Dispatches from Blogfrica: Hammer & Rails Talks Iowa-Purdue Football

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The latest installment of #THERIVALRY looms.

What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? This week: Travis at Hammer & Rails, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things Purdue.

1) So... football. How's that, uh, going for you? Pretty... uh, interesting times you've got here. OK, I can't keep up the charade. You guys are having the biggest turdburger of a season in the Big Ten since... Minnesota 2007? Illinois 2005? (Or maybe just Illinois last year; remember, kids: you can't spell Illinois without multiple Ls.) In a season this dark and dismal, what sorts of things do you latch onto? What signs of hope for the future have you seen? What gives you hope that Darrell Hazell might be able to turn things around?

In reality, it may be the worst season since Northwestern in 1981. Purdue would need to score 58 more points in the final four Big Ten games to tie their nine-game conference output. That is considered the shit standard of crappy Big Ten teams.

Coming into the season there was a lot of hope for a bowl game. It seems laughable now, but many people felt that a senior QB with experience, two pretty good running backs, and a strong defensive line there would be a decent chance to at least be competitive. Instead, the offensive line has been terrible. The offense can’t stay on the field at all, and the defense just wilts after awhile.

I guess the one thing that gives me hope is that Hazell is already moving forward to next season. Nine true freshmen are playing and a number of redshirt freshmen are also seeing time. Purdue is going young for the most part and taking its lumps. I also like that Hazell is very much a stay the course guy and has not lost the team. Many Ohio State fans last week complimented Purdue that they played hard until the end. It is a very small consolation in an awful year, but Hazell is at least saying the right things.

2) Rob Henry's made the rarely-seen starting-QB-to-safety switcheroo; how's that working out? Are his ACLs at least safer now that he's no longer at the most cursed position on the field (not named "Iowa RB," at least)? Similarly, how's Danny Etling looking as the new QB? Is he going to be the man there for the next three years or is he just a placeholder?

Henry hasn’t done a whole lot on defense and has done more as a bizarre punt team player. He took a snap and was set to execute a nice fake punt against Nebraska, but his throw as off. Twice against Ohio State he shifted to take the snap and got off nice punts when no play was there. I like Henry because he is a kid that will play wherever coaches play him. In his career he has played quarterback, receiver, running back, safety, and punted. How many guys can say that after 1940? (Ed. Note -- That is quite a unique career.)

As for Etling, he is probably the guy going forward unless Elite 11 recruit David Blough, who is coming next year from Texas and idolizes Drew Brees, beats him out. Austin Appleby is also still around even if he hasn’t taken a snap. Etling has the physical tools, but he plays behind a line that gives him no time to throw and he still makes some freshman mistakes. He reminds me a bit of Kyle Orton as a freshman, only with a worse team around him.

3) Who are a few Boilermakers Iowa fans should know about on offense? And Iowa's pass defense has proven to be exceedingly vulnerable to at least one big pass a game; who's the most likely beneficiary of that defensive largesse on Saturday?

Your guess is as good as mine. Purdue’s offense is by far the worst in the Big Ten. The passing game ranks only better than Minensota and the running game is over 500 yards worse than 11th place Illinois. If Purdue doubled its season-long scoring it would still easily have the worst offense in the league. Only Connecticut and Washington State have rushed for fewer yards nationally than Purdue. The passing game is not much better.

Players that have done well in spots are Akeem Hunt and DeAngelo Yancey. Hunt, a running back, has been bottled up on the ground because of the line, but has been dangerous when catching screens and underneath stuff. Yancey, a true freshman, has been a more effective deep threat than we have had in some time and had consecutive 100-yard receiving games against NIU and Nebraska.

4) Likewise, who are a few Boilermakers that Iowa fans should know about on defense? Who's most likely to cause further problems for Iowa's already-wheezing offense?

Ricardo Allen is one of the better corners in the Big Ten and has three interceptions on the season. He has been playing more of a nickel role in a modified 3-3-5 Purdue has been running. Bruce Gaston also leads the team in sacks, but this is a unit that has played well at times only to be betrayed by the offense time and again. Its best game was at Michigan State, when it kept the MSU offense off the scoreboard until late, but the offense gave up a fumble-six and couldn’t get it back.

5) Would Darrell Hazell be a better coach if he had Gene Keady's combover? I think he would be. What if he had the combover AND Joe Tiller's mustache? You'd probably be unstoppable then. Who could stand in the face of your follicular fury then? NO ONE.

Maybe that is the problem. Hazell has the shaved head and no ‘stache. At the very least he needs Matt Painter’s hair gel. That might help a little. Perhaps he could get some Turtle Wax and wax his head to a nice glossy shine to distract opposing offenses.

6) Are you excited about saying sayonara to the Big Ten Leaders-cum-East Division next year? Are you looking forward to roadtrips through cornfields, cornfields, and more cornfields?

I think in the long run it helps. It certainly isn’t a bad thing that Ohio State and Michigan are only on the schedule once each through the rest of the decade. Getting Indiana as one of the teams from the East every year is a nice bonus as well. If things ever get turned around I would much rather face Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin as the top teams along with Illinois, Minnesota, and Northwestern. Let Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan knock each other senseless.

7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?

Purdue couldn’t score in a women’s prison with a fistful of pardons right now. At least you guys are making field goals. We haven’t even been in the friggin’ red zone in over a month and we have to score enough to win an actual football game? WE HAVE 11 FREAKIN’ TOUCHDOWNS! 11! Three of them have come via kick return, fumble recovered inside the 10, or against Nebraska’s scout team. I can see this as a 17-3 dull game in favor of Iowa.

Thanks for being a good sport, Travis, although I still hope your team loses by 50 on Saturday. You can check out Travis and the rest of the H&R crew at Hammer & Rails. You can also follow Travis on Twitter at @HammerAndRails. The Iowa-Purdue game is in West Lafayette on Saturday, November 9, and is scheduled to start at 11:00 am CT, with television coverage from BTN.

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