Looking to keep pace in the Big Ten West race, Purdue (6-4, 4-3) hosts the struggling Wildcats (1-9, 1-6), who are trying to find any spark to end their season. Let’s see how these teams stack up:
By all accounts, the offense looked much better last week, spreading the ball around and putting up 31 on the nation’s top scoring defense. Aiden O’Connell has been ratcheting his interceptions down from 3 against Wisconsin to 2 against Iowa to 1 against Illinois. I for one am a fan of that trend continuing and seeing no interceptions thrown against Northwestern this weekend. A large factor in the lowering of AOC’s interceptions has been the stepping up of multiple targets. TJ Sheffield and Payne Durham each had solid games against Illinois and made it so that AOC did not have to solely lock in on Charlie Jones. When a defense doesn’t know who the ball is going to every time, it becomes much harder to defend the pass. As for the running game, Devin Mockobee is steadily chugging along and has a chance to pickup 1,000 yards on the season as a walk-on, redshirt freshman. Devin needs 268 yards in 3 or 4 games, and he could get a majority of those in this game, as the weather and opponent favor a strong rushing attack.
I can’t say this enough, but the defense was a major factor in Purdue’s win over Illinois. The defense will still need to hold firm against a struggling NW offense this week though. The depth at linebacker will be razor-thin for the Boilermakers as Kieren Douglas and Clyde Washington are both out after suffering injuries at Illinois. The defense will need to lock on Evan Hull as their focus and limit his ability to impact the game. This will begin with tackling as Purdue has shown slight improvement but has a bit to go.
The Luck of the Irish; Northwestern had it when they played Nebraska in Dublin, winning 31-28 when Scott Frost still had a job. Then Northwestern came home and left the luck in the Emerald Isle. The Wildcats have lost 9 straight games this side of the Atlantic and are on pace for an 11-loss season. On offense, Ryan Hilinski and Brendan Sullivan have been the two main quarterbacks and both have had their struggles, combining for 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the year. Both quarterbacks were injured against Minnesota last week, and their status is still unknown. If neither is able to play, QB Carl Richardson would be forced into the starting role. Richardson did play last week, completing 3 of his 9 passes for 39 yards and an interception. Catching passes from whomever the QB will be is Malik Washington, the Cats top receiver this season. Washington has 55 receptions for 616 yards on the season and is quick and shifty to get around secondaries. Next to the QB will be Evan Hull, who is providing value in both the rushing and passing game, as he is the second leading receiver on the team. Evan has 1264 yards on offense this year and 6 touchdowns, so it’s safe to say that the offense runs through him. This offense is also anchored by LT, Peter Skoronski, who will most likely be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft.
On defense for the Wildcats, it’s been a rough year. The Cats have allowed just over 28 points per game this season, third worst in the Big Ten and it stems from the rushing defense that allows 200 yards per game on the ground. This team does not have it’s usual All Big Ten linebacker and that has really shown. The defense has done well against the pass, allowing only 191 passing yards per game and recording 14 sacks. 4 of those sacks are from DL Adetomiwa Adebawore who also looks to go to the NFL draft after this season. Northwestern has really struggled to turn the ball over this year, forcing only 11 turnovers (5 of which were against Penn State in the rain). This could be another rough day for the Wildcats if Purdue holds on to the ball.
DraftKings sees Purdue as a huge 18.5 point favorite and an O/U of 44.5. If Purdue plays up to its potential on offense, they may be able to hit the over by themselves. Devin Mockobee could have a big day against the struggling Northwestern rushing defense. AOC will also look to keep the momentum from last week going into the final games of the year. On defense, they will need to key in on Evan Hull and limit his effectiveness on the outside. We still don’t know who the QB for NW will be, but I take Northwestern to barely cover and the teams to hit the over.