Purdue plays it's final home game of the season this Saturday at, shock of all shocks, noon in Ross-Ade Stadium. This is a winnable game for the Boilermakers as the Wildcats of Northwestern have struggled mightily, with the exception of their victory over the hated Fighting Irish for which we thank them. No back patting and glad handing now because Northwestern is now Purdue's sworn football enemy. With Purdue no longer having the possibility of bowl eligibility glimmering in their eyes it's all about building for next year and continuing the foundation that Hazell is trying to build. Purdue has two winnable games to finish out the season. Can they take advantage? Let's take a look at some reasons for optimism, and maybe some pessimism as well, as we look toward Saturday.
First, Northwestern's offense just isn't great. Plain and simple. Before whatever secret stuff they drank before the Notre Dame game they had managed a total of 16 points in their previous two games against Michigan and Iowa. Yes, I know that Iowa held Purdue to 10 points but that was pre-QB change so it's hard to compare. For maybe a better look let's take a closer look at shared opponents since the Purdue QB change had such an impact on the offense. Purdue scored 38 in a heartbreaker of a loss to Minnesota at Minnesota. Northwestern managed just 17 points also at Minnesota. Then there's the inexplicable fact that Northwestern defeated Wisconsin. Try to explain that one to me mister smart comment guy below!
Just for some quick number's sake I'll tell you that Northwestern ranks 113th out of 125 in points through the course of the season. Purdue sits at 88th. Not a huge difference but enough. There's a five point scoring differential between the two teams on average there. Purdue also has had a bit of a rougher draw conference wise having to play Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Michigan State while Northwestern was able to escape without playing Michigan State and instead go the much flimsier Michigan Wolverines.
On the flip side of the ball both teams have struggled at times this season allowing big points. Purdue has allowed 30+ points in their last four games, all losses. Keep in mind those four games were against teams that have all been ranked at some point this season. Still a lot of point to give up but perspective must be kept. Northwestern has allowed 30+ points in three of their last four including the win against Notre Dame. The only game they didn't allow 30+ points was against hapless Michigan. Needless to say, but I'm going to say it anyway, these defenses aren't exactly going to light you up. These teams are going to allow some points. That makes the offense that much more important and Purdue seems to have a slight advantage there.
So what does this all mean? What have you just spent the last 3-5 minutes reading? I honestly can't tell you. It gives me optimism for Saturday though. I think it's a winnable game for the Boilermakers and gives them a chance to head into the IU game with a little momentum and a chip on their shoulder after their humiliating defeat last year.