Purdue Missouri Football

Purdue's Da'Wan Hunter and Markus Bailey celebrate as they walk off the field after beating Missouri 35-3 earlier this season in Columbia, Missouri.

AP

Four things that can position the football teams from Iowa and Purdue for success in Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game at Kinnick Stadium:

Purdue (4-6, 2-5)

1. Play like your hair is on fire

This game is essentially Purdue's season.

Win it, the bowl hopes are alive and well heading into a season finale against Indiana.

Lose it, start thinking ahead to 2018 and do what you can next week to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket, the traveling trophy that has been presented to the winner of that in-state rivalry since 1925. Indiana has won it the last four seasons.

First-year coach Jeff Brohm has reinvigorated the Purdue program and fan base, not an easy task. From the energy it brought against a then-rated Louisville team in the season open to a 35-3 rout of a Missouri team now chasing its own bowl berth, the Boilermakers have brought it every week this season.

An influx of more than a dozen transfers - junior college, graduate and traditional - has changed the culture of the program and Iowa can expect to face a very different Boilermaker team.

2. D it like you mean it

The biggest difference in this Purdue team can be found on the defensive side of the ball.

The Boilermakers will line-up with a four-man front most of the time, but expect Purdue to be active against an Iowa front five which was unable to give quarterback Nate Stanley adequate protection last week at Wisconsin.

Purdue is 19th in the country in scoring defense and has allowed opponents to reach the end zone no more than twice in any of its last six games. Michigan was the last team to accomplish that, using a second-half surge to put 28 on the board in an 18-point win on Sept. 23.

The Boilermakers have also held their last three opponents - Nebraska, Illinois at Northwestern - to fewer than 100 rushing yards.

Linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley is the middle of it all. He leads Purdue with 81 tackles and shares the team lead with 9.5 tackles for a loss. He'll work to be Akrum Wadley and James Butler's worst nightmare.

Defensive tackle Gelen Robinson also has 9.5 tackles for a loss and the son of former Boilermaker basketball great Glenn Robinson can move his 6-foot-1, 280-pound body.

Purdue has recorded 58 tackles for a loss this season, including five sacks by Markus Bailey at linebacker and four from Danny Ezechukwu from his end position.

3. Fill the air with footballs

Winds expected in the 20-to-30 miles-per-hour range are expected on a raw November day at Kinnick Stadium, but the Boilermakers won't be bashful about putting the ball in the air.

Quarterback Elijah Sindelar threw it 60 times last week in a 23-13 loss at Northwestern, completing 37 for 376 yards and two touchdowns.

The 6-4 sophomore is expected to make his sixth start of the season, his second since a dislocated ankle ended David Blough's season. He's thrown for 1,315 yards, including nine touchdown passes and six interceptions.

Much like Iowa, Purdue's passing game has been more horizontal than vertical this season, but the Boilermakers have depth with seven receivers with 16 or more catches on the year.

Jackson Anthrop, a West Lafayette native, leads the way with 37 catches, but Purdue is putting the ball in the hands of its tight ends frequently.

Starter Cole Herdman averages 17.8 yards on 16 catches while back-up Bryson Hopkins, the son of Moline native and former Illinois all-American and 13-year NFL vet Brad Hopkins has caught 20 passes and averaged 15.2 yards per grab during his sophomore year.

4. Win the field position game

As Iowa struggles to return punts - the Hawkeyes haven't attempted a return in two weeks - opposing punters have been giving Iowa fits with their legs recently.

Wisconsin's Anthony Lotti delivered 58 and 62 yard punts last week that helped the Badgers with the field position game against an Iowa offense which took three snaps in its own territory.

Purdue has a punter capable of creating issues as well.

Joe Schopper averages a modest 41.4 yards per punt - 10th among Big Ten punters - but has dropped 20 of his 53 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line and has sent 13 punts 50 yards or more.

After watching a pair of punts skip more than 15 yards beyond the return man last week, coach Kirk Ferentz has said there could be a lineup change this week.

Iowa is currently ninth in the Big Ten in punt returns, averaging 6.3 yards.

Iowa (6-4, 3-4)

1. Establish the run

It starts up front, as usual, and as Iowa saw last week when it finished with 25 yards on 26 carries the lack of a ground game can be lethal.

The Hawkeyes have totaled fewer than 100 yards on the ground four times this season and has lost all four of those games.

Iowa averages 131.4 yards per game on the ground for the year - 110.6 in Big Ten play - while Purdue is surrendering 139.4 rushing yards and has given up fewer than 100 yards on the ground it its last three games.

The ability of Iowa to gain some traction against a Purdue looms large.

Seniors Akrum Wadley and James Butler have combined for 1,074 yards on the ground this season and Wadley enters the Boilermakers' game 216 yards shy of becoming the first Hawkeye to run for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since Fred Russell.

2. Get downright defensive

Wisconsin pulled away from the Hawkeyes last weekend in part because Iowa became its own worst enemy.

As the game played on, Iowa players found themselves trying to do too much up front which led to issues for linebackers which led to ... well, you know how it all played out.

Getting back to the fundamentals this week should help Iowa compete and the point of emphasis on the practice field includes players sticking to their responsibilities and nothing more.

That philosophy has served Iowa well over time.

Purdue will test a Hawkeye secondary that will likely be without starting safety Amani Hooker again and has cornerback Manny Rugamba hobbled to a degree.

The ability of Josh Jackson and Michael Ojemudia to come up big again at cornerback and effective play from Miles Taylor and Jake Gervase at safety will be critical this week.

3. Catch the pass

Iowa's issues in running the ball were not helped by continued issues with drops last week.

That impacted drives and helped lead to an 0-for-13 conversion rate on third down for the Hawkeyes. Iowa found itself with third-and-10 or longer on five occasions, and worked with shorter than third-and-5 scenarios just three times against Wisconsin.

Ten games to the season, the Hawkeyes' receiving corps remains a work in progress and the inability to catch catchable passes only complicates things for an offense which needs to be hitting on all cylinders to be effective.

4. Celebrate the moment

Saturday's game is the final home game for 18 Hawkeye seniors and quarterback Nate Stanley was quick to bring up this week the importance of sending the group out with a win in its final game at Kinnick Stadium.

They'll all be honored on the field prior to the game, joined by their parents, and then will be tasked with creating one final memory at home in their college career.

There will be emotions, and the quickness of the Hawkeyes' ability deal with those before kickoff and get back to trying to win a seventh game will be important.

Iowa's bowl destination will be impacted by its performance over the final two weeks of the regular season, beginning with its work against Purdue.

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