What makes college football so great is upsets, and Iowa will have to avoid one against Purdue
Purdue Boilermakers football is non-existent to the top teams in the Big Ten. They went just 2-10 last season and have combined for a measly six wins over the past three seasons. The last time they made a bowl game was in 2012 when they lost to Oklahoma State and finished 6-7 on the year, making 2011’s 7-6 season the last time Purdue finished over .500. Purdue hasn’t been ranked in the AP Top-25 since 2007, and have failed to finish a season in the top-25 since 2003, one of only two times since 2000.
Yet, just like every year, Iowa will play Purdue, this year in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Hawkeyes will enter the game having won the last three games in the series, and a possible undefeated record on the line. Last season, Iowa demolished Purdue by a score of 40-20 as the Hawkeyes cruised to their 11th win to start the season. However, if Iowa isn’t careful this season, it could be a different outcome.
In a game that starts at 11AM CT on a likely brisk Saturday in the middle of October, very few people outside of the Hawkeyes and Boilermakers fanbases will be watching. It’s a game that won’t be the first highlight shown on SportsCenter, barring a major upset. The only real intrigue towards this game for the rest of the nation is the possibility of Purdue knocking off Iowa, and ending a possible 6-0 start to the season and 18 game regular season winning streak.
Still, this is not a game that Iowa can look past on their schedule. Following four seemingly easy games to start the season for Iowa, their schedule picks up fast. They have a date with Northwestern at home on homecoming weekend and then travel to Minneapolis the following weekend as the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers will play for the annual Floyd of Rosedale trophy.
Following their bout with Purdue, the Hawkeyes will take on their toughest three game stretch – Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan, with a bye week after Wisconsin. Out of the five other games surrounding their matchup with Purdue, Iowa should be favored against everyone except Michigan. With that being said, a trip-up against any of them isn’t out of question, therefore why should we be somewhat worried about Purdue, a bottom-feeder team in the Big Ten?
They averaged 2.2 turnovers per game a season ago and both their offense and defense ranked outside of the top-90 in the nation. Simply put, they were a disaster last year, a disaster that the Hawkeyes easily rolled through in week 11. However, playing Purdue in week 6 following two tough games and with their toughest stretch of the season coming up, a lapse in concentration could happen to the Hawkeyes.
Despite losing their final two games in 2015, the Hawkeyes did a great job staying focused all season. They didn’t let the outside noise get to them when they started to get ranked and there was a possibility of them making the College Football Playoff. Instead the Hawkeyes kept their eye on their next opponent, never thinking they already had a game won.
That same mentality will be needed this season as Iowa is now heavy favorites to win the Big Ten West. With an experienced core returning to Iowa City, I wouldn’t expect many lapses in judgement throughout the week at practice or during games. This won’t be a team with inexperienced players who pick up bonehead penalties late in games that cost them. Although upsets happen to even the best of teams.
It happens every year, it’s what makes college football so fun and heart wrenching at the same time. In 2007, #2 Michigan lost to Appalachian State in week one. More recently, Oklahoma fell to their arch-rival Texas Longhorns in the middle of the season, while Michigan State dropped one to Nebraska. Whether injuries or just overlooking an opponent was the reason, they happen every season, and Purdue is that team for the Iowa Hawkeyes this season.
Purdue has the makeup to shock the nation with a win over the Hawkeyes. Besides the schedule setting them up to be overlooked by Iowa, the Boilermakers will likely be out of the Big Ten picture by mid-season, therefore can play care-free and with no pressure. While no team wants to be at the bottom of the conference, it does loosen some teams up and lets them take chances they wouldn’t if they were competing in a season-dependent game.
Plus, they’ll be at home with their home crowd giving them an extra boost. Granted they got blown out many times at home last season, Purdue’s lone Big Ten win did come at home against a decent Nebraska team – one that made a bowl game. While the Cornhuskers weren’t a top-25 team last season, their loss to Purdue came at an eerily similar place in the schedule.
It was week nine, although it was in the midst of a stretch where they faced Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern and Michigan State the following week. The injury to quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr obviously played a factor in the loss, although that shouldn’t have been enough to knock the Cornhuskers completely off their game, especially not on defense where they allowed Purdue to hang 55 points on them.
When it comes down to it, the pressure amounts as the season progresses, as Iowa should know from last season. The significance of a loss becomes greater and it’s easier to overlook opponents that should be easily beaten. That’s what makes these teams like snakes in the grass – they jump out of nowhere and bite you when you’re least expecting it.
Iowa will be somewhat banged up by this point of the season, as every team is, but to what extent is unknown. Even though the Boilermakers won’t win more than a couple of games this season, Iowa can’t overlook anyone on their schedule, even a two-win team in the midst of the toughest stretch of the season, because it could become detrimental easily.