As coach Bo Pelini and his Nebraska Cornhuskers travel to West Lafayette to take on coach Darrell Hazell and his Purdue Boilermakers there are still many unknowns for both teams. First of all the final score is not what many college football fans will be looking at unless they have decided to wager on the game. The Huskers are 14 point favorites in Saturday’s contest.
For the Boilermakers many fans may assume the biggest question is about the starting quarterback as freshman Austin Appleby is replacing senior Rob Henry. There will be much to take away from Appleby’s performance, but the Boilermaker faithful should keep in mind the lack of experience the young signal caller has. Coach Hazell will not be throwing his freshman out there against a Blackshirt defense with a full complex playbook. The Husker defense is a far cry from their dominant squads of the past and at times may not even be deserving of the title of “Blackshirts”, but they do have a head coach who is considered by many to be one of the top defensive minds in all of college football. Also the Husker defense has shown steady improvement and their secondary is solid with Ciante Evans and Stanley Jean-Baptiste haunting quarterbacks with their ball hawking skills.
Instead Appleby will most likely manage the game much like the Husker freshman quarterback has for the past two games. Tommy Armstrong has led the Husker offense very efficiently in his two starts this season with wins over South Dakota State University and Illinois. Appleby will be looking to get things done on the ground for the Boilermakers and will be asked to manage the game and take care of the ball. For the Boilermakers it is vital that their new quarterback does not turn the ball over.
What is the biggest question for the Boilermakers? How can they rebound from a disappointing start to their season? So far Purdue has won only one game, a close 20–14 victory over Indiana State. The Boilermakers also lost heartbreakers to Notre Dame, a one touchdown loss in the Battle for the Shillelagh Trophy, and to Northern Illinois, a blowout in their homecoming game on September 28. In all likelihood the Huskers should walk away from with a victory in this game. The Boilermakers need to come out and be competitive if they expect to add another victory to their record any time this season because their schedule will continue to be difficult throughout Big Ten play. The Boilermakers can score a moral victory by coming out and competing for the duration.
As for the Huskers it looks like it will be another week of rest for Taylor Martinez. Tommy Armstrong will once again get the chance to expand his experience as he takes the Huskers on the road for the first time this season (also the first time the Huskers will play on natural grass this year). Will offensive coordinator Tim Beck begin to loosen the reins on Armstrong and explore his talents in the Husker offense? I imagine his will come naturally with the flow of the game. The Huskers will not go out of their way to experiment with an offense that seems to have found its way with some success running the ball. The strong point of the Boilermaker defense is their defensive line. The Huskers may get off to a bit of a slow start against this line, but the power of the Husker offensive line should eventually wear down the defense allowing Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross to get their yards on the ground. If early in the game the Purdue Defense can force some third and long situations we may get to see what Armstrong can do with the very talented Husker wide receiving corps.
In the end fans will get a chance to see two Big Ten quarterbacks that should be around for a few more years. Armstrong just has more talent around him on the Husker squad. The Huskers should put this game away early and will probably end up with some very impressive rushing statistics. The over under for the game is 54. The Huskers should provide points, but the under may be the way to go as Appleby’s ability to put up the necessary points for the Purdue offense is doubtful. Hopefully the Boilermakers can shock the Big Ten and keep this game competitive.