What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Travis from Hammer and Rails, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Purdue.
1) Purdue has just two wins this year and they've been blown out in several games, but they've also been very close in a few games against ranked opponents. They lost just 24-21 to Michigan State and only 21-14 to Northwestern last week. What worked for Purdue in those games and could it work again versus Iowa this week?
TRAVIS: In both games Markell Jones, our freshman running back, played extremely well. He had a career day at Michigan State and last week he was moving the ball before injuring his knee. He will play this week, but he didn't play at all in the 4th quarter and Purdue gained only 22 yards on 12 plays. The offense seems to work best when he is able to make plays.
Unfortunately, therein lies the issue. The Purdue offense has no real identity and certainly lacks consistency. The blowout losses to Virginia Tech, Minnesota, and Illinois all followed a similar script: The defense played relatively well for a half, but the offense had multiple three-and-outs and could not stay on the field. That led to a total third quarter collapse on both sides of the ball.
Also, strangely enough, Purdue has played far better on the road than at home. I have no idea why this is, but in all four road games they have either been leading, tied, or within one score deep into the third quarter. At home three of the six games have been long over by the end of three quarters.
2) The Boilermakers did beat Nebraska a few weeks ago in a 55-45 shootout. How the heck did that happen? What went so, so right for Purdue in that game?
TRAVIS: Ryker Fyfe had a complete meltdown is what happened. He had five turnovers, four of them giving Purdue possession inside the Nebraska 25 yard line. Even John Shoop can score with that short of a field. Purdue converted all four of those turnovers into 24 points and had a few solid offensive drives to leads 42-16 after three quarters. Even then it took a penalty on a blocked extra point that Nebraska returned for a deuce to prevent Nebraska from having the football down just 8 with 30 seconds left.
3) Markell Jones has been a bright spot for the Purdue offense (128 carries, 692 yards, 8 TD) this year, but he left the Northwestern game last week with an injury. Is he expected to play against Iowa and, if so, what's made him so effective this year? Which other Purdue offensive players should Iowa fans know about?
TRAVIS: Jones is expected to play as he just had a hyper extension. He looks like he could be a very special back in time, too. Last season at Columbus East HS he set a new Indiana HS record with 3,536 yards rushing and 60 touchdowns. Those are not typos. In fact, he often did not play much in the second half because his team was ahead by so much, and it would have been more had they not lost in the state semifinals. For his career he was second in state history with 7,930 yards, just 180 from the record. He also had 129 touchdowns.
Jones is just a very, very good back with a good combination of speed and power. He has made several big runs and he has excellent vision. I pray he doesn't become Tevin Coleman where he is an excellent back on a bad team.
As for everyone else, David Blough has shown some promise as a redshirt freshman QB; the sooner we get Shoop's hands off of him, the better. DeAngelo Yancey has been a very capable deep threat to pass to as well.
4) Purdue switched from Austin Appleby at QB to David Blough earlier this year, but the results don't seem dramatically different. What was the motivation behind the Blough move and do you think it's paid off for Purdue?
TRAVIS: I think in the long run it will because Blough has a higher ceiling. Appleby had some good moments, but when he played this year he had a bad habit of getting picked off. His first play of the season was a pick 6 and he threw four interceptions (two returned for scores) at Marshall in the season opener. He couldn't take care of the football and so far Blough has been better at that.
Blough also seems to read the field better and is a little more of a runner. He hasn't made terrible mistakes so far and hopefully has a bright future. It will be brighter once John Shoop is gone. Shoop ruined Danny Etling and did a number on Appleby. Hopefully Shoop has only another week and a half with Blough.
5) Purdue ranks near the bottom of the conference in several defensive stats, including dead last in rush defense. Are the problems for the Boilermaker defense talent-related? Scheme-related? Both?
TRAVIS: I think it is scheme and an ineffective offense. Last week at Northwestern Purdue was three-and-out on its final four possessions. It is hard for any defense to hold up when an offense does that. The scheme has drawn a lot of criticism as well. No one know why we're playing such soft coverage with our corners half the time. When a team, say Bowling Green, is constantly gaining 10-15 yards per play because the corners start with a 10 yard cushion, yet there is never an adjustment made, the scheme is a problem.
6) Purdue's athletic director, Morgan Burke, has already said that Darell Hazell will be back next year. How does the fanbase feel about that? Are they just ready to move on from him or are they happy to sit out this year's particularly wild-looking coaching carousel?
TRAVIS: The tide has definitely turned against Hazell, but we're resigned to give him one more shot as long as John Shoop, at minimum, is gone. Shoop has been an abject disaster from day one as offensive coordinator. He seems to actively avoid what is working. If a team has a defensive weakness he does out of his way to avoid exploiting it.
On the defensive side Greg Hudson hasn't been great, but the defense has at least had moments. I would like to see how that unit could do if it had a competent offense that could stay on the field and let it play with a lead.
7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
TRAVIS: Iowa is better than Purdue in pretty much every metric. That said, our M.O. is to play a ranked team on the road tough and get blown out by mediocre teams at home. I could see us losing somewhere in the 27-21 range, giving us just enough confidence before Indiana stomps us 56-14 at home a week later.
That doesn't mean I think we will win. Heavens no. Iowa is going to win this game. I just think we might keep it close. Might.
Thanks for being a good sport, Travis, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped on Saturday. You can check out the TDG crew at Hammer and Rails. You can also follow H&R on Twitter at @HammerAndRails. The Iowa-Purdue game is in Iowa City, IA on Saturday, November 21, and is scheduled to start at approximately 11:00 am CT, with TV coverage from ESPN2.