Iowa travels to West Lafayette to challenge Purdue Saturday and will enter Ross-Ade Stadium with an eight game regular season winning streak away from Iowa City. They'll show up to face their fellow Big Ten West foe with a 4-2 record and 2-1 in the Big Ten while the Boilermakers are coming off an emotional win over Illinois in Champaign. They're 3-2 overall with their other wins coming over Eastern Kentucky and Nevada. Darrell Hazell's team is 1-1 in the conference so far, with their lone loss coming at the hands of Maryland in pretty decisive fashion.
KEYS TO A WIN
1) DON'T PLAY DOWN - The Hawkeyes are much better than Purdue on paper. But we have learned in the past that it doesn't really mean much when it comes down to it. Iowa was better than NDSU and Northwestern on paper and lost both of those games. They can't play down to the level of Purdue this weekend. Letting a team like Purdue hang around is exactly what they need. Give them confidence and we could have a game.
2) CONTROL THE LINE - Iowa did a great job dominating the line of scrimmage last week against Minnesota. Which, in turn, made it hard on the Gophers to get any sort of running game going. Purdue is similar to Minnesota in the fact that they have two very solid running backs. I think Purdue struggles through the air, so controlling the line and stopping the run will be huge.
3) CATCH THE BALL - Iowa has already had a tough enough time getting the offense going this season, so they can't start dropping passes. After losing WR Matt Vandeberg it got a little tougher to throw the football. They've done a decent job operating without Matt, but they've got to catch the ball. I believe they dropped 4 or 5 passes last Saturday.
1) CONTAIN THE QUARTERBACK - Iowa appears to possibly have figured out themselves in terms of run defense. Last week was a big step in that regard. I think it carries over, at least against the running backs. They just have to make sure they don't forget about the signal caller. He won't necessarily demand the attention that Mitch Leidner does so he could sneak away. I think this is the only way they can get beat. If David Blough breaks out for the Boilermakers, that keeps this one close. I think the Hawkeyes need to make sure he doesn't beat them. He's a better quarterback than you think.
2) FORCE TURNOVERS/WIN THAT BATTLE - I think a comfortable and decisive win could be what the doctor ordered for Iowa. They haven't had one since the first two weeks of the season. It's been all high-stress football ever since Miami and Iowa State. They could use a bit more comfort and a bit less stress. Winning the turnover battle decisively and setting up the offense with great field position on multiple occasions would go a long way in accomplishing that.
3) GET THE PASSING GAME GOING - This isn't really a key because it isn't imperative to do this against the Boilermakers. I just think Purdue would be a good test drive for this area of the game in advance of the Wisconsin game. The Badgers are stout on defense, especially against the run. They're going to make Iowa pass to win. The Hawkeye offense could use a confidence boost in that area before the matchup with Wisconsin in Kinnick.
HAWK TO ROCK
DYLAN - George Kittle. I think Iowa attacks with the run early, which opens up the passing game a bit. Kittle is usually pretty sure-handed so I wouldn't be surprised if Beathard targets the senior tight end. 5 catches for 75 yards and a TD from Kittle on Saturday. On defense, Anthony Nelson. I think Purdue watches the film from last week and notices that Jaleel Johnson can be a real problem. Johnson is going to demand double teams which could give Nelson an opening to have a couple sacks.
DEREK - Purdue's run gets stuffed and they have to throw it when they have to, not when they want to. They're kind of like Iowa in that their passing game isn't good enough to beat defenses in predictable situations. That means the defensive ends are able to pin their ears back and an ability to force turnovers through the air. So I do like the Anthony Nelson pick, but I'm rolling with the All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner on defense this week. Desmond King gets his first interception.
Offensively, this game may be a lot like pulling teeth early but I think they break free for a couple later in the game after they soften up the Boilermaker defense. It was Akrum Wadley last week, it'll be LeShun Daniels this week.
DYLAN: IOWA 30, PURDUE 17
DEREK: IOWA 28, PURDUE 14