IOWA CITY, Iowa - A hangover from a big win last week could occur for No. 2 Iowa Football Saturday when it plays host to unranked Purdue for Homecoming. The Hawkeyes should have plenty of motivation for this one, however.
The Boilermakers have won three of the last four meetings in the series, including a 24-20 triumph in last year's season-opener for both teams. That cost Iowa in its pursuit of a West Division championship, eventually won by Northwestern.
The 2020 contest in West Lafayette marked the debut as a starter for Hawkeye quarterback Spencer Petras. After dropping that decision and one the following week against Northwestern, Petras has won 12 starts in the row.
Iowa's defense also is looking for some redemption here. Purdue wide receiver David Bell has carved it up the last two campaigns. He caught 13 passes in each meeting for a combined 318 yards and four touchdowns.
In addition, the Hawkeyes are positioned to reach the College Football Playoff for the first time ever by winning out. All of the above serves as plenty of incentive in avoiding any type of letdown after beating then No. 4 Penn State last week.
"At this point we know we're going to get the other team's best shot every week. There are no easy games," Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said. "Coach (Ken) O'Keefe, coach (Kirk) Ferentz, one of the biggest things they're preaching right now, which I think is a really good concept, is the law of the price tag.
"It's essentially that the price never goes down, it only goes up. And in order to be successful, everyone on the team has to pay the price."
Last year's loss to the Boilermakers eats at Petras, providing personal motivation to avoid any type of letdown this week.
"I still have a pretty bad taste in my mouth from that game last year," he said. "I'm really looking forward to getting out there and getting to compete against them again because it's never fun losing. I just want to play really well this Saturday."
Safety Jack Koerner has roamed the Hawkeye secondary the last two seasons while Bell has made it his personal playground.
"He's a great player. He just seems to find a way to get open," Koerner said. "If the ball is in his area, he's pretty good at coming down with it. That's obviously a point of emphasis this week, staying on receivers, being aggressive at the point of attack, getting the ball out.
"We're a way better team right now than we were last year when we played them. So, we're hoping that experience and learning from last year will be really helpful this year."
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm is employing some gamesmanship this week by keeping a secret who will be his starting quarterback. It looks like Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell are competing for the spot, both guys having started this year without separating from his challenger.
Austin Burton could also emerge behind center, Brohm said. Maybe Iowa sees all three guys.
"I think that all of our options are on the table, and we have a room of quarterbacks that have all played and they all have to be ready to play," Brohm said. "Whatever we feel like we need to do to win, we're going to do. Our quarterbacks are on board.
"Whoever is in there I think will give it their all and give us everything they have and play to win. So we'll have to have a little bit of creativity and make sure that we utilize all their talents."
It might not matter who plays quarterback for the Boilermakers if they can't find a running game against Iowa's stingy defense. They're averaging a Big-Ten worst 2.8 yards per carry this season.
A normally potent team on offense, Purdue is averaging just 23.6 points per game, which ranks 11th in the Big Ten. It's got to be frustrating having finally made strides on the other side of the ball.
Brohm addressed the defensive shortcomings during the offseason by announcing Ron English, Brad Lambert and Mark Hagen would share coordinator duties. It's worked. Purdue ranks third in the conference allowing just 15.4 points per game.
"They're a little less multiple with their fronts. Their coverages are slightly different. They play pretty similar to Iowa, a lot of under Cover-4, and stuff like that. But a lot of the same guys, a lot of really good athletes out there, some players we have to be really aware of," Petras said.
Boilermaker defensive end George Karlaftis, one of the best players in the league, sits atop the scouting report. He has two sacks, five quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and 4.5 tackles for loss.
Linebacker Jaylen Alexander and safety Marvin grant also stand out on Purdue's defense.
The Boilermakers, coming off a bye week, hope their defense can make it a four-quarter game. They're searching for a signature win. They don't come much bigger than knocking off the No. 2 team in its stadium on Homecoming.
"It'll be a great test for our team, and hopefully we have a good week of practice and we try to raise our level of play and go up there and compete and try to come out there on a good note," Brohm said.
TV ANNOUNCERS: Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek and Tom Luginbill on ABC.
SERIES: Purdue holds a 49-39-3 advantage in the series that began with a 16-0 Iowa win in 1910. Purdue has won three of the last four, but Iowa has won 10 of the last 15, including Purdue’s most recent trip to Iowa City in 2019, which was also on Homecoming.
