Right from the beginning, I’d like to acknowledge that yes, I’m very much aware that this is a game against Purdue and I do realize that this isn’t one of the more intriguing matchups on the Hawkeyes’ schedule. However, don’t look now, but the Boilermakers are off to a 3-2 start and coming fresh off of an overtime victory against Illinois this past weekend.
Heading into Saturday, the Boilermakers have yet to win back-to-back games during head coach Darrell Hazell’s tenure and they haven’t picked up a win on homecoming in five years.
So, what exactly is this Boilermakers team made of?
Hammering Away On The Ground
On offense, the Boilermakers don’t really have an abundance of talent. However, the talent they possess is respectable and it all starts with sophomore running back, Markell Jones.
Although Jones isn’t the most talented or even the most productive running back the Hawkeyes have faced this season, he’s still very much a threat on the ground and will certainly provide a challenge for the Hawkeyes’ front seven this week.
When you really start to examine Jones’ game, the initial takeaway is that, overall, he’s not that explosive of a runner and although that’s true, he doesn’t let that define him as a player, as he plays with excellent balance, loose hips and a fearless downhill mentality.
Although the Boilermakers were able to escape last Saturday’s contest with a win, there’s no question that getting Jones back in the rotation is a major boost to this offense.
The Lesser Anticipated Rematch
Something that flew awfully under the radar following last year’s win over the Boilermakers was how starting receiver, DeAngelo Yancey, was able to turn out a pretty impressive performance against Desmond King.
In last year’s contest, Yancey posted 9 catches for 117 yards and when I sat down and analyzed his performance, my impression was that he left a quite a bit of production on the field.
What makes that performance even more impressive, was that nearly all of Yancey’s production in that game came when lined up one on one against King; underneath patterns and comeback routes inflicted the most damage.
Darrell Hazell confirms what was suspected Saturday: WR Domonique Young's season is over with an injury that will require surgery.— GoldandBlack.com (@GoldandBlackcom) October 12, 2016
This is certainly one of the aspects of this Saturday’s game being overlooked and with the announcement that leading receiver, Domonique Young, will not only miss this weekend’s game but the rest of the season. With this news, it’s almost certain that the Boilermakers’ passing game will flow through Yancey and with so few real playmaking threats on the Boilermakers’ offense, expect Yancey to see a whole lot of targets this Saturday, even when lined up with King.
Man In The Middle
The Boilermakers’ defense took quite the hit heading into this season after losing defensive tackles Ryan Watson and Michael Rouse, as well as star cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams to graduation.
With those key losses, the Boilermakers were left with a slim array of talent on the defensive side of the ball. However, the Boilermakers were able to retain their best defender and arguably their best player overall in senior defensive tackle Jake Replogle.
Given Replogle’s mixture of power, get-off-the-ball explosion, and overall quickness, there’s no question he’ll present a challenge to an interior offensive line that has looked fairly impressive as of late. However, expect Replogle to line up all over the defensive line this Saturday, as the Boilermakers’ coaching staff loves to mix up looks upfront while simultaneously taking advantage of Replogle’s athleticism and versatility.
Nail In The Coffin
When you look at these two teams on both sides of the ball, it’s quite clear that the Hawkeyes are the superior team in this matchup. However, that was also the case in their 14-7 victory over Rutgers and somehow the Scarlet Knights were able to hang around until the very end.
I’ve been saying this for multiple weeks now, but I’ll say it again: This Saturday’s game against the Boilermakers will be very telling about the Hawkeyes’ offense. If Iowa would like to get back on track and place itself firmly in the Big Ten West picture, it’s crucial that the offense shows some explosion and production this weekend.
Against Minnesota, the defense as a whole stepped up. Now it’s the offense’s turn.