Friday, November 6, 2009

Purdue Preview

There's a chance you remember the play above. It was one of the more painful moments of Michigan 2008 and all but ended a game that Michigan mostly deserved to win. Purdue decided that they'd pull out all of the stops against struggling Michigan, and waited until their last drive of the game to bust out the back breaking hook and ladder for the go ahead score with only seconds remaining. Ugh. Numbers pleez:
34th nationally
194.67 YPG
42nd nationally
235.33 YPG
88th nationally
168.44 YPG
73rd nationally
136.78 YPG
84th nationally
28.00 PPG
80th nationally
24.56 PPG
63rd nationally
220.33 YPG
91st nationally
193.89 YPG
85th nationally
161.78 YPG
14th nationally
207.65 YPG
70th nationally
25.11 PPG
27th nationally
31.56 PPG
Michigan appears to have an advantage rushing the ball (like they do against everyone in the Big Ten) and can put the ball in the endzone one more time than the Boilermakers. That is when they're not vomiting the ball to the other team the entire game. Purdue is a team who's had similar turnover woes. Joey Elliott has thrown 11 INTs this season already. Elliott is mostly a pocket passer and tends to hurl the ball a lot, so his comfort in the pocket will be a focus. He's not afraid to scamper out when he has the chance, though, notching 63 carries on the season. Elliott is a senior now who is finally getting quality playing time and making the most of it: 179/310 for 2,081 yards, 14 TDs, and 11 INTs. He isn't setting the world on fire, but probably will against Michigan's secondary.

The only advantage here is that Juice Williams won't be making Michigan's linebackers look silly. The bad news is MOEAKI!! Expect to see a lot of max protect sets with tight ends slipping into the secondary. This is the formula for success against Michigan. If the defensive line can get to Elliott quickly and often, Michigan will win this game. Also, the linebackers staying in rushing lanes will be supremely important, as will be their ability not to completely bite on play fakes. The chances of these things happening are slim.

Purdue's defense is approximately as bad as Michigan's, which bodes well for Michigan's running game, going up against the 88th ranked rushing defense. Expect them to load the box though and force Michigan to put the ball into the air. Michigan's rushing attack has been able to move the ball against much stouter defenses in the past, though, and I expect that Brown and Minor (if healthy; please, please be healthy) should be able to go to work.

Ralph Bolden is Purdue's main rushing attack and will get most of the carries. He's a sophomore who's been largely unremarkable this year, save for games against Toledo and Northern Illinois. He had a nice game against Oregon (4.3 YPC on 29 attempts, and finding the endzone twice), but against most other FBS opponents, he's been in th 2.5-3.5 YPC range. I can't tell whether or not a good performance by Bolden is a good or bad thing for Michigan. On the one hand, the more he runs, the more Purdue isn't throwing the ball. On the other hand, linebackers and secondary and non-Warren corners. Again, the key for success in this game is getting to Elliott. Bolden should be a non-factor.

Prediction: Purdue is a difficult team to get a handle on. They lost to Notre Dame by three and to Oregon by two, beat Ohio State, were shut out 37-0 by Wisconsin, and lost to Northern Illinois, Northwestern, and Minnesota. But I've read this script before and it doesn't end well for you and I. This game is as must win as must wins get for Michigan who, if they go down here, will have to beat Wisconsin on the road or Ohio State at home, neither of which look particularly promising. (I have had this sneaking feeling though, that, like MSU preparing for Michigan all season, Michigan has been spending time preparing for Ohio State and will come away with a victory there. Michigan probably just isn't a good football team.)

Once again, winning the turnover battle will be supremely important, and if Michigan is behind in this category, you can expect them to lose this game in spectacular fashion. My heart is telling me that Michigan is going to win this game, but given Purdue's recent ability to beat real football teams and apparent peak late in the season, my mind is telling me that Michigan is going to get beaten in this one. Does desperation count for anything? Not when you're team isn't any good. If Michigan had caught Purdue earlier in the season, I'd have put this game firmly in M's column (even if Michigan had been performing the way they had lately). As it's 9 games in, and who knows how many times Michigan will turn the ball over, I have to put a conditional on it:

Michigan 35-20 if they win the turnover battle
Purdue 28-20 if Michigan loses the turnover battle


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