Purdue faces off against Western Michigan on Tuesday evening in Motown. In Purdue’s second appearance in the Little Caesars Bowl in 4 years, they have a chance to give Danny Hope his first winning record as the Boilermakers’ head coach. Here are the keys for Hope and company to finish above .500 this year:
- Western Michigan has the 8th highest average of passing yards in college football. That means that the Boilers will be utilizing a nickel package with two linebackers and three cornerbacks. Key #1 is the play of Purdue’s three cornerbacks. Ricardo Allen is tasked with covering the most productive receiver in the nation: Jordan White (127 receptions, 1646 yards, and 16 touchdowns). The key is for Purdue’s corners to shut down Western Michigan’s talented receivers.
***In my opinion, the Boilers should use physical man-to-man cornerback coverage rather than sit back in the zone. Junior Quarterback Alex Carder (3434 passing yards and 28 passing TDs) is too experienced and will find windows in a zone. Instead, make the receivers work for it and hopefully the defensive line will put pressure on Carder.
- Along the same lines, Joe Holland and Will Lucas have to play solid pass coverage against tight ends, running backs, and possibly slot receivers. Being the men in the middle, Holland and Lucas’ jobs are critical to stopping the Broncos’ no-huddle offense by preventing passes up the middle. Unless you didn’t watch Purdue’s defense this year, you’ll know that the Boilers have had difficulty stopping passes over the middle this year. That can’t happen against Western Michigan if the Boilers want to win the Little Caesars Bowl.
- Finally, to the offense. Can Caleb TerBush engineer successful drives against Western Michigan? The Broncos give up an average of 28 points per game, but the Boilermaker offense needs to sustain drives and keep Alex Carder on the sidelines. In addition, TerBush and Marve need to score touchdowns, not just field goals if they’re going to win against the Broncos.
- Purdue is without Ralph Bolden. That means Akeem Shavers, Akeem Hunt, Jared Crank, Reggie Pegram, and Antavian Edison will be the available running backs. Are Shavers and Hunt ready to carry the load? If Purdue wants to establish its physicality and size advantage, look for them to use Crank and Pegram. Shavers, Hunt, and Edison are the quick backs that can hopefully take openings for big gains. It will be important for Purdue’s running-back-by-committee approach will work to replace the productivity of Ralph Bolden.