So I was feeling a tad saucy in my game wrap on Saturday evening. This is what happens after hanging out with the Boilermaker Heroes at Harry's postgame. I made a boast of guaranteeing victory over Michigan. Some Michigan message boards have caught wind of it. I haven't read anything, but if it is like anything else on message boards, it is probably something virulent comparing my intelligence to that of cole slaw. Well, I used to work at a KFC in high school, people. Cole slaw is pretty damned smart because it is a bitch to clean up!
Perhaps I was a tad overzealous, but really, what does it matter if I guarantee victory? I have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the game, unlike rasheed Wallace when he guaranteed victory in game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals over the Pacers. He could do something about it, did it, and the Pcers were denied possibly their best shot at an NBA title. I am just a fan with an overabundance of confidence and an internet audience that is dedicated to reading my ramblings. You guys are hardly minions of my machinations that can carry out my directives (at least not yet).
Plans for World Domination aside, Saturday's game with Michigan is a huge game for our Boilermakers. Danny Hope and Rich Rodriguez have allegedly kissed and made up after last year's post-game theatircs. There is no word on if Hope was the big spoon or the little spoon, but it is not a picture I want to form in my head. The bottom line is that Purdue needs to win this game to have any chance at a bowl game. Since we own Indiana at Ross-Ade Stadium, most fans are counting that as a sixth win (though I can defintiely see a "that wasn't part of the plan" loss). We're not likely going to beat the Spartans in East Lansing, so this game becomes critical. A victory improves our chances and attitude for an upset headed to Michigan State, while a loss all but clinches a third straight bowl-less season.
Even with six wins a bowl isn't assured. Now that Michigan has bowl eligibility and Illinois is likely to clinch it with a victory over Minnesota this weekend, it leaves eight teams for eight guaranteed spots while Minnesota is eliminated and Purdue and Indiana each need two wins. Obviously, the winner of the Purdue-IU game will get a fifth win, but if either gets a sixth they will need a second BCS bid from the conference to guarantee a bowl bid. It is likely, but not definite considering that TCU and Boise State will likely take two of the available four BCS at large spots.
So all we can do is take care of our own business, which includes beating Michigan this Saturday.
2010 Record: 6-3, 2-3 Big Ten
2009 Record: 5-7, 1-7 Big Ten
Bowl Result: none
Series with Purdue: Michigan leads 41-14-0
Last Purdue win: 11/7/2009 at Michigan 38-36
Last Michigan win: 10/13/2007 at Michigan 48-21
We all know that Michigan is pretty much an all offense, no defense team. They scored 67 points last week (sadly, almost Purdue's entire offensive output in Big Ten play since we have scored 71 points in five conference games) but gave up 65. They move the football, don't settle for field goals, and the often put it in the end zone. Denard Robinson has personally generated more offense than Purdue's entire roster. He has 25 touchdowns both passing and rushing combined. He has also been in and out with injuries, including a possible concussion last week. That means we could see some of Tate Forcier, who played the majority of last year's game and was last seen getting pursued to the state line by one Ryan Kerrigan. It was Kerrigan who sealed last year's victory with a huge sack on a two-point conversion, mostly because Forcier held on to the ball too long.
Diversity is not just an old, old wooden ship as described by Ron Burgandy It is also an apt description of the Wolverine offense. As the numbers above show, they like to run with Robinson, Michael Shaw, and Vincent Smith. The svelt but athletic line of Perry Dorrestein, Patrick Omameh, David Molk, Stephen Schilling, and Taylor Lewan has only given up four sacks, but they haven't faced Kerrigan or J.J. Watt yet. They have given up 27 tackles for loss, but those mean little when the offense generates over 540 yards and 38 points per game.
So what can we do? Roy Roundtree went apeshit for a school record in receiving yards last week. He also killed us last year. Robinson is more elusive than bin Laden, and their collective team speed on offense will have us running all over the place. Junior Hemingway, Darryl Stonum, and Martavious Odoms are also speedy receivers. Mostly the offense is all about Robinson's talents.
Still, they can be slowed down. Notice, I did not say stopped. This unit has committed 17 turnovers (7 fumbles, 10 interceptions). Seven of those picks have come from Robinson. We have to get after him and hit him on every single play. Linebacker discipline from Will Lucas, Jason Werner, Dwayne Beckford, Joe Holland, and the recently promoted DeVarro Greaves will be critical. Kerrigan and Kawann Short must also be active in the backfield and bring down Robinson before he can escape. Ricardo Allen, Normando harris, Albert Evans, and Josh Johnson must also excel in coverage. If we can just somehow hold them under 30 I think we have a chance.
The reason we have a chance if we can hold them under 30 is because the Michigan defense is epically bad. They do not create turnovers, they give up 285 yards passing and 168 yards rushing every game. More importantly, they are giving up 34 points per game. EVERYONE has scored against these guys. They are easier to score on than Britney and Paris on a coke benge. If 1-AA UMass can score at will on these guys, then we should be able to. Sean Robinson will likely start, but Justin Siller could play some too. If we can unleash the Siller of two years ago it would be nice.
Our receivers must catch the ball and avoid the drops of the past few weeks. Gary Bush should have room to run and he showed he can make things happen in space last week, but he must catch the ball. Tommie Thomas is likely going to get a chance, and Antavian Edison could be in for a huge day. I would also use Rob Henry at running back along with Al-Terek McBurse, Dan Dierking, Jared Crank, Keith Carlos, and pretty much anyone else that can hold on to the football while running.
There is almost no one to fear on this defense. Greg Banks and Mike Martin have some sacks. Jonas Mouton and Cameron Gordon each have a pair of interceptions. Jordan Kovacs and Mouton lead in tackles, but as a unit they are marked by poor tackling and poor coverage. As long as we catch passes, don't make stupid throws, and don't fumble, we should be able to move the ball. they have given up almost as many 20+ yard plays as the offense has generated.
I would almost run the ball or pass for five yards on every play, then fall down so we have prolonged drives and keep the ball out of their offense's hands. It is certainly an unorthodox strategy, but they average giving up 6.1 yards per play. That is a first down every two plays as long as we don't make dumb penalties. What is wrong, then with simply falling to the ground after gaining five to ten yards and keeping the clock moving? It gives their offense less time to score, and they can't score as long as they don't have the ball?
Michigan Special Teams
This almost ended up being a major factor in last year's game. Odoms is a danger in the punt return game, especially against us, but Jeremy Gallon handles most of that. He and Stonum are also solid kick returners, but punt return coverage was only an issue on one return last year. We also got the benefit of that rogue 40 ayrd line tackling a punter before a fair catch, but getting us flagged for a penalty instead of us recovering the muffed punt.
As you can see above, the field goal is far from automatic, and a missed extra point was the difference in last year's game. Will Hagerup, brother of Indiana's Chris Hagerup, averaged 43.6 yards on the rare occasion that the Wolverines punt. The punt coverage unit gives up over 12 yards per return which could be a factor since we finally realized that Waynelle Gravesande is allowed to run after catching the ball.
This needs to be a win. Michigan still has no confidence in its defense even against our pitiful offense. All we have to do is somehow slow them down and even play keep away when we have the ball. Sean Robinson should improve even more with another week of practice, and the mistakes that led to 24 points off of turnovers last week are correctable. If our offense can show some of the same fire it had last week I like our chances.