IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz is trying to keep his team grounded after No. 2 Iowa achieved the program’s highest ranking since 1985.
The Hawkeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) are on a 12-game winning streak with their win over a Penn State top five last week and have taken control of the Big Ten West by entering their game against Purdue (3 – 2, 1-1) on Saturday.
“We are in the middle of the road,” Ferentz said. “I have no idea how many Kentucky Derby winners they won that were leading at halftime or first.”
If there’s one team that should be able to keep the Hawkeyes focused, it’s Purdue. Jeff Brohm’s Boilermakers have won three of the last four meetings.
The Boilermakers have beaten Iowa with their passing game, averaging 292.8 yards through the air in the last four meetings.
“We’ve had the ability to throw the ball at times, maybe more than other Big Ten teams, so it’s probably helped us to some degree,” Brohm said.
Ferentz said the Boilermakers have hurt their team with deep balls: “And it sounds pretty basic, but a lot of people won’t try it that way and they’ve done a good job.”
Purdue’s longest completion in last year’s 24-20 win was 22 yards, but the year before the Boilermakers hit 54- and 42-yard passes, and in 2019 they had 82-, 36- and 57-yard completions.
The Iowa high school leads the nation in interceptions (16), takeout (20) and turnover margin (plus 15).
“If a team is not performing well in the 11 positions on offense and there is a weak link, they will find it,” Brohm said. “They’re going to have their eyes on the quarterback, they’re going to break the ball and make plays, and they’ve done it against every opponent they’ve had.”
Iowa will be without cornerback Riley Moss, who injured his knee in an interception against Penn State. Moss, who leads the Hawkeyes with four picks, will not require surgery and should be back in a couple of weeks, Ferentz said.
Terry Roberts will move to Moss’s place. Roberts has one interception and two broken passes and has been a key contributor on special teams.
Purdue wide receiver David Bell has a combined 26 receptions for 318 yards and four touchdowns in his previous two games against Iowa. Bell enters this game second in the Big Ten with 27 receptions for 439 yards and three TDs.
“I don’t want to get depressed and see how many catches he’s had in two years, but it’s significant,” Ferentz said. But the real challenge is that they have other guys too. His other receivers are good, they have a good size. ‘
Purdue has quarterback options and the Hawkeyes are preparing for all of them.
Junior quarterback Jack Plummer started the first four games, then was replaced by Aidan O’Connell in the second half of a 13-9 victory over Illinois. O’Connell started Oct. 2 against Minnesota, throwing for 357 yards and a touchdown in a 20-13 loss.
O’Connell threw three touchdowns in last year’s game against Iowa; Plummer threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns against the Hawkeyes in 2019.
Double-threat quarterback Austin Burton has played in two games this season, completing all five of his passes.
“We have a room of quarterbacks that everyone has played and everyone has to be ready to play,” Brohm said. “Everything we feel we have to do to win, we will.”
Iowa is undefeated since linebacker Jack Campbell returned from an illness after Game 3 last year. He leads the team and is fourth in the Big Ten with 55 tackles.
“I know having him in the lineup doesn’t hurt,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know if it’s a complete story, but it doesn’t hurt.”
TOWARDS THE NO. 2
Purdue is 5-10 all-time against opponents ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll. A team coached by Brohm played a No. 2 team in 2018, when the Boilermakers defeated Ohio State 49-20.
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