Iowa CITY, Iowa - Iowa heads into its final two games of the regular season with something for which to play - next year.
Sure, there's a remote possibility that Iowa wins the Big Ten's Legend Division. Michigan State would have to lose to Indiana and Northwestern for that to happen. But, hey, there's a chance.
Iowa (6-4) also could improve its bowl outlook with victories at Purdue and Nebraska the next two weeks. So, there's that.
Really, though, the Hawkeyes are trying to build for the future.
"The minute we're out of the race, we're trying to build on the next one, trying to get ready for the next one," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "At some point we're going to be in one."
Unless there's a miracle finish for Iowa, the Hawkeyes will go without a league title for the seventh year in a row. A strong finish this year could springboard them into '12.
"Our deal has always been just to try to work hard every day, and when you do that, you're putting something in the bank account," Ferentz said. "Sooner or later you're going to save enough hopefully to get what you want to get."
The Hawkeyes will need to overcome road woes to make that happen. They're 0-3 away from home this year and go to West Lafayette on a five-game road skid.
"We've had three road trips (in '11), I believe, and we got outplayed all three times, pure and simple," Ferentz said. "So it's a challenge for us to ramp up our level of performance."
Purdue comes into the contest with a 5-1 mark at home, including a 26-23 overtime upset of Ohio State last week. The Boilermakers will be honoring 22 seniors on Saturday.
"It will be an emotional game," Purdue Coach Danny Hope said. "We're going to try to keep the Senior Day in perspective until after we play the game and win. Senior Day isn't all that special of a day unless you win the ballgame.
"A lot of times the home team comes away with a loss. So Senior Day is a big day. We will honor or seniors, send them out right. The only way to send them out right is with a win."
HAWKEYE HUDDLE: Iowa fans traveling to Purdue for Saturday’s contest against the Boilermakers can make plans to attend the “Hawkeye Huddle” prior to kickoff.
The Huddle will be held from 9:30-11 a.m. ET at the University Inn Conference Center and Suites, 3001 Northwestern Ave. in West Lafayette.
Admission to the Hawkeye Huddle is free and includes cash refreshments, snacks, door prizes, cheerleaders and Herky. Visit www.jointheiclub.com for additional information.
TELEVISION: The game will be televised to a national audience by BTN. The announcers are Tom Hart, Derek Rackley and sideline reporter Lisa Byington.
RECORDS, RANKINGS: Iowa is 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten.
Purdue is 5-5 and 3-3. Neither team is ranked.
HISTORY: This is the 81st meeting between the two schools in football. Purdue leads the all-time series by a 45-32-3 margin. The Hawkeyes have also won four of the last five. Purdue leads the series (27-13-1) in games played at West Lafayette. Iowa’s last win at Purdue came in 2005 (34-17).
THE LINE: Caesar's in Vegas installed Iowa as a 2 1/2-point favorite to open on Monday. It moved to three on Wednesday and then back to 2.5 a day later.
It certainly is an interesting line. A lot of Hawkeye fans probably are asking themselves how a team that has lost two of three and not won on the road this season is favored at Purdue?
Well, despite beating Ohio State last week, the Boilermakers have been equally as inconsistent as has Iowa. They searching for their first back-to-back wins this season. They also have the emotions of senior day and need a victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
The Hawkeyes have come back to win the week after their three losses this season. Their quarterback situation is much more settled than the one at Purdue.
The over-under number is 51.5.
Here are a some interesting trends:
-Hawkeyes are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games as a favorite.
-Hawkeyes are 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 conference games.
-Hawkeyes are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 games in November.
-Hawkeyes are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 road games.
-Hawkeyes are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games as a road favorite.
-Boilermakers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games.
-Boilermakers are 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 games as a home underdog.
-Boilermakers are 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 games as an underdog of 0.5-3.0.
-Boilermakers are 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 games following a straight up win.
Iowa LG Matt Tobin/Brandon Scherff vs. Purdue DT Bruce Gaston - Iowa struggled with running the ball last week against Michigan State's physical defensive front. It made things more difficult for the Hawkeye defense, wh spent too much time on the field.
Gaston leads a Boilermaker line that brings to mind the Spartans' front. Iowa needs to do a better job opening holes if it hopes to reverse its fortune.
Iowa QB James Vandenberg vs. Purdue Secondary - The Iowa quarterback will be looking to win his first road game as a starter. He'll need to play much better than he has away from home to this point.
The Boilermakers are ranked 32 nationally in pass defense. They're 50th in pass efficiency defense.
