Friday, November 12, 2010

Purdue preview

Michigan is now 1-1 against inexperienced starters, with a shredding at the hands of may-not-be-terrible Matt McGloin and an up and down day against Nathan Scheelhaase. Next up, Michigan gets to take on what's left of the Purdue quarterbacking depth chart in Sean Robinson. But before we get to that, the numbers:
Passing115th nationally
285.56 YPG
28th nationally
262.44 YPG
Rushing84th nationally
168.11 YPG
9th nationally
273.44 YPG
Scoring104th nationally
33.89 PPG
12th nationally
38.89 PPG
Passing64th nationally
218.22 YPG
114th nationally
137.33 YPG
Rushing49th nationally
142.78 YPG
39th nationally
173.22 YPG
Scoring74th nationally
27.67 PPG
111th nationally
17.56 PPG
So... Michigan needs to win this game; Purdue is thoroughly awful. Their defense is in the middle of the pack nationally, and given what Michigan did to Illinois' top-20 defense last week, that shouldn't be a concern at all. On the other side of the ball, Purdue has little or no offense, ranking in the bottom 10 of passing and scoring offense.

Freshman Sean Robinson didn't even see playing time until four weeks ago when he came in against Minnesota. This is because he's a freshman and if Purdue had any luck at all, they wouldn't have to be playing him this year. But their quarterback position has been thoroughly destroyed by injuries and now this is where they find themselves. On the year, Robinson is 32/68 for 233 yards (3.3 YPA (!)) and a 2/4 TD/INT ratio. On the ground, he's no more impressive, boasting 29 carries for 58 yards and no rushing touchdowns. But those numbers need to be tempered a bit as his only three career starts are against Illinois, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. We can expect Robinson to be better than those numbers (especially against Michigan's horrid defense) but he's the least likely of anyone to truly pick apart Michigan's defense.

Speaking of which, despite a fair amount of statistical analysis that says Michigan's defense was terrible last week, I was pretty encouraged by the improvements of the D against Illinois. The move back to a base 3-4 look was largely positive and if Michigan sticks with it, I think the defense could be whipped into functioning, non-crater shape by the year's end. With Craig Roh's move to the defensive line hopefully permanent, Michigan could actually turn in a decent performance, so long as the secondary avoids injuries and doesn't totally implode.

Michigan's offense is going to move the ball. Easily. This shouldn't even be a contest. Although Purdue may have the best defensive lineman in the Big Ten in defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. If Taylor Lewan can effectively shut down Kerrigan, Michigan should have no problem in this game. I also expect Michigan to largely run away from Kerrigan's side of the field, and we'll probably see the return of Denard optioning off of the playside defensive end. Otherwise, the Purdue defense shouldn't provide any resistance to this offense.

Prediction: Michigan wins. This should be the easiest game Michigan has all year in the Big Ten and should look more like UConn than Indiana or Illinois. Purdue's offense is anemic behind what is essentially Michigan's secondary: a young prospect that's being forced into the lineup way before he should. Robinson showed good things in the first half against Wisconsin before properly imploding. So while I expect Robinson to have a far better day than he's shown all year, his inexperience and youth will cost the Purdue offense a few too many times.

I expect to see Michigan come out in primarily a 3-4 set again, and I expect it to perform pretty well. I was encouraged by the defensive performance against Illinois and think that with a few more games in the 3-4 system, we start to see some of the wrinkles ironed out. Michigan will hold a decent running attack mostly in check and Purdue's passing game will be thwarted on bad passes or negative plays. Though I do expect to see Michigan victimized on more quarterback roll-out passes than we've seen the last few weeks.

Offensively, this should be a game of little resistance. Michigan's offense will only stall when they do it to themselves, and we should see a similar onslaught like we did against Illinois. Denard will have a huge game 200/200 and should account for three or four touchdowns. We will even see him break a long run again.

Finally, Michigan wins the turnover battle though not by much. The defense forces maybe one turnover but Purdue's defense doesn't provide much fight as Michigan's offense gets it clicking early. Greg Robinson will show another game of defensive improvement as Rich Rod and company allow him to continue running his schemes, but there are still a few infuriating breakdowns. Ultimately, though, this should be an easy one. Michigan 42-24


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