Purdue-Michigan: The Conference Season Begins

It's predicto time around these parts. This weekend, at a special 4 PM start time, the Boilers take on Michigan at home.

I think it's safe to say this is the most hyped the fan base has been going into a conference slate in quite a while. As Boilerdowd said on his video vignette, the question now is whether this is going to be an '06-'07 kind of team that folds when competition gets serious or an '03-'04 team that actually has the chops to compete against the meat of the schedule.

What do we think? Well, I'm so glad you asked. Let's go there now.

J says:

I know I've become the resident cynic, but I just haven't seen enough from Danny Hope-coached teams to believe -- just yet -- that they're going to be different than previous years. Yes, they did what we asked/hoped for in the pre-con, for the most part. And if they'd pulled out a very winnable game against Notre Dame, the Boilers would almost surely be a ranked squad, 4-0 heading into conference play.

I do remember guys like Ricardo Allen saying that the ND game was their "one slip up" and that it wasn't happening again. I like that mentality. I like the resolve. As I've said before, I really like the makeup and focus of this team.

That said, I don't know what to think about this week. Michigan isn't as good as was originally thought, which shouldn't be a complete shock, really, since they're only two years removed from being pretty terrible under RichRod. However, they're also not as bad as some are starting to suggest. Whether you think it was the result of a big lead or what, Purdue's defense gave up a lot to Marshall. This Wolverine defense is not the Herd defense, so as much as I'd like to say Purdue can outscore them, I'm not so sure about that. Yes, I know Alabama put an offensive whipping on Michigan, but let's not kid ourselves into think Purdue's offense is similar to Alabama's. There was also a fair amount written over at MGoBlog and elsewhere about the number of missed assignments by the Michigan defense against Alabama. One might think they've had the time to sort that out. And then, of course, there's always the Denard factor. The guy finds ways to torment defenses. Of course, his passes look worse than mine in a flag football game....here you go boys, go up and get it!

The problem, of course, is that Michigan's prototype receivers often can go get them, and while Purdue's secondary looked great last week, they're not huge guys. Josh Johnson seems as though he'll be consistent against anyone -- consistently good. Ricardo thus becomes the wild card here -- does he continue developing in the positive direction? Or does he get worked over like he has against talented receiving corps in the past?

I do think Purdue's defense is capable of causing Denard trouble. I think the line will have a good day and force him to move around and not have tons of time to throw the ball. I feel good about this, because I think it could lead to mistakes that the Purdue secondary has begun to show they are more than willing to capitalize on. But then my emotions swing back to remind me that Purdue has beaten three truly dreadful defenses. I do believe that you shouldn't be penalized for who you've played because you can only beat who's in front of you, though, and again as discussed, Purdue probably should have handed ND their only loss thus far.

I want to continue to pick Purdue to lose the games I actually think they'll lose, but when I look carefully at the matchup here, I keep thinking Purdue really does have a better-than-average chance. If they lose, I think it will be either because the coaching staff made some questionable decisions or they jerked around Marve and TerBush all day, since reports are indicating that Marve will be available. I guess what I'm saying is that coaching in general is what might undermine the Boilers tomorrow.

I was wrong last week and let's hope I'm wrong again. Boilers show well, but lose painfully.

Michigan 34
Purdue 27

Boilerdowd says:

Perhaps it's the wings on the helmet that give me nightmares or the memory of last year's game that resounds in my thick skull...but I haven't felt great about this game in spite of UM's two losses.

Sure, their two losses come to two of the better teams in the nation, according to early polls...but even in victory versus lousy teams, UM hasn't looked great.  I think most people in America came in to this year thinking as I did- it was logical that with a Senior QB that was a legit Heisman candidate last season, and the same coaches all returning, the Wolverines would be world beaters this season.  But, my eyes have told me a different story when I've watched them and the stats agree with my LASIK-improved organs.

UM doesn't sustain drives with great regularity this season and doesn't overwhelm in any one area.  Their pass efficiency and overall passing offense is in the bottom third of the league, they're last in the league in first downs and their rushing offense is in the middle of the conference...in spite of returning two of the leagues best running weapons in Toussaint and Robinson.

On the defensive side of the ball, there's good news and bad news- They're 12th in the league in sacks BUT they one of the best passing defenses in the league.  Plus, they're one of the worst rushing defenses in the league (that number is a bit skewed due to 'Bama's day v. UM).

On top of that, their kickoff coverage has been pretty lousy at times...and it kind of feels like Mostert is due to make a bit of noise.

Purdue did an OK job containing UND's Golson when they had to, but he was able to dump it off to his tight ends all day...and UM doesn't tend to use the tight end with a ton of regularity.  But, Robinson is a very rich man's Golson.

Josh Johnson has looked rock solid for the Boilers all year...and Allen, when not nicked up has played well too.  But, Gallon and what's-his-name have torched Purdue in the past...so Johson and Allen will need to play large for Purdue to win.

My biggest fear comes from Toussaint, Robinson and other UM backs getting on the outside v. Purdue's linebackers.  Michigan will have trouble manufacturing hard yards on the inside v. Gaston and Short...but teams quickly find Purdue's weakness when they have to, and UM is filled with capable skilled position players to exploit Purdue.

Earlier in the week, it looked like it was going to be like UM's last visit to God's country- gray, cold, rainy...but now it's going to be cool (lower 50s) and clear.  That's good- I don't like TerBush without good footing.

If Purdue (read as Marve and TerBush) stays patient and doesn't try to test UM over the middle, and on defense, Purdue's front can contain Robinson, this could be a slugfest...but if it comes down to a field goal, I don't like Purdue's chances too much.

That said, I kind of feel like UM is still a better team than they've shown...and they'll be ready coming off of the bye week.  Plus, I really like Hoke as a coach and think he'll have the corn and blue dialed in. Purdue struggles as we watch too many QB changes...

UM 31
Purdue 20

Same Old Purdue Crushed 44-13

Gehrig Neshek