Why do I insist on going to see this game? There’s no way I’m having fun between kick-off and the final whistle. Maybe it’s because I love the pain, but more obviously it’s because I love spending time with my college friends. You can find me at Harry’s this weekend drinking Colorado Root Beers.
Who: Purdue Boilermakers (West Lafayette, IN; Big Ten Conference)
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm (28-29 at Purdue, 58-39 overall)
What: The annual contest between my dear Hawkeyes and my alma mater
When: November 5, 2022
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
71.6%: Aidan O’Connell is coming off his first senior season with the Big Ten’s No. 2 completion percentage. Against the Hawkeyes last season, he hit 75% in a standout performance. Starting QBs under Brohm have hit a 65% completion percentage against the Hawkeyes and a solid 2.4% interception rate that is well below the 5.3% interception rate that Iowa has imposed on opposing quarterbacks.
127: The downside of Purdue’s pass-happy offense is rushing yards/game (84.8) that ranked 127th in the nation and worst among Big Ten teams over 20 yards.
3: Number of Purdue receivers who have previously played for Iowa. Tyrone Tracy, Jr and Charlie Jones made headlines, but Curtis Deville, Jr. once played for Iowa…high school. In Louisiana.
22.4: Purdue suffered a ton of defensive coordinator turnover and struck gold with the hiring last season of Ron English and Mark Hagen as defensive coordinators. It was their second-best defense under Brohm and their best by a touchdown since his freshman season, when the Boilers went 20.5 PPG.
Aidan O’Connell (#16, QB, 6th year, 6’3″, 210 pounds): Purdue has once again become the home of quarterbacks (non-Ohio State Division) since the hiring of Jeff Brohm in 2017. He’s built offenses around fast passing and low-risk shooting from the field. He adds gimmicks to keep teams guessing and isn’t swayed by a quarterback’s pedigree, which allowed former extra AOC to take over in 2019 and keep him in 2021 after sustained injuries in 2020.
He’s a 68.4% career passer and the proverbial drinking straw. He faces a major turnover at receiver with the loss of David Bell to the NFL, but TE Payne Durham returns as safety cover and a red zone weapon.
O’Connell is a classic pocket passer, but he’s sneaky enough to make a play when needed. His “every big play” highlight reel from last season is over 12 minutes long. If Purdue is going to have a great season, it will be because O’Connell built on a great 2021 into a stratospheric 2022. Sure, he had 11 interceptions, but out of 440 passing attempts, that’s a manageable rate (2.5%).
Cam Allen (#10, S, Sr, 6’1″, 195 lbs): Allen had a day against the Hawkeyes last year, hitting two of his seven career interceptions on errant throws. He also had one of his two fumbles recovered in the 2020 game.
He left the corner after his second season and is the veteran presence needed to bolster a Purdue defense that has been iffy in previous seasons.
Kydran Jenkins (#44, DE, Jr, 6’1″, 270 lbs): Would you believe me if I told you that Purdue lost George Karlaftis but retained its biggest trasher from last year? Well, that’s the case with Jenkins returning after a five-sack season with eight tackles for a loss. It will be used both as a hand end in the ground and in a two-point position to take advantage of its speed on the edge.
Iowa struggled to protect the passer against Purdue and could be in trouble if Purdue can jump ahead and turn the Hawks into a one-dimensional offense.
Best case: The Hawks are playing with an advantage that Kaevon Merriweather hinted at at Big Ten Media Days.
Phil Parker orchestrates a masterful game plan, resulting in a defensive score. Iowa controls the tempo on offense and wears down the boilers with a solid running game.
Worst case: Charlie Jones starts the game with a return touchdown. Tyrone Tracy is a force in the run & pass game, as Jeff Brohm uses him as his final chess piece to take down the Iowa defense. The Hawkeyes are struggling to do anything on offense.
Can Phil Parker outsmart Jeff Brohm? I watched a good chunk of Manningcast last year during Monday Night Football and one of the most interesting bits of information he said during a game was, when asked if he’d rather play a defense that does one thing and does it well or one that does a ton of things but nothing well.
His response was to play a defense that you know exactly what they are doing. He brought up an example of an interception he threw against an unwanted ball defense and told his coach “he shouldn’t have been there!” You always know where the Iowa defense will be.
Jeff Brohm took advantage of that in all five meetings against the Hawks, resulting in four wins and a David Bell scramble in 2019 (and 2020 and 2021). I trust him to make wine out of water with his relatively shallow receiving body and very precise QB. Phil Parker’s best chance is to change things up a bit to keep Brohm guessing instead of playing the same defense over and over.
After all, isn’t it madness to do the same thing and expect a different result?