After Michigan lost to Michigan State, Michigan football fans have been left wondering if this is just another team prone to another second-half collapse.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his players have insisted all week that this team is different. Beating Purdue (2-1 Big Ten, 4-3 overall) is the first step in the process of proving it. Here’s what to expect on Saturday against the surging Boilermakers.

Michigan pass offense vs. Purdue pass defense

While there’s no questioning that junior quarterback Denard Robinson played poorly against Michigan State (9-for-24 passing for 123 yards), Michigan fans seem to forget that he has shown promise in the air at times this season. Even with Robinson’s struggles, the 22nd-ranked Wolverines (2-1, 6-1) are still ranked third in the Big Ten in passing yards with 249 yards per game.

Much of that has to do with Robinson, although credit must be given to the receiver corps as well. Fifth-year senior Junior Hemingway and redshirt junior Roy Roundtree have perfected the jump-ball and have both made some huge catches this season.

Purdue ranks sixth in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing an average of 181 yards per game, but the Boilermakers are first in pass-defense efficiency. Cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson have proven to be one of the better starting duos in the league. In just 17 career games, Allen has three interception returns for touchdowns, the most recent coming on Oct. 8 against Minnesota. As a sophomore, he’s already tied for first on the all-time Purdue list for most interceptions for touchdowns.

If the Boilermakers’ defensive line can get some pressure on Robinson like the Spartans did, the Wolverines may once again have trouble through the air. Hoke said sophomore Devin Gardner will get some snaps as well, but chances are he won’t be in long enough to make a real impact on the passing game. With an onrushing defensive line and two solid cornerbacks in the secondary for Purdue, that could spell trouble for Michigan.

Edge: Purdue

Michigan rush offense vs. Purdue rush defense

Eight weeks into the season, Michigan is still searching for a lead back. Junior running back Vincent Smith and sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint have shown promise, but neither has been consistent enough to grasp the starting role. Still, even without a dominant running back, Michigan is third in the conference in rushing offense, averaging 280 yards per game. Robinson is the main reason for that, as he is averaging 70 yards per game.

Purdue is led by senior linebacker Joe Holland, who averages 7.7 tackles per game and has proven to be one of the better linebackers in the conference. The Boilermakers are fourth in the Big Ten in rush defense, giving up an average up 134 yards. Against the Wolverines last year, Purdue gave up 202 yards on the ground — 100 came from Smith, 92 from Robinson.

If Smith emerges like he did last season, the edge goes to Michigan. But even if he doesn’t, Robinson has the ability to singlehandedly take over a game with his legs. That tips the scale in the Wolverines’ favor.

Edge: Michigan

Purdue pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense

In the past couple years, the Purdue quarterback situation has been about as stable as the American economy. Finally, it appears they have found their man in junior Caleb TerBush, although Purdue coach Danny Hope said senior backup Robert Marve will get some snaps on Saturday as well. Through seven games, TerBush has already surpassed the former starter Marve’s total passing yardage from last year. Still, the Boilermakers have struggled in the air for most of this season, averaging just 171 yards per game.

The Michigan secondary, led by junior cornerback Jordan Kovacs, has made big strides this season under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison but is still giving up a very average 185 yards in Big Ten matchups. However, the Wolverines are eighth in the nation in turnover margin — something that has saved Michigan in several key moments this season.

With a relatively unproven quarterback in TerBush and a shaky backup in Marve, the secondary should be able to keep the Boilermakers in check through the air. And if it can force a turnover or two as it has in the past, that could turn a close game into a comfortable win.

Edge: Michigan

Purdue rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense

On paper, the Boilermakers are without a big-name running back. Yet they are still in the top half of the Big Ten in rush yards, averaging 168 yards per game. Purdue has seven different backs who have double-digit carries this year — six of whom have scored touchdowns. Juniors Ralph Bolden (82 carries for 398 yards and three touchdowns) and Akeem Shavers (65-325-5) lead the way on the ground, but they’re just two of several.

The Michigan rush defense, one of the worst in the conference last year, has been solid so far this season. The Wolverines rank third in the Big Ten, giving up 131 yards per game. Senior defensive tackle Mike Martin leads a strong defensive line that has been a big part of Michigan’s defensive turnaround.

Look for Martin and the rest of the line, along with a solid linebacking corps led by redshirt junior Kenny Demens, to key in on stuffing the Boilermaker running game early, forcing Purdue to throw the ball more than it would like.

Edge: Michigan

Special Teams

To his credit, sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons has been a pleasant surprise so far this year. After finishing last season 1-for-5 on field goal attempts last season, he is 4-of-6 and has had just one extra point blocked this season. After serving a four-game suspension to start the season, sophomore punter Will Hagerup has taken reins of the starting duties and has pinned four of his 10 total punts within the opponent 20 yard line.

Purdue, though, has one of the best punter/kicker duos in the country with punter Cody Webster and kicker Carson Wiggs. Webster is ranked fifth in the nation, averaging more than 46 yards per punt. Wiggs just recently had an 11-game streak in which he made at least one field goal snapped. His 53-yarder against Minnesota was the longest field goal made by a Big Ten kicker this season.

The Boilermakers also have two of the more dynamic punt and kick returners in the conference in senior Waynelle Gravesande and freshman Raheem Mostert.

Edge: Purdue

Intangibles

Forced turnovers have saved Michigan several times this year — so has its red zone defense, which is ranked third in the nation.

Close games often come down to who wins the turnover battle and who can stop the opposing offense from scoring when it’s in the red zone. If this game is close, that very easily could be the deciding factor, and chances are, Michigan will have the edge in both categories.

The Wolverines are desperate to prove that they’re different from the past three Michigan squads, who have all collapsed in the second half. They’re going to do whatever it takes to get a “W.’

Edge: Michigan

Final Score: Michigan 28, Purdue 17

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.