Michigan passing offense vs. Purdue passing defense:
After losing to Michigan State last Saturday, offensive coordinator Calvin Magee had the most telling evaluation of Wolveirne redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet’s play: “Inconsistent, like it always is.” Though Threet’s bruised elbow is no longer a factor, there’s no reason you should expect the offense to suddenly play as a cohesive unit in a road game.
The Boilermaker defense is clutch against big teams. Purdue’s defense ranks last in the Big Ten, but it allowed just 20 points against No. 3 Penn State, far below the Nittany Lions’ average of 30.7 per game. And against No. 13 Ohio State, Purdue allowed just 97 passing yards.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Purdue rushing defense:
Junior running back Brandon Minor has been a high point for the Michigan offense during the last two games, scoring five consecutive touchdowns for the Wolverines starting against Toledo and ending against the Spartans. Freshman running back Sam McGuffie is doubtful with a concussion, so Minor will likely take the bulk of the carries.
Purdue’s defense has had key sacks in recent games, and linebacker Anthony Heygood ranks third in the Big Ten in tackles. This battle depends on whether Michigan can build off Minor’s momentum and continue its progress in the running game.
Purdue rushing offense vs. Michigan rushing defense:
Purdue running back Kory Sheets has been the Boilermaker’s best offensive weapon, averaging more than 100 yards per game. The Wolverines’ run defense has been their strength. But neither Sheets nor the Michigan front seven is that good, which speaks to how much these teams have struggled.
Purdue has struggled through the air, which will allow Michigan to load the box and slow the Boilermaker running game.
Purdue passing offense vs. Michigan passing defense:
The Boilermakers pass a lot (seventh in the nation in attempts) but not efficiently (108th). With a lackluster offensive line and receiving corps, Purdue coach Joe Tiller’s spread offense has failed in his final season.
Boilermaker quarterback Matt Painter (separated shoulder) is questionable. He’s going through a disappointing senior season, which actually began with Heisman hype, and has never played well against Michigan in his career. Backup Justin Siller, was a running back earlier this season. Neither is likely to have much success Saturday.
But for all of Purdue’s passing woes, Michigan’s pass defense has struggled mightily. The Wolverines are 101st in the nation in pass defense. Freshman Boubacar Cissoko could see the field with sophomore Donovan Warren and fifth-year senior Morgan Trent, which could help close holes in coverage.
Purdue’s offensive line is weak, and that should allow Michigan’s solid defensive line to get pressure on the Boilermaker quarterback, whoever that may be.
As has become typical this season, punter Zoltan Mesko is the Wolverines’ bright spot on special teams. Mesko leads the Big Ten in average punting yards and is a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award for the best punter in college football. Kick returns are always an issue, but the Wolverines showed improvement against Michigan State.
The Spartans couldn’t make a field goal against the Wolverines last week. And against Minnesota a week ago, Purdue kicker Carson Wiggs missed a 41-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of a close game. Purdue also isn’t strong in the other special team areas.
Neither team has played well this year, but the Boilermakers are at home. Michigan is winless on the road. Purdue is 2-3 at Ross-Ade Stadium, but its three losses came to ranked teams. Tack on the Wolverines’ youth, and the Boilermakers have a solid advantage.
Prediction: Purdue will win 23-21