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Chad Leistikow and Danny Lawhon recap the Penn State loss and talk about what it means for the Hawkeye's Big 10 future. Brian Powers, bpowers@dmreg.com

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Nate Stanley is at the front of the line of people that want to move past No. 18 Iowa’s disheartening loss at Penn State.

The question is: What can the Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten Conference) do to make sure he returns to “Good Nate” in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2-televised game at Purdue (4-4, 3-2)?

Folks on this week’s Hawk Central Facebook Live session were highly interested in how offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz will get his quarterback going in West Lafayette, Indiana.

I’ll go back to something that Ferentz told ESPN’s Todd McShay that he learned from Bill Belichick during his time with the New England Patriots: “Whatever they expect you to do, do the exact opposite.”

If you’re Purdue, what would you expect Iowa to do?

For one, the Boilermakers know that Stanley might be limited in what he can do. He injured his right thumb late in that Penn State loss, although head coach Kirk Ferentz said it was just a sprain. Maybe they creep closer to the line of scrimmage to crowd the short-passing game.

They also could surmise that after last week’s pass-game struggled, the Hawkeyes will desire to return to their run-first, power-football roots.

So … how about an early deep shot to surprise everyone?

First snap: Play-action, throw long to Ihmir Smith-Marsette — the Hawkeyes’ fastest, big-play wide receiver, who has been limited to a combined three catches for 13 yards in Iowa’s last three games.

Whether it works or not, it might loosen everyone up after a tense loss in Happy Valley.

I'll predict the Hawkeyes lean toward their Maryland plan of hogging time of possession with a ground-control approach. Purdue has a better offense than Penn State. It’s flying high at 495.4 yards per game in Big Ten Conference play, including a league-best 6.8 yards per play.

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The Iowa quarterback injured his thumb in the second half at Penn State. He also discusses the Hawkeyes' anemic red-zone offense of late. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

TOPIC: Should Iowa consider giving Peyton Mansell a series?

Not unless Stanley’s thumb becomes a hindrance. 

Iowa players revere Stanley, a team captain, as a leader. The coaches do, too. Stanley’s ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage provides valuable stability for a second-year coordinator. Coaches believe he gives Iowa its best chance to win.

If Mansell does have to play Saturday, though, don't discount the Hawkeyes. Mansell has a little moxie to him, and Michigan State just beat Purdue last week with a redshirt freshman backup quarterback (West Des Moines Valley alum Rocky Lombardi).

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Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz said he hopes his junior quarterback will start Saturday at Purdue, then makes an excellent baseball analogy. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

TOPIC: Why aren’t running backs catching more passes?

It was thought that running backs would play a heavy role in Iowa’s passing game, especially considering Ferentz's Patriots DNA.

Yet the trio of Ivory Kelly-Martin, Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young has just 11 receptions through eight games. Sargent has shown the best acumen for pass-catching out of the backfield. But remember, all three guys are young sophomores trying to learn all aspects of their position.

I think their role in the pass game grows over time, as Akrum Wadley’s did on his way to 64 receptions in his final two seasons. Maybe this is a week to look at the screen game as another avenue to get Stanley going, especially if his thumb isn’t 100 percent.

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Iowa safety Jake Gervase explains how the team is bouncing back from the 30-24 loss at Penn State, in context with Big Ten West title hopes. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

TOPIC: Who stops Rondale Moore?

One of the themes of this week’s Iowa player interviews was how it would reel in the dynamic 5-foot-9 Purdue freshman.

Swarm to the ball, but don't over-pursue. Moore, the Big Ten’s leader in all-purpose yardage, is a big play waiting to happen.

Look for Amani Hooker, now a hybrid safety/outside linebacker, to be matched up at times against Moore.

No doubt Iowa coaches studied what Michigan State did to bottle up Moore on Saturday. Though Moore caught 11 passes, mostly on screens, he was limited to 74 receiving yards with a long gain of 18.

TOPIC: What’s the plan at linebacker?

Interchangeable parts have been the weekly plan for Iowa, and Saturday presents another bag of linebacker mystery.

“We’ll see,”  Kirk Ferentz said about whether Kristian Welch (six starts) or Jack Hockaday (four starts) is the middle linebacker. Welch sprained his foot against Penn State, and Hockaday replaced him. Both are good to go.

It shouldn’t be ruled out that Welch and Hockaday play together, moving Djimon Colbert (five starts at weak-side linebacker) to the bench. And now Nick Niemann (four starts) is healthy and without a home with Hooker manning his old outside-linebacker spot against passing teams. Niemann could slide inside, too.

Bottom line: Iowa’s healthier at this position than it has been for a while. I'll guess Hockaday (middle), Welch (weak) and Hooker (outside) — which would be Iowa’s sixth starting combination this season.

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