Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Assessing Purdue

Buck Bravo was the first on the Gopher football blogging scene to offer his prediction for our tilt with the Boilermakers on Saturday, and despite saying that we need to "Beware the Boilermaker Special," Buck, or Mr. Bravo, as it were, predicts a 35-24 Gopher win.

As you know, I've approached most of the games this season with what I like to call healthy skepticism. As you also probably know, I've been wrong... a lot... and I've been happy about that. Let's see what I can come up with this week.

Purdue Passing... The game against Purdue this Saturday is another of those games that makes me nervous. As Buck points out, the Purdue offense has the second highest passing yards/game in the Big10 so far this season with 258/game, while the Gophers defense has given up more passing yards/game than any other Big10 team, with 260/game.

It's been well documented that the players surrounding Curtis Painter have not been thrilled with his game recently. Painter has been pulled from Purdue's last three games in favor of back-up QB Joey Elliott. But Elliott separated his throwing shoulder in last week's loss to Purdue, and will not be available the rest of the season... that means its Painter's show.

Despite a poor season, Painter has had a good career at Purdue, and had a big game against the Gophers throwing for 338 yards and 3 TD's at the Metrodome last season.

Gopher defense... Joe Tiller's teams always had a knack for putting up big passing numbers against Gopher (I'm struggling not to single out Glen Mason's defenses here) defenses that were slow and, frankly, lacked Big Ten talent. Tiller knows how to put together a passing game plan that exploits a passing defense with weaknesses, and I would expect him to put together a plan full of slants and deep routes against the Gophers.

Below is how the Gophers stack up against the rest of the Big10 in some key defensive statistical categories. (I hope that I don't have to tell you that the Gophers ranked DEAD LAST in the conference in every one of these categories last year.)
Total yards/game: 9th (382.3)
Passing yards/game: Last (260.1)
Rushing yards/game: 6th (120.9)
Points/game: 5th (18.7)
Clearly the most important stat of all is that the Gophers have won 6 games, and the defense has been a huge part of that, based mostly on the points/game stat. While the Gophers are giving up a lot of yards through the air, they are doing an honorable job of stopping the run and keeping opponents from scoring.

The reason that the passing yards/game number is so high this season is because of games like Illinois (462 yards), Northern Illinois (326), Bowling Green (261), and to some extent, Indiana (244), although I don't think anyone would call the Gophers pass defense poor that day, they were subject to two very long passes and that was about it.

What about our offense vs. Purdue's D... The Gophers rank 3rd in the Big Ten in Pts/game with 29.9, while only ranking 8th in the conference in yards/game at 361.1. They are 4th in passing yards/game and 10th in rushing yards/game.

Here's where Purdue ranks in the Big Ten:
Points/game: 9th (27 ppg)
Yards/game: last (407.4 yards/game)
Rushing yards/game: last (185.1 rushing yards/game)
Passing yards/game: 8th (222.3 passing yards/game)
Translation: Purdue's defense ain't that good. The Gophers should be able to move the ball through the air, which the haven't had much trouble with, and Eskridge's emergence as a running threat should continue against the Boilermakers.

Let down game? Although Coach Brewster thinks that he has the formula for maximizing the bye week, the Gophers have had some tendency this season to follow up nice wins with underwhelming performances. (Win over BG, struggle against Montana State. Win over FAU, come out flat against OSU.) After losing to a touch OSU team in Columbus, the Gophers looked really flat against Indiana, but won, and then came out blazing two weeks ago at Illinois.

It looks like Coach Brewster has done a good job of keeping his squad confident, but grounded. And people who spend a lot of time around the program think it's legit. Big 10 teams have had a tendency for coming out flat after their bye week this season, but the Gophers really needed this week off to get healthy and get rested after surprising everyone in the first 7 games.

I would expect the Gophers to come out a bit rusty, but luckily they are playing a Purdue team with plenty of question marks to help them shake off the rust.

Prediction... It's looking like weather could play a factor in Saturday's game as rain is predicted, so this could slow down the scoring for both offenses. As of now, it's looking like Purdue is favored by 1 pt.... CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? A 2-5 team favored by a point over a 6-1 nationally ranked squad.

Should I maybe predict a loss? The Gophs seem to do well when I do that... but...

Jeremy's prediction: Minnesota 24 - Purdue 16
Jeff's prediction: Minnesota 24 - Purdue 20

Go Gophers, Ski-U-Mah!!!

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