The Purdue Boilermakers will try to rebound from last weeks loss by welcoming in Northern Illinois. The Huskies (3-0) will be the third opponent in a row that went to a BCS bowl game last season.
Purdue (1-3, 0-1) is facing a must win game. The Boilermakers are in the middle of a rough stretch that could end their season before the halfway point. A win on Saturday would go a long way towards saving the season and help this team regain momentum.
The Boilermakers will have their work cut out for them as one of the better offenses in the country. NIU is averaging 30 points per game and has a very talented quarterback.
Here’s what to watch for:
- Stopping Jordan Lynch. The Huskie QB should be on the Heisman watch list this season. He has thrown seven touchdowns, ran for two more, has 662 passing yards to go along with 404 yards rushing, and only two interceptions this season. Stopping him will not be an easy task. The best way to beat him is to force Lynch to throw deep. If Purdue gives up routes underneath, then Lynch can dink-and-dunk his way down the field or use his legs to beat the defense. Tight intermediate coverage will be key in this game, as well as keeping Lynch in the pocket since Purdue has struggled against mobile QBs this season.
- The Shootout. NIU’s defense can’t make enough stops to avoid a shootout. The Huskies have won their three games by three, 10, and four points. Purdue has struggled at times on defense as well. They have had a tough schedule so far and have only managed to contain Indiana State and somewhat offensively challenged Notre Dame. With NIU’s prolific offense and its terrible defense, this game has all the markings of a high scoring affair. And speaking of when the Purdue has the ball…
- Find the Offense. For Purdue, if they can’t find offensive consistency against NIU, then when will it happen? This could be the worst D that the Boilermakers will face all season. The Huskies are in the bottom third of the league defensively and are giving up nearly 34 points per game. Somehow, NIU’s defense has managed to force eight turnovers in three games (likely due to the quality of the opponents) but even still haven’t been able to put away games. Purdue has been awful offensively and this will be the best chance to build some confidence and get into a rhythm.
- Rob Henry. Yes, his play has been key every week, and every week he has disappointed. But NIU has struggled against the pass, and gave up six passing touchdowns to Eastern Illinois last week. Henry has shown that he has an understanding of the playbook at this point in the season, now he has to apply the knowledge. His accuracy has left a lot to be desired, but NIU has one of the absolute worst secondaries in the country which is giving up 319 passing yards per game. Simply put, if Henry can’t find success against NIU, he won’t be able to all season. Even against IU.
- Akeem Hunt. Hunt is clearly Purdue’s best player on offense, but so far has been unable to get much traction. He is very dangerous in the return game and has been effective as a receiver (leads the team in catches). But as a running back, he has underwhelmed this season. NIU is subpar at defending the run (or anything really) and has been giving up 174 yards per game to opponents. Hunt has to get it going against NIU if Purdue is going to have a chance at victory. An effective running game will allow the Boilers to control the clock and keep the ball out of Lynch’s hands, which might be better than allowing the defense to try and get a stop.
This is tough game to call. Both teams are facing each others strengths, NIU offense vs Purdue defense, and weaknesses, Purdue offense vs NIU defense. The more desperate team and the home team are one in the same in this game, and should have an advantage.
That said, I don’t believe that Purdue will be able to slow down the NIU offense enough to win this game. Purdue would have to keep the Huskies under 30 points to win, something that hasn’t happened all season. Conversely, the Boilermakers would have to score 30+ to win, a feat they have yet to accomplish.
NIU wins a shootout over Purdue, 35-28.
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