Purdue RB Ralph Bolden vs. Iowa Defensive line - LeVeon Bell had been struggling this year. The Michigan State running back got it going against the Hawkeyes, however.
Bolden has fought through injuries in his career, but he seems healthy now and is having a production season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Iowa has been susceptible to the rush this season. They've struggled with poor tackling and positioning.
Purdue QBs Caleb Terbush and Robert Marve vs. Iowa's Secondary - The Hawkeye back end gave up too many big plays last week against Michigan State and that seems to be a theme in losses this season.
At this point, the secondary should know it's not going to get help from a consistent pass rush. As a result, it can't gamble. It needs to tighten up.
Purdue- Kaulana Judd (questionable, illness), Peters Drey (out, back).
Iowa - Mika'il McCall (questionable, leg), Keenan Davis (probable, ankle, C.J. Fiedorowicz (probable, head), Jim Poggi (doubtful, undisclosed), Nolan MacMillan (doubtful, hernia).
-Antavian Edison looks to extend his consecutive games with a reception streak to 19 straight.
-Purdue is 11-5 all-time on Nov. 19. Saturday’s contest will mark the first time since 1904 that Purdue will be playing an opponent on this date other than Indiana (10-0 win vs. Culver Military Academy).
-With the victory, Purdue defeated Ohio State in Ross-Ade Stadium in back-to-back appearances by the Buckeyes for the first time in school history
-Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston were recognized by the Big Ten Conference for their efforts in the Boilermakers’ 26-23 overtime victory over Ohio State. Short was named as the Co-Defensive Player of the Week and Gaston the Co-Special Teams Player of the Week for Nov. 14.
-In addition to the Big Ten Conference honors, Kawann Short was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week.
-Sophomore Cody Webster enters the Iowa game ranked 18th in the nation in punting with an average of 43.5 yard per kick.
-Including Purdue’s 217 yards on the ground against Minnesota on Oct. 8, the Boilermakers are 9-1 during head coach Danny Hope’s tenure in which they rush for 200 or more yards.
-Linebacker Joe Holland, defensive end Gerald Gooden, defensive tackle Kawann Short and offensive tackle Dennis Kelly have all started 33 or more games during their Purdue careers.
-Purdue’s kickoff return unit enters the Iowa game ranked second nationally and first in the Big Ten with a 27.4 return average
-Caleb TerBush’s consecutive starts to open the 2011 season marks the first time since Joey Elliott started all 12 games in 2009 that a Boilermaker signal caller has been under center for 10 straight starts.
-Senior WR Marvin McNutt, Jr. and sophomore RB Marcus Coker give Iowa a 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-rusher in the same season for just the second time ever. In 2000, RB Ladell Betts rushed for 1,090 yards and five touchdowns, while WR Kevin Kasper totaled 1,010 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
-As a team, Iowa is third nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (33.7), tied for ninth in fewest turnovers (12), 15th in red zone defense (73%) and net punting (39.3), tied for 17th in fewest penalties per game (4.6), tied for 24th in red zone offense (88%) and 28th in pass efficiency (145.03)..
-The Iowa coaching staff (nine full-time assistants and head strength and conditioning coach) has 110 years of combined years of service under Coach Kirk Ferentz.
-Since falling by a 31-6 margin at Purdue in 2007, Iowa has lost just one game by more than 10 points (37-21 vs. Michigan State last weekend).
-Both Iowa (6.0) and Purdue (6.3) allow less than seven yards per punt return.
- Iowa has just one player on its roster from the state of Indiana, that being junior PK Trent Mossbrucker. There are no Iowans on the Purdue roster.
THE PREDICTION: Iowa has lost two of its last three games. As a result, I have picked the wrong way two out of three times in that span.
I worried about Michigan State last week because of the revenge factor. But I felt like the style suited the Hawkeyes. Boy, was I wrong.
The Spartans physically controlled Iowa for much of the four quarters, especially when they built a 31-7 halftime advantage. Iowa put together a nice comeback after the intermission, but its bed was made before the break.
Purdue brings another edgy defense against the Hawkeyes. Its front seven plays tough and Iowa needs to match that nastiness.
The Hawkeyes should be motivated and maybe they can get an emotional edge with it being Purdue's senior day. Iowa should be more loose as its playing for a better bowl while the Boilermakers are trying to get to the postseason.
In the end, I just don't like this Hawkeye team on the road.
It's looked woefully flat in its two Big Ten games away from home.
Purdue 27, IOWA 24