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Breakdown: Michigan vs. Purdue

Sam Wolson/Daily
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BY MICHAEL EISENSTEIN AND RUTH LINCOLN
Daily Sports Editors
Published November 5, 2009

Michigan rushing offense vs. Purdue rushing defense

Michigan fans should see something new this weekend — a healthy Brandon Minor.

Rodriguez said Wednesday that the senior tailback has “done more than he's probably done in a month, or more.” The Wolverines are a different team when their most physical back is in the game. Minor has just 322 net yards this season, but with five touchdowns, you know he can get the job done. If Minor is indeed healthy enough to take the majority of the carries, he should take over the game.

Purdue boasts the Big Ten’s ninth-ranked rush defense, allowing 168.4 yards per game. Michigan’s success really depends on how the offensive line can gel this week. Against Illinois, the O-line was streaky against the Big Ten’s worst rush defense. But if the group can find some rhythm, it should open things up for Minor and freshmen quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson to break loose.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan passing offense vs. Purdue passing defense

It’s been four straight games, and still no touchdowns from Forcier.

Much of that has been due to injury, but the freshman has really tapered off since his late-game comeback attempt in East Lansing more than a month ago. In those four games without a touchdown pass, Forcier has a lowly 47.3 completion percentage and is just 36-for-76.

Purdue stands at a respectable fourth in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing 194.7 yards per game. David Pender and Brandon King are no slouches in the secondary. Pender is best in the Big Ten with 11 pass breakups this season, and King has three interceptions.

The Wolverine receivers have not impressed during Michigan’s recent losses, with dropped passes their new mantra. With slot receiver Martavious Odoms out Saturday, it will take a lot to get Michigan’s receivers going.

Edge: Purdue

Michigan rushing defense vs. Purdue rushing offense

Let's call this the battle of the mediocre.

Michigan's rush defense is No. 85 in the country. Purdue's rush offense isn't much better at No. 73.

That is sort of surprising, considering how the Wolverines' front four have emerged as the strongest unit of the defense. But big play after big play (not sure if you've erased Juice Williams from your memory yet) has hampered Michigan.

The Boilermakers will likely rack up a good chunk of change — unless the Wolverines stick to their assignments and play solid gap defense, which sophomore defensive tackle Mike Martin said they didn't do against Illinois.

The best indicator for whether the run defense is playing well won't be the average yards per carry or total yards, but rather how many over 20-yard carries Michigan gives up.

The Wolverines can defend the ground game well, but they just can't afford to lose the game on a single play.

Edge: Push

Michigan passing defense vs. Purdue passing offense

For the Wolverines to win Saturday, they need to win this matchup.

Michigan's secondary has been shredded in recent weeks, and it was particularly bad in its last home game against Penn State, when quarterback Daryll Clark threw for 230 yards and four touchdowns.

Since then, the Wolverines have lost former starting cornerback Boubacar Cissoko for a violation of team rules, while defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has struggled to find an effective personnel combination in the secondary.

The big plays that Michigan fans have come to expect against their defense probably won't disappear against Purdue, which despite a rough season, has a very good passing offense. Against Iowa and Indiana, the Wolverines gave up a combined 554 passing yards. The Boilermaker offense ranks higher than both of those.

So yes, it's going to be a long day for the Michigan secondary.

The only saving grace for the Wolverines? Purdue has thrown 12 interceptions, the second-highest total in the Big Ten. But Michigan hasn't forced a turnover in three games, so it will be interesting to see if it can capitalize on the opportunity.

Edge: Purdue

Special Teams

Fifth-year senior Zoltan Mesko had one of his worst games of the year punting last week, but he appears to have a significant advantage on Saturday.

Michigan is still the best punting team in the Big Ten, while Purdue sits in 10th, nearly 10 net yards per punt fewer than the Wolverines.

With both teams averaging about 20 yards per kickoff return, punting will likely be the difference in field position this weekend.

And if the game comes down to a field goal, Michigan is also at an advantage. Purdue has missed over 30 percent of its field goals, while fifth-year senior Jason Olesnavage is 8-of-9 on the year.

Edge: Michigan

Intangibles

The Wolverines need this win. Badly.

It’s not a must-win to become bowl eligible, but the Wolverines will only have an uphill battle ahead at Wisconsin and against Ohio State if they can’t beat the Boilermakers.

For two weeks now, it’s seemed the bowl-eligibility factor would play some motivational role. Instead, the Wolverines have choked. This is their best (some would argue last) chance to lock up a postseason game.

Edge: Michigan

Score prediction: Michigan 35, Purdue 29


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