Our team orchestrated a thrilling comeback victory Saturday and finishes the non-conference slate at 3-1. Iowa now kicks off the Big Ten season with a road date at bitter rival Purdue. But who is this "Purdue," really? Where is it? Does anyone really know? Here's what we can tell you.
Name: Purdue University Boilermakers
Location: Parts Unknown
Record: 2-2 (0-0)
Last game: W 35-13 at FIU
Last game vs. Iowa: Iowa 38, Purdue 14, 2013
Ranking: extremely unranked
Passing: Danny Etling, 78-136, 739 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs
Rushing: Raheem Mostert, 67 rushes, 293 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Danny Anthrop, 12 catches, 204 yards, 2 TDs
Tackles: Landon Feichter, 33 tackles
Tackles For Loss: Anthony Brown, 5.0 TFL; Ryan Watson, 4.0 sacks
Interceptions: Three tied with 1 INT
Purdue has already eclipsed its win total of 2013 (a 1-11 horror show from beginning to end), and the Boilermakers look like they might actually belong in the FBS this season. That's not good enough, but it is substantial improvement. And considering Iowa's nasty penchant for keeping inferior foes in the game longer than they should be, this one might stay a lot closer than last year's laugher. Onward!
You dislike the horizontal nature of Iowa's offense, yes? The sheer volume of passes resulting in the sheer, uh, non-volume of yards? Well, Iowa's yards per pass is 6.6, which is very not good (Rudock in particular is at 6.3). Purdue, meanwhile, chimes in at an earth-scorching 5.3 yards per pass.
It's strange: Danny Etling is a talented thrower, and he's got the arm strength to challenge secondaries downfield. He doesn't have the offense or receiving personnel to do it, though, so the efficiency just isn't there. That said, if Etling wants to work the underneath passing game exclusively, Iowa will likely give it to him; the quarterbacks that have given Iowa the most trouble this season were the ones stringing together short completions in bunches. Purdue would likely welcome the opportunity to establish a rhythm that way, but Etling's got to cut down on the incompletions.
Purdue's defense was an abomination in 2013, ceding an average 38 points per game. The offense was a mess too, but there are signs of improvement on that side of the ball that aren't as immediately evident on defense. Purdue has some talent and production on the defensive line—DT Ryan Watson is going to be a problem for Iowa's guards—but that's about it.
It would be nice if Iowa ran more misdirection plays—Ken O'Keefe was pretty decent at hitting this balance, if we're being honest—in order to slow down Purdue's front seven. We've seen what Iowa's rush game can do when Mark Weisman can get to his lane without impediment, and if Purdue's linebackers have to depend on read recognition at the snap, you're likely to see some decent production on the ground.
Purdue's young secondary probably wants to see more of Jake Rudock than C.J. Beathard, but either QB should be productive against a unit that doesn't boast the talent level of years past.
Purdue shouldn't win this game; it really shouldn't even be all that close. If there's any cause for concern, it's that the Iowa offense doesn't exactly demand much mentally from opposing defenders, especially up front. The physical talent gap between Iowa and Purdue isn't that great, and a young linebacking corps will be happy to pin its ears back and fly at an inconsistent offensive line. So that's potentially worrisome.
And yet Our Most Hated Rival is so bad on balance it's probably not going to matter. Probably.