Purdue v. UND Predictions
Maybe I have fallen into the Kool-Aid and I can't get up. Maybe it was that bowl of ganja flakes I ate for breakfast this morning. Maybe I have been replaced with anti-Holtz. Who knows, I am giving Purdue a better than 50% chance of winning this game. I suspect the best team in the land (and leading candidate for BCS national champ - based purely on their SOS) lead by multiple Heisman trophy winner Pickles Clausen will be looking past a rebuilding Purdue this week.
I hope the boys in the trenches are eager to tear someones head off. Pressure on the QB is a must. Hard hits on anyone going over the middle are required. There can be no arm tackling and the safeties cannot be out of position to help.
Elliott clearly has to be better. He has the arm strength but cannot keep checking down for 2 yard gains. He's currently stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy. If he does well, he will continue to do well. If he does poorly, he will continue to do poorly. He just needs some confidence at this point.
Also, it will be very interesting to me to hear the pundits after a Notre Dame loss. I'm willing to be that the headline reads like this: "All-world QB Clausen hampered by near fatal turf toe in loss."
I still need to tamper my expectations (desires) with a dose of reality though. Purdue can win this game if the right team shows up. I truly believe it has very little to do with Notre Dame. It's all about which Purdue football team appears Saturday night. Purdue can win or they can lose big. Neither outcome would be surprising to me.
Purdue - 27
Notre Dame - 23
I'd love to believe Adam Rittenberg's pick of Purdue over UND in what he calls "a fairly major upset." I've been saying this since the start of the season -- I think this game is huge. Huger than huge. A win here, and Danny Hope has instant credibility -- with students, with alumni, with recruits. Lose the game, and that's more of an uphill climb, especially with next year's game back in South Bend. Being 2-2 with two good wins and a near-win would still feel decent after the first four games. 1-3, with back-to-back home stinkers would be terrible and I think the season slips away after that, with four wins being optimistic. So yes, I think this is a big hinge game.
If the Boilermakers come out fresh and ready to play -- and pissed about last week -- then I really do like their chances. Move the ball like the way they did against Oregon (and, obviously, Toledo) and it'll be a fun day. But turn the ball over like they did in those games and, well, the result will be just like Eugene or worse. It's hard when you have to outscore the other team's offense AND defense.
So much can impact this that it makes it impossible to make picks with any confidence. Does Joey Elliott look confident again? Does he shake off whatever bothered him last week? Does the O-line return to burly form? How does Ralph Bolden feel this week? Will Jaycen Taylor get in the game? What the hell ever happened to Frank Halliburton getting some carries? Will the defense have learned how to tackle?
Too many questions for me to feel confident. I'll go back to what I said going into the season and before and after the Oregon game -- if I see a good, crisp effort, I'll be happy either way. Obviously, I'd be happier with a win, but if Purdue loses simply because UND is too talented, I can live with that. UND is supposed to win. This is a year they're supposed to be very, very good. Losing to Purdue this year would be crushing for them and I can't imagine how Charlie spins it if it happens. Let's hope he has to.
As for my official pick, I'm going to give Coach Hope and the team the benefit of the doubt here. If there's a game to get up for, it's a Saturday-night, nationally-televised, blackout, Notre Dame game.
Notre Dame 30
Maybe it's because I was at the game last week, that I have a harder time believing that Purdue will win...But I just haven't been feeling it this week.
UND's offense is good, and their stats prove it. While I'm not a huge believer in any of the defenses they've played just yet, I'm not a believer in Purdue's either. Purdue's defense made Opelt look like a world-beater...and allowed Harnish to hold complete control of the pace of the game and, in the end, the outcome.
Until last week, teams had a difficult time running between the tackles, but not so much 6 days ago. I think UND will use their tight end effectively and often and as the safeties and LBs begin creeping up to stop Rudolph, Clausen will pick apart Purdue deep as he throws (in my opinion), the best deep ball in college football. I think Purdue's tackling woes haven't subsided from week one until last week, and I don't think they can be cured in 7 days...UND's YAC will beat up on Purdue, in my opinion.
Make no mistake, UND's defense is no world beater either...and I think Purdue will look more in sync than last week (how could they look much more out of rhythm?). But, concern of Bolden's ability to run the ball 25 times, the fact that only Smith has really taken over a game at wide receiver and Elliott's lack of accuracy this season all make me think Purdue would come up short in a shootout v. the Irish.
I've said it a few times, I'll say it again- nothing's better than being pleasantly surprised by my Boilers. This would be the greatest surprise I could receive this season if my Boilers could beat UND. Those who know me know my feelings about the Irish...I'm not going to restate those here; I'm already riled up enough.
Notre Dame 42
Man, I hope I'm wrong.
Where the Wabash spreads its valley, Filled with joy our voices raise.
From the skies in swelling echoes Come the cheers that tell the tale,
Of your vict'ries and your heroes, Hail Purdue! We sing all hail!
Hail, hail to old Purdue! All hail to our old gold and black!
Hail, hail to old Purdue! Our friendship may she never lack,
Ever grateful ever true, Thus we raise our song anew,
Of the days we've spent with you, All hail our own Purdue.