Conference Championship Sunday: Manning vs. Brady, Newton vs. Palmer, the country can't wait til 3 o'clock. Oh, except for us here in Big Ten country. We can't wait until 1 o'clock, when two of the best teams in the conference meet in a game that could have championship ramifications.
(Only) Game of the Day:
Purdue Boilermakers at Iowa Hawkeyes
I think we all remember what happened the first time these two teams met in Mackey, I certainly won't forget it. However, since then Purdue has seemingly recovered and has even shown the ability to beat the press against non-Hawkeye teams. This game is about revenge, for Boiler fans, and the conference championship, for Matt Painter, his players and the fans. With a win, Purdue solidifies their position of being tied for third in the standings, pulls within one game of Iowa, leaving rival Indiana alone at the top. This win would also be huge for the Boilers' national profile. They've won games against good teams, but this would be their first win over an elite, highly-ranked team with the added bonus of it being on the road.
Iowa also knows how important this game is for the Big Ten standings, but a win does more than just keep them at the top. It gives them a sweep of 2 of the favorites from the preseason league championship talk. A discussion that a lot of media left the Hawkeyes out of. Iowa is now in great position to win the Big Ten with no losses and three of their toughest games already checked off.
Will Iowa use the press again, and how will the Boilers respond? That's the big question going into this game. My feeling is that Matt Painter's team will be prepared to deal with it this time around, but Iowa is talented enough to win even if Purdue can break pressure. The Boilers have their own highly-rated defense, but Iowa managed to score 50 in the second half against them last game. The Hawkeyes are hard to stop with POY candidate Jarrod Uthoff, and underrated guards Peter Jok and Mike Gesell. In fact, Purdue is the only team to stay within 10 points of Iowa during the Big Ten season. Seniors A.J. Hammons and Rapheal Davis will need to have great games on both ends of the floor and motivate their team if the Boilers hope to win. Their chance at winning the Big Ten might hang in the balance.