Bye week came and went and now it’s time for Purdue to enter the challenging part of its schedule. No more cupcakes and time to put up or shut up. Purdue’s previous competition is just 1-8 and now the Boilers will square off against a 2-2 Irish team that hopes to reestablish itself as a national power under head coach Brian Kelly.
I won’t bore you with historical facts and rivalry numbers. We all know the long history of the Purdue/Notre Dame game. The only figure that I want to share is that the Purdue athletic department is reporting that 5,000 tickets still remain for Saturday night’s contest. That’s shameful! Purdue should sell out every home game against the Irish. So if you haven’t already bought tickets and you can make it to West Lafayette, do yourself a favor and get to Ross-Ade for what will be an electric atmosphere on Saturday night.
When Purdue has the ball:
One of the most interesting questions will be how the quarterbacks are rotated. Coach Hope has named Caleb TerBush the starter for the Notre Dame game, but he has also stated that Robert Marve is a very good number two. I think TerBush will get the first chance to run Purdue’s offense, but if the Boilers don’t have a strong start, I could see Marve enter the game as soon as the third offensive series.
Notre Dame’s defense has been susceptible to a spread pass offense, like when Michigan scored a slew of fourth quarter points to rally past the Irish. However, Denard Robinson is an elite quarterback that has made a lot of defenses look silly. Notre Dame’s defense has looked good against South Florida, Pitt, and Michigan State.
I think Purdue will have to pass the ball against Notre Dame to find success. The front 7 of Notre Dame, which utilizes a 3-4 scheme, is very solid. I think Purdue will have trouble establishing a run unless Purdue can disguise its formations so that Purdue can beat the Irish with misdirections. If Purdue can somehow run between the tackles, then I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
When it comes to airing it out,Purdue will likely play a lot of dink and dunk. So far, TerBush has not been successful completing downfield passes and has only tried on a handful of occasions. The key for TerBush will be to find the mismatches on the field before the ball is snapped and getting the ball to its players quickly. When Marve is in at quarterback, I think that Purdue will be able to take more shots downfield. Still, it’s going to be a game of finding the mismatches and hopefully allowing Purdue’s skill players to pick up yardage where it can.
Outside of the SEMO game, the Purdue offense hasn’t had a lot of success so far. Hopefully the SEMO win established the confidence needed to move the ball against the Irish.
When Notre Dame has the ball:
Notre Dame has had a potent offense with one glaring problem: turnovers. Lots of them. Purdue hasn’t had much luck against Rice and Middle Tennessee State in turning the ball over, but hopefully it can force Irish quarterback Tommy Rees into giving up the ball. The Boilermakers’ previous competition was much inferior to Notre Dame’s offense, so this will be a big step-up from the previous three games.
I think Notre Dame will be able to get the ball to its big playmaker Floyd, even though I think Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson will hold their own. The mismatches may be over the middle against the Boilers as Joe Holland, Normando Harris, Will Lucas and others have struggled covering receivers over the middle. If the Irish can expose these holes in the Purdue defense, I think Notre Dame will be able to put up a lot of points against Purdue.
Cierre Wood, Notre Dame’s feature running back, had a lot of success against Michigan. Notre Dame’s rushing attack will be much tougher to stop than Rice or Middle Tennessee State. Even though Purdue has done well stopping the run in the last three games, it remains to be seen whether they can stop the run against a BCS level team. If Purdue can’t limit Wood and company, it’ll be a long night in Ross-Ade.
Prediction: I think Coach Hope will have some tricks up his sleeve as he has had more time to game plan against Notre Dame. At the same time, I think Purdue is overmatched at some positions on the field. I think Robert Marve will get his chance to play against the Irish and if he can open up the offense with a mixture of short, mid, and long range passes, Purdue may have a shot. Or I could be severely underestimating Caleb TerBush and he could show some things that he hasn’t yet and pick apart Notre Dame’s defense. In the end, Purdue will have to pull out all the stops, including winning the turnover battle by 2 or more turnovers, to upset Notre Dame because the Irish are very talented. They also are much more organized than Charlie Weiss’ Notre Dame teams under the angry irishman Brian Kelly.