The Hawkeyes are 22-20-2 all-time in games played in Iowa City. Iowa and the Boilermakers battled to a 21-21 tie at West Lafayette in 1994. That game marks the last tie game for Iowa before the college football tie-breaker system was put in place.
BETTING LINES: The game opened with Iowa as a 11.0-point favorite at Vegas Insiders (VI) on Sunday. That number rose to the Hawkeyes -12.0 as of Wednesday afternoon. The total was at 43.0, down from a 45.5 open.
-Purdue is 8-2 Against The Spread in its last 10 games as an underdog.
-Boilermakers are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
-Iowa is 7-1 ATS in its last 8 games overall.
-Hawkeyes are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 conference games.
PURDUE PLAYERS TO WATCH
-David Bell, WR – The true junior from Indianapolis paces the Big Ten with 109.8 yards per game. He averages 16.3 yards per catch. He combines size, speed and strong route running to make him a difficult cover for any defense.
–George Karlaftis, DE – Strong and athletic with a good motor, Karlaftis stresses offenses whenever he lines up. He'll be a big test for the young Iowa tackles. He has two sacks, five quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and 4.5 tackles for loss.
-Jaylen Alexander, LB – A really active player on the second level, Alexander often finds his way to the ball. He leads the Boilers with 28 tackles (2.0 for loss). He has a sack and four pass breakups.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Purdue: Rinse and repeat in this space weekly - don't turn the ball over against Iowa. Easier said than done.
Iowa: Continue playing complementary football. Let the defense and special teams win the field-position battle and be opportunistic on offense.
-The Boilermakers are 5-10 all-time against opponents ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
-Jeff Brohm missed the Iowa game last season due to a positive COVID-19 test. Offensive coordinator Brian Brohm served as acting head coach for the win.
-Under Brohm’s leadership, Purdue has seen 28 games with at least one student-athlete topping 100 yards receiving, including nine games with two Boilermakers over the century mark and one with three different players.
-The last three Iowa-Purdue matchups have been decided by one score.
-Brohm guided the Boilermakers to their best season start since 2012. Purdue’s 3-1 start matched the school’s 2012 group and was the best since Purdue’s 5-0 start to the 2007 season.
-The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 2 in the AP and Coaches polls, their highest ranking since Nov. 26, 1985 (#2). The Hawkeyes are receiving one first place vote in the Coaches Poll.
-Iowa has won 12 consecutive games. The Hawkeyes have outscored their last 12 opponents, 403-161, averaging 33.6 points per game offensively and allowing 13.4 ppg during the winning streak. The 12-game winning streak ranks fourth all-time in school history (20, 1920-23; 14, 1899-00; 13, 2008-09).
-Iowa has won nine straight games against Big Ten opponents (2020-21) for the second time in program history (2001-02 (10). Iowa has won 12 straight overall for the first time since opening the 2015 season with 12 straight wins. Iowa reached the 2015 Big Ten Championship game and accepted an invitation to the 2016 Rose Bowl game.
-Iowa leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in the country in scoring defense (13.0). Iowa’s total defense (274.2) ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth in the country.
-Iowa leads the country in interceptions (16), takeaways (20) and turnover margin (+15). The Hawkeyes have 80 interception since 2017, more than any team in the country. Nine different Hawkeyes have at least one interception this season.
Purdue – Don West
Iowa - David Drake
HOWE I SEE IT: The chess match between Brohm and Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker never disappoints. The Purdue coach is one of the few that can consistently find holes in the Hawkeye defense.
We'll see if that happens again. This is one of Iowa's better defenses in memory, one that takes advantage of quarterbacks who take chances. Boilermaker signal callers do just that and have been inconsistent this season.
The biggest issue for the visitors might be trying to beat the home team without a rushing attack. Zander Horvath, who hurt Iowa on the ground last year, is out with a leg injury and his squad averages a Big-Ten worst 2.8 yards per carry.
I don't see Purdue beating the Hawkeyes with one arm. It could be an ugly, defensive battle, but Iowa will prevail.
PREDICTION: IOWA 23, Purdue 13.
Rob Howe is in his 25th year covering University of Iowa Athletics. He's worked for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Hawkeye Nation, Hawk Fanatic, Hawkeye Insider and more. Please follow @RobHoweHN on Twitter.