The Iowa football team will be playing in as big of a must-win game as it has played in all season.
The Hawkeyes are already bowl eligible but is guaranteed a bowl game with seven wins. But Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium has not been kind to the Hawkeyes in recent history.
“We’ve got a lot to get ready for, and we’re going on the road,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Haven’t done well there certainly, so that’s one more challenge, and we’ll get to work this afternoon.”
Iowa has won four of the last five meetings, but Purdue holds an all-time 27-13-1 advantage at home against the Hawkeyes and the last time Iowa won at Ross-Ade Stadium was in 2005. And the Boilermakers are playing for bowl eligibility as well. The last time Purdue went to a bowl game was in 2007, and that year they beat Iowa to become bowl eligible.
“Right now, we’re not a bowl eligible team,” Purdue senior safety Albert Evans said. “Don’t get me wrong — the Ohio State win was a signature win for the program. It’s still Ohio State.
“As far as our goals go, we’re still not where we want to be. We have to get to a bowl game and that’s still on the table.”
Purdue has five wins on the season and last week’s win against Ohio State was certainly the biggest of the season. But the Boilermakers also gave up 62 points to Wisconsin earlier this season and has not fared well against balanced teams this year.
The two teams had not met every season in the past, but with the new Big Ten Conference and the fact that Iowa-Purdue are now cross-division rivals, the rivalry may take off in the coming years as the two teams meet every year moving forward. The Boilermakers hold a 45-32-3 edge in the all-time series with Saturday’s game becoming the 81st meeting between the schools.
Iowa has made three road trips this year and is 0-3 in those games. While some Hawkeye fans remain optimistic that Iowa can win its final two road games — at Purdue this weekend and at Nebraska on Black Friday –the team has shown no signs they can win on the road.
“Probably haven’t played as well as the opponent, and that’s been one common denominator,” Ferentz said. “We’ve had three road trips, I believe, and we been outplayed all three times, pure and simple. So it’s a challenge for us to ramp up our level of performance.”
The Boilermakers offense is averaged nearly 27 points per game and around 26 points per game on defense, which are both ranked in the bottom six of the conference. Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve will share time at quarterback, Ralph Bolden is the team’s best running back and three wide receivers pose threats through the air — Antavian Edison, Justin Siller and O.J. Ross.
TerBush had thrown for 1,526 yards, 10 TDs and six picks, while Marve has 438 yards, three TDs and three interceptions. Bolden has rushed for 549 yards and four touchdowns. Edison, Siller and Ross all have at least 31 catches and have combined to score six TDs. And Iowa has allowed the most passing yards in the Big Ten Conference.
“We have a big challenge this week playing Purdue,” Ferentz said. “They’re an excellent football team, really playing well right now and coming off a big win. It looks like they’ve gotten better with each week.”
A positive scenario to this week’s game is that Iowa is 3-0 this season following a loss. A negative scenario would be that Iowa has beaten a team — Northwestern — that has controlled it over the past five seasons but lost to Penn State and Michigan, two teams the Hawkeyes have controlled the past five years.
Purdue is the only team that is playing for bowl eligibility against Iowa during that stretch. Penn State and Michigan State are both bowl eligible while Northwestern and Iowa State are still alive for that feat.
At the start of the week, there were still around 17,000 tickets available for Saturday’s 11 a.m. contest. Ross-Ade Stadium only holds 62,500 so around 45,000 will be in seats this weekend.
Purdue players calling this game one of the biggest
Since 2008, Purdue needed to win its last two games of the regular season to finish at .500, but stumbled each time.
“There hasn’t been a time period this late in the season where we were playing for bowl eligibility,” Siller said. “This is one of the biggest games in my career.”
A victory over the Hawkeyes would prevent a must-win scenario against the Hoosiers, who would love nothing better than to ruin Purdue’s season in the final game.
“We have every intention of coming out and winning both of those games,” Siller said. “We want to be 5-3 in the Big Ten and have a 7-5 season.”
Purdue players enjoyed the win over Ohio State but also added that that victory means little if the Boilermakers slip up in its final two games of the season.
“The bottom line — we’re a five-win team right now,” Purdue linebacker Joe Holland said. “It’s a great win, and it’s a great feeling to beat Ohio State, but that means nothing unless we come out these next two weeks and play to the best of our ability.”
Ferentz said that Iowa wide receiver Keenan Davis felt good Sunday but his status for Saturday’s game against Purdue is unknown. Davis re-aggravated an ankle injury that he suffered a few weeks back.
Also, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and everyone else who has suffered an injury the past few weeks should be ready to go Saturday.