Michigan’s championship run begins or ends on Saturday. When the
spread offense of Joe Tiller comes to Ann Arbor, Michigan will have
its first true test of the season.
Iowa and Oregon have shown in the recent weeks that each team’s
win over Michigan was more the Wolverines’ doing than of the
Hawkeyes’ or Ducks’. Let it be known, that if Purdue beats
Michigan, it won’t be because the Wolverines shot themselves in the
foot. The Boilermakers have plenty of their own weapons to do
Michigan passing offense vs. Purdue passing defense:
Purdue’s cornerbacks are not anything that spectacular as
individuals, but they play spectacular defense when combined with
the Boilermakers’ safeties and linebackers.
Safety Stuart Schweigert has three interceptions this season and
is going to keep Michigan’s deep ball in check. The Wolverines’
trio of Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston will need
to use its speed to its advantage. When Purdue drops linebacker
Niko Koutouvides into underneath coverage, he is deadly to passing
games – already with two interceptions this season. The Wolverines
must continue to utilize their 10-to-15 yard routes if they want
move down the field on this defensive backfield, as Koutouvides
will have the short-range stuff under wraps.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Purdue rushing defense: Ohio
State’s rushing defense is quite possibly the best in the nation.
It thrives on destroying teams’ offensive lines and gives up just
60 yards a game. Purdue gives up 66 a game.
If Michigan wants to prove its ready for a Big Ten title, it
begins with a Chris Perry 150-yard rushing performance – but that’s
easier written than done.
Purdue passing offense vs. Michigan passing defense: No
Jacob Stewart and a recovering Marlin Jackson equals not so much
fun for Michigan’s secondary against the four- and five-wide
receiver sets. Give credit to Leon Hall stepping in for Jeremy
LeSueur when the senior was injured. Hall played well enough to
earn a starting spot in Michigan’s nickle or dime sets, but even he
hasn’t been prepared for the spread offense that Purdue is going to
Purdue rushing offense vs. Michigan rushing defense:
Guess what? Purdue runs the ball successfully, too. Remember how
Perry ran so well against Minnesota out of the shotgun? Purdue does
that for a living. Third-and-six means nothing to the Boilermakers,
because while a team is covering four wide receivers, Purdue
quarterback Kyle Orton or running back Jerod Void runs up the
middle for a first down.
But even with that said, Michigan’s front seven is playing some
error-free ball (sans the Minnesota game) and with the excitement
of LaMarr Woodley on the line, the Wolverines are looking like the
great defenses of old.
Special teams: This is the first time all season when
there aren’t pressing concerns for Michigan’s special teams.
Besides the rotation at kick returner, everything else seems to be
Garrett Rivas is consistent at kicker, Steve Breaston is …
well, Steve Breaston and Michigan’s punt formation is actually
looking normal. Purdue is hardly a pushover at these positions, but
the difference is Breaston. Purdue lacks a game-breaker, which is
what makes special teams a difference-maker.
Intangibles: Both teams are making a push for the Big Ten
title – Purdue a run for the Sugar Bowl (as every one-loss team is
still in contention). It’s tough to say which team will come up
with that game-changing play, as that is what it will probably come
Michigan 27, Purdue 21 (OT)