Why do I insist upon going to see this game? There is a zero percent chance I have fun between the kickoff and final whistle. Perhaps it is because I like pain but more obviously, it is because I like hanging out with my college friends. You can find me at Harry’s that weekend drinking Colorado Root Beers.
Who: Purdue Boilermakers (West Lafayette, IN; Big Ten Conference)
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm (28-29 at Purdue, 58-39 overall)
What: The annual contest between my beloved Hawkeyes and my alma mater
When: November 5th, 2022
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
71.6%: Aidan O’Connell is coming off his first senior season with the Big Ten’s #2 completion percentage. Against the Hawkeyes last season, he hit 75% in a sterling performance. Starting QBs under Brohm have tallied a 65% completion percentage against the Hawkeyes and a solid 2.4% interception rate which is well below the 5.3% interception rate Iowa forced from opponent quarterbacks.
127: The flipside of Purdue’s pass-happy offense is a rushing yards/game number (84.8) which ranked 127th in the country and worst among Big Ten teams by 20+ yards.
3: Number of receivers Purdue has who previously played for Iowa. Tyrone Tracy, Jr & Charlie Jones got the headlines but Curtis Deville, Jr. previously played for Iowa...high school. In Louisiana.
22.4: Purdue has undergone a ton of turnover at defensive coordinator and struck gold with last season’s hiring of Ron English & Mark Hagen as co-defensive coordinators. It was their second-best defense under Brohm & best by a touchdown since his first season, when the Boilers yielded 20.5 PPG.
Aidan O’Connell (#16, QB, 6th yr, 6’3”, 210 lbs): Purdue has returned to being the Cradle of Quarterbacks (non-Ohio State division) since Jeff Brohm’s hire in 2017. He has built offenses around quick passing and relatively low-risk shots down the field. He adds gadget plays to keep teams guessing and isn’t swayed by a quarterback’s pedigree, which allowed AOC, a former walk-on, to take over as starter in 2019 and retain it in 2021 after suffering injuries in 2020.
He’s a career 68.4% passer and the proverbial straw which stirs the drink. He faces significant turnover at receiver with the loss of David Bell to the NFL but TE Payne Durham returns as a safety blanket and red zone weapon.
O’Connell is a classic pocket passer but is shifty enough to make a play when it’s needed. His “every big play” highlight reel from last season is 12+ minutes long. If Purdue is going to have a great season, it’s going to be because O’Connell built on an excellent 2021 into a stratospheric 2022. Sure, he had 11 interceptions, but on 440 passing attempts, that’s a manageable rate (2.5%).
Cam Allen (#10, S, Sr, 6’1”, 195 lbs): Allen had himself a day against the Hawkeyes last year, notching two of his career seven interceptions on errant throws. He also had one of his two fumble recoveries in the 2020 matchup.
He shifted over from corner after his sophomore season and is the veteran presence needed to shore up a Purdue defense which has been iffy in past seasons.
Kydran Jenkins (#44, DE, Jr, 6’1”, 270 lbs): Would you believe me if I told you Purdue lost George Karlaftis but retained their highest sack-getter from last year? Well that’s the case with Jenkins returning after a five sack season with eight tackles for a loss. He’ll be used both as a hand-in-the-ground end as well as in a two-point stance to take advantage of his speed on the edge.
Iowa has struggled protecting the passer against Purdue and could be in some trouble if Purdue can jump to a lead and turn the Hawks into a one-dimensional offense.
Best case: The Hawks play with an edge that Kaevon Merriweather alluded to at Big Ten Media Days.
Kaevon Merriweather talks about facing Purdue and former Iowa receivers Charlie Jones and Tyrone Tracy Jr. pic.twitter.com/1WulaUHH1p— Pat Harty (@PatHarty) July 26, 2022
Phil Parker orchestrates a masterful gameplan, resulting in a defensive score. Iowa controls the tempo on offense and wears down the Boilers through a sturdy run game.
Worst case: Charlie Jones starts the game off with a return touchdown. Tyrone Tracy is a force in the run & pass game, as Jeff Brohm uses him as his latest chess piece to pick apart Iowa’s defense. The Hawkeyes struggle to do anything on offense.
Can Phil Parker outwit Jeff Brohm? I watched a fair amount of Manningcast last year during Monday Night Football and one of the most interesting tidbits he said during one game was, when asked if he would rather play a defense that does one thing and does it great or another who does a ton of things but nothing well.
His answer was playing a defense who you know exactly what they’re doing. He brought up an example of an interception he had thrown against a junk ball defense and told his coach “he shouldn’t have been there!” You always know where Iowa’s defense is going to be.
Jeff Brohm has taken advantage of that in the five matchups against the Hawks, resulting in four wins and a David Bell boondoggle in 2019 (and 2020 and 2021). I trust him to do make wine out of water with his relatively shallow receiving corps and highly accurate QB. Phil Parker’s best chance is to switch things up a smidge to get Brohm guessing instead of playing the same defense over and over.
After all, isn’t it insanity to do the same thing and expect a different result?