No. 19 Iowa, Purdue try to stay in Big Ten West title race
No. 19 Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten, No. 16 CFP) at Purdue (4-4, 3-2), 3:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN2)
Line: Purdue by 3.
Series record: Purdue leads 47-38-3.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Both teams need a win to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten West crown following road losses. An Iowa win would give it needed momentum into next week’s potentially crucial game against division leader Northwestern. The Boilermakers need two wins to become bowl eligible. Beating a third ranked team this season would set up an even bigger opportunity when Wisconsin visits Ross-Ade Stadium.
Purdue’s ground game vs. Iowa’s run defense. When the Boilermakers struggled against the Big Ten’s top rushing defense (Michigan State), their offensive efficiency dropped dramatically. If Purdue intends to turn things around this week, it needs D.J. Knox, Markell Jones & Co. to perform better against the conference’s No. 2 run defense.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Iowa: Defensive ends Anthony Nelson and A.J. Epenesa. The tag-team pass rushers have made life miserable on conference quarterbacks all season and get another chance Saturday against a team that likes to throw the ball. Nelson ranks second in the Big Ten with 6½ sacks. Epenesa is tied for third with 6.
Penn State: WR Rondale Moore. The freshman leads the league in receptions (68) and all-purpose yards (181.1) while ranking second in yards receiving per game (100.3). He’s one of the nation’s most exciting newcomers, he’s a matchup nightmare for most defenses and is just plain fun to watch.
FACTS & FIGURES
Coach Kirk Ferentz needs one win to join Woody Hayes, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Bo Schembechler and Joe Paterno as the only Big Ten coaches with 150 conference victories. ... The Boilermakers are 2-1 against ranked teams this season and last beat three Top 25 teams since 2003. ... Three Iowa running backs have posted single-game career highs during the last three weeks (Toren Young, Ivory Kelly-Martin and Mekhi Sargent). ... Purdue was 4-1 in November and December last year under coach Jeff Brohm. ... Hawkeyes QB Nate Stanley needs 86 yards passing to move into the top 10 on the school’s career list and one TD pass to break a tie for No. 5 with Matt Sherman (42).