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Iowa ready to kick conference slate off on right foot

BY DANNY PAYNE | SEPTEMBER 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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Roughly a month ago, expectations were sky-high for the Iowa football team. Those hopes have since tapered off in the minds of some.

But on Saturday, the Hawkeyes have a golden opportunity to start their quest to Indianapolis and the Big Ten title game.

After a 3-1 start in nonconference play, Iowa will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, to play Purdue.
In November 2013 in Ross-Ade Stadium, Iowa put a 38-14 beating on the Boilermakers. However, the Hawkeyes aren’t taking this year’s Big Ten opener lightly.

“I think we probably respect our opponents a lot more than people outside the building do sometimes,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s just conference play. If you study football, conference play is really unpredictable.”

Even though Ferentz and other members of his team may not think so, the statistics say the Hawkeyes should have little-to-no-trouble in West Lafayette.

Iowa will face a team that’s improved somewhat from last year, which wasn’t a very challenging thing to do. The Boilermakers won just one game in 2013, and they are 2-2 this year.

Still, head coach Darrel Hazel’s squad is in the bottom half of nearly every major category in the Big Ten.

Purdue ranks seventh in passing defense, eighth in total defense, ninth in scoring offense, 10th in rush offense, 11th in passing offense and rushing defense, 12th in total offense, 13th in scoring defense.

One of those categories is of particular interest to Iowa. Last year, the Hawkeyes racked up 333 rushing yards against Purdue, easily their best performance of the season. Jordan Canzeri led the way with 165 yards (a career high) and a touchdown.

Damon Bullock was next with 85 yards, and Mark Weisman totaled 30 yards and one score.
However, Canzeri felt there was even more he could have done in that contest.

“If anything, now that I’m playing in this one, I’m ready to do more than I did last year if I do get that opportunity,” Canzeri said. “… There were a couple holes I missed, and the one fumble I had, I thought if I would have held onto that, I would’ve gone the distance.”

Regardless of that fumble in the second quarter, the Hawkeyes torched Purdue, which could very well be the case Saturday. Iowa tallied a season high in rushing yards last week against Pittsburgh with 133 yards.

That statistical advantage should also alleviate some of the pressure on whichever Hawkeye quarterback gets the nod. The controversy has been well documented since C.J. Beathard engineered a second-half comeback last week at Pittsburgh, but starter Jake Rudock’s health is in limbo, as of this writing.

Whichever quarterback — a dinged-up Rudock or relatively inexperienced Beathard — starts will presumably have a strong running game to rely on.

Ahead of the season, many thought this looked like a cupcake game for Iowa — and it very well still might be. But given the current situation of the team, this game seemingly looks even better for Iowa than it may have earlier in the year.

“Every opponent we look at as a big opponent,” wide receiver Damond Powell said. “It’s good to get ready for your conference. But at the same time, you have to play every game like it’s a conference name.”

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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