iowa should be able to physically overpower the Boilermakers on both sides of the ball, something it hasn't done since the Big Ten opener against Minnesota. It's a game during which the Hawkeye running game should get rolling, if only for a week.
SCORE: IOWA 38, Purdue 3