Four Factor Friday: Purdue

Pat Lovell-US PRESSWIRE

An alliterative look at the keys to the game for Iowa against Purdue tomorrow.

Maybe a change in uniforms is exactly what Iowa needs. Black Heart Silver Pants has a nice ring to it. Iowa turned around its road woes last season against Purdue, at least temporarily. So why not Purdue for Iowa to turn around its 3-game skid, get the offense rolling, keep the hopes of a bowl game alive?

Everything about Purdue this season points to be the perfect opponent for this to happen. They have completely fallen apart since conference play has started. They are 0-5 in the B1G and are losing games by scores like 44-13, 34-9, and 38-14.

So what does Iowa need to do to keep OMHR winless in the B1G?

Vandenberg, Vandenberg, Vandenberg

Not to beat a dead horse, but Vandenberg has not been good this year and Iowa's overall success, or lack thereof, has been directly correlated to the QB's bad performance. Tomorrow the defense will be fine, the running game will be okay, special teams won't be a problem...it going to come down to whether or not the passing game can generate enough offense and enough points to win the game.

The good news, if there is any, is that the past 2 weeks Vandenberg has been playing better. The receivers are starting to come along (KMM had a big game last week and Cotton is playing better as the season goes on). And, perhaps most importantly, Greg Davis has decided to pull out some play-action plays from KOK's playbook and they have been successful.

The big story last year with Vandenberg was his struggles on the road. At home last year he was great: 17:3 TD/INT ratio, completed 61.4% of his passes, and had a QB rating of 158.5. The road was bad: 8 TDs to 4 INTs, 55.8% completion percent, and a QB rating of 117.4 (that looks kind of like this year's numbers without the TDs).

But, Vandenberg turned it all around for one road game last year: Purdue. He threw for 273 yards, completed nearly 70% of his passes, and had 3 TDs and no interceptions. Road Vandenberg looked like Home Vandenberg.

So, there is hope. Purdue's defense is bad and is giving up over 30 points per game, and 38 in conference play. Against the pass, they are 11th in pass efficiency in B1G play. I've said this a few times now, but if Vandenberg is looking for a defense to turn things around against, this is the week. Maybe 2012 Vandenberg can look like 2011 Vandenberg.

Offensive guards need to hold their own

Iowa only managed 96 rushing yards against the B1G's worst run defense last week. The main problem was Indiana's defensive tackles completely dominated Iowa's offensive guards. The 3-man rotation with Walsh, Blythe, and MacMillan hasn't really been working well. And the whole OL, hurt by injuries to Scherff and Donnal, hasn't been as good.

Like Indiana, Purdue's run defense is awful...actually worse in conference play giving up 264 yards on the ground a game. But, also like Indiana, they have a couple of big and talented DTs that will challenge the guards. Kawann Short is dealing with an ankle injury, but will still be a handful. He leads the Boilermakers with 9 TFLs and 4 sacks. His partner Bruce Gaston has 4 TFLs.

If Iowa wants to run it up the middle (which they tried all too often last week, especially on 3rd-and-short), then the guards are going to need to play a lot better. In the second half last week, before abandoning the run all too early, Greg Davis called runs to the edge with a bunch of pin and pull outside zones. That was working and got Iowa's it lone rushing TD last week. So I'd like to see more of that and protect the guards a little.

Win on 3rd down

Against Indiana, Iowa was 5 of 14 on third downs and had 5 three-and-outs. That's a recipe for very little scoring and that's exactly what happened as the Hawks only put together 2 scoring drives. If Greg Davis wants to keep going horizontal, than 3rd downs are going to be a big factor again this week and the conversion rate needs to go up.

On the other side of the ball, Purdue is the 11th in the conference on 3rd down. They convert just 30% of the time. Unfortunately, Iowa's 3rd down defense is awful as well (11th in the conference) and allowing opponents to convert 45% of the time. So both sides are bad on 3rd down, but one side has to win this battle. It might as well be the Hawks, right?

If all else fails, win with defense

At one point this year, not that long ago, people were talking about Purdue as a real contender in the B1G. Their offense was rolling up 50+ point games against bad competition, and they only lost by 3 to Notre Dame. But then conference play started and Purdue's offense has fallen to pieces.

Purdue is averaging just 17 point per game in the B1G. The have only eclipsed 20 points twice...once was against Minnesota and 21 of their points came after the Gophers had a 34 point lead and let up. The other time was against OSU when 9 of the team's 22 points came on a safety and a kick return of a TD. So basically Purdue's offense is terrible.

Iowa's defense hasn't be great this year, but has generally done enough to keep the team in position to win games. Last week, even when it felt like the defense didn't do its part, Indiana was held to their lowest scoring output of the year. Plus the defense scored 7 points of its own.

The defense could really help the offense out by keeping Purdue around its 17 point conference average. If the offense can't but up more than 17 points, then Iowa deserves to lose.

Prediction

As the Indiana game was coming to a close, I didn't think Iowa would win another game this year. All hope was lost. But after doing a little reading on Purdue, my prediction has changed. As much as Iowa has been struggling, Purdue has been worse. They still don't have their QB situation figured out...3 quarterbacks played last week against Penn State. The Boilermakers actually have a lower passer rating than Iowa in conference play. They are that bad.

So I think Iowa wins this one. The offense will look bad again, and be all too frustrating, but will score just enough to win. Damon Bullock will pick up over 100 yards by running well on the outside. The receivers will have another good game and Vandenberg will throw for over 250 yards for the first time this season.

Final Score: Iowa 20 - Purdue 17

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