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THE TAKEAWAY: PURDUE

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Sure, Iowa just won the dang Big Ten West and outlasted Purdue, 40-20. But how much do we really know? What was really important about beating the Boilermakers? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.

So close, little buddy.
So close, little buddy.
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The irregular season. Here's how far away we are from the familiar shores of mediocrity: Iowa led six touchdown drives against, only the last of which came from closer than 49 yards, and the offense still seemed like it wasn't firing on all cylinders.

That wasn't an insane thing to think as the game was going on, of course; those six drives accounted for virtually all of Iowa's offense:

6 TD drives: 38 plays, 385 yards
7 other drives: 21 plays, 18 yards

Note: You might notice that Iowa is credited with 387 yards of total offense, not 403; the disparity comes from penalty yardage.

Those seven unsuccessful drives include kneel-outs at the end of each half, but if you'd rather the stats be five drives, 17 plays and 25 yards, well, that's a distinction without much of a difference.

We don't normally think of Ferentz's offenses as being so feast-or-famine, especially drive-to-drive, and that inability to at least flip the field on unsuccessful drives contributed to Purdue's persistence through the middle quarters. This game was never in serious doubt, of course; one of our favorite statistics is "when did the other team last have the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead," and for Purdue it was with 7:05 left in the third quarter, sending a punt away... from the Iowa 34. Sure, it was 4th and 10, but it was all the opening Iowa needed to drive 91 yards for a score and spend the rest of the game in cruise control.

Purdue got two things right about Iowa preparation: the Hawkeyes will run straight into a stacked box if it's situationally appropriate, and you can't run on the Hawkeyes without doing something to slow down the linebackers.

The Boilermakers absolutely sold out against the run and dared C.J. Beathard to beat them. Beathard obliged, but it was a heck of a guess from DC Greg Hudson, as Iowa called runs on 60% of its non-kneel snaps and took its sweet time adapting the gameplan to Purdue's disruptive front. The difference was tight ends George Kittle and Henry Krieger Coble, who routinely found acres of open field in front of them as Purdue rushed to attack the line of scrimmage, and who combined for 125 yards and two of Iowa's three touchdowns through the air. It's great that Iowa identified the glaring weakness in Purdue's defensive attack; it's not so great that the two talented TEs combined for six catches, even as productive as those catches were.

And while Austin Appleby wasn't a serious run threat to keep Iowa's LBs honest, Purdue's inside read run looks enough like a pass in the first second that Iowa couldn't flow to the point of attack without setting itself up for an easy pitch-and-catch if Appleby pulls it back. Show Iowa a straight I, and your run game is toast, but when the linebackers have something to think about, they don't have the elite athleticism to recover and take options away. And when Iowa did commit to chasing, Purdue was able to use a throwback touchdown to Shane Mikesky—the second straight opponent to burn Iowa's secondary that way.

Of course, all these things add up to a 20-point victory, but one against a demonstrably inferior opponent. Nebraska is not exactly that. Kirk Ferentz has his work cut out for him, especially in a short week. Iowa's defense gave up about 13 points per game in its first four B1G contest and has allowed more than twice that in its last three. Sure, Indiana's got the best offense in the Big Ten this year, but Minnesota and Purdue are hardly juggernauts, and Nebraska is second to only the Hoosiers in total offense. The fight is coming.

But you know what? The fight's been coming all year. And good old Kirk, at good old Iowa, always good for a few good old wins and a few good old losses... has done the damn thing all season. It's odd to think that one of only two 11-0 teams in all of the FBS might not be in the Playoff Committee's Top 4 come tomorrow, but it might happen. It might not, but it might. It's a weird season. No reason to stop that now.

Our ticket to Indianapolis is punched. One more win and it's a perfect irregular season. Two more wins and we're in. Go Iowa Awesome.