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Michigan at Purdue
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: Fox (Joe Davis, play-by-play; Brady Quinn, analyst; Bruce Feldman; sideline)
Radio (Purdue): Sirius 81 / XM 81 / Tunein.com (Tim Newton,play-by-play; Pete Quinn, analyst; Kelly Kitchel, sideline; Rob Blackman, studio host)
More: Physical line, attacking LBs spark improvement against run | Coordinator's Corner: Nick Holt ($) | LB Barnes to get more playing time? | Mailbag: Why the run defense is better ($) | Media Mania (predictions) | Opponent view: Michigan | Coordinator's Corner: Brian Brohm ($)
Purdue running game vs. Michigan against the run
The Boilermakers ground game, especially Tario Fuller, has been strong in the last two weeks. Fuller has picked up nearly 240 yards in wins over Ohio and Missouri. But the Bobcats and Tigers are no Wolverines, and this will be a supreme challenge for not only the Purdue running backs, but the offensive line. Michigan held Air Force to 82 yards in the first half last week, and the Falcons didn't attempt a pass. Purdue will be doing well if it can rush for 82 yards for the game against the nation's ninth-best run defense.
Purdue passing game vs. Michigan against the pass
Conventional wisdom says for Purdue to pull the upset, the Boilermakers are going to have to keep quarterback David Blough (or Elijah Sindelar, if he is in the game) upright. Michigan's vaunted D has been susceptible to the big play in the passing game, giving up one last week against Air Force, but it still ranks No. 7 nationally in pass efficiency defense. The Boilermakers' offensive line's ability to give their quarterback time to throw, and also staying out of third-and-long situations, will be important.
Michigan running game vs. Purdue against the run
Michigan will try to run the football, that is almost a guarantee. Back Ty Isaac has averaged 7.1 yards per attempt, and as long as his ribs are healed enough to be effective, the Boilermakers' much improved rush defense will be challenged. Backups Chris Evans and Karan Higdon are talented, too (what Michigan backs aren't?), and while their numbers aren't up to Isaac's to date, they have the ability to cause big problems. Also, Coach Jim Harbaugh is probably growing weary of hearing his team is just 1-of-10 in the red zone, so don't be surprised if using the running game to show physical superiority is Harbaugh's plan come Saturday.
Michigan passing game vs. Purdue against the pass
Much-maligned Wolverine quarterback Wilton Speight and the passing offense is really the reason for the red zone troubles. And the fact freshman receiver Tarik Black, who led the team with 11 catches for 149 yards, is out for the game (and likely at least the regular season) hurts the passing game. But Michigan has other playmakers on offense with six different players with a reception of over 35 yards in their first three games. And tight ends Nick Eubanks and Zach Gentry may have caught just five passes between them so far in '17 but have averaged 26.4 per reception.
Freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones had an essential, if not electrifying, moment with his 79-yard punt return for a touchdown that delivered the host Wolverines in a tight game with Air Force. Kicker Quinn Nordin also tied a school record with five field goals against the Falcons. Purdue has improved in kick coverage and has been great in net punting (sixth nationally), but the Wolverines' athleticism is a big concern in this area. In addition, Purdue needs to hit on all scoring opportunities, so converting on field goal attempts greater than 40 yards (J.D. Dellinger is 0-1 and Spencer Evans is 0-2) may be a big factor in a tight game.
For Purdue to pull the upset, this needs to be its hole card. A capacity or near-capacity crowd will be on hand, and while temperatures will be at near-record levels, the Boilermakers will need to feed off the crowd's energy to have a chance to pull the upset. It has been nine years (2009 vs. Ohio State) since Purdue has been a double-digit home underdog and won, but it will need help from the crowd and maybe some Michigan mistakes to get it done.
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