Now that the Purdue Boilermakers have lost their home game to the Iowa Hawkeyes, they have just three opportunities remaining to get a Big Ten win this season. Out of the three remaining contests, tomorrow’s bout at Penn State is the most favorable matchup.
The Nittany Lions are equally mediocre against both the run and the pass on defense, ranking seventh in the conference in both categories. The Boilermakers have been better through the air than on the ground so far this season. Purdue’s ability to move the ball will largely depend on the efficiency of quarterback Danny Etling and his receiving corps. Wide receiver Justin Sinz needs to win his matchups down the field against the Penn State zone defense, and Etling needs to continue to take advantage of mismatches that running back Akeem Hunt is able to create.
Defensively, Purdue will have to improve on its yards per carry allowed average of 5.3 yards. Penn State averages 167 rushing yards per game with their backfield combination of Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak. Bruce Gaston and Ryan Russell need to penetrate the Nittany Lion offensive line and establish a new line of scrimmage. If the Boilermakers can capitalize on the mistakes the Nittany Lions are prone to make on offense — 19 turnovers through nine games — they can set up their offense with the short fields that can lead to points.
The Nittany Lions average scoring fewer points than nine other Big Ten schools and are ninth in the conference in scoring defense. While the Boilermakers rank at the bottom of the Big Ten in both of those statistics, if they can execute this is a winnable game for them. If they can’t take advantage of this matchup then a winless season in conference play is staring them dead in the face.