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Matchups to Watch | Purdue vs. Michigan | B1G Championship

Let’s take a look at the important matchups for the B1G Championship

NCAA Football: Purdue at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Purdue Boilermakers were able to, with a little help from our friends in Nebraska, get to their first ever B1G Championship Game in Indy to face the Michigan Wolverines. At 6-3 in conference, Purdue was able to somewhat slide into the game to face a Michigan team that is eyeing their second consecutive entry into the College Football Playoff.

Purdue is just 14-45 against the Wolverines all time but have only played once during Jeff Brohm’s tenure (10-28 loss at home in 2017) which is only highlighted by the Jim Harbaugh ‘locker room and medical facilities’ tantrum. Since that game, Michigan has flirted with firing Harbaugh multiple times before their timely breakthrough last season while Purdue has pressed into another level of competitiveness getting two 8 win regular seasons and a West Division Title. This game is a story of two programs who have elevated themselves since that last meeting into the expectations that were placed before their head coaches.

Let’s take a look at the important matchups ahead of the B1G Championship Game:

1 | Purdue HC & Play Caller Jeff Brohm vs. Michigan Defensive Coordinator Jesse Minter

This is the matchup that will determine the entire game and whether the game is close headed to the 4th quarter or if Michigan already has their backups in to give their starters a rest for the CFP. Minter is in his first season as DC for the Wolverines after taking over for current Baltimore Ravens DC Mike MacDonald after he improved the defense in his only season into a top 10 unit. Minter has seemingly picked up where his predecessor left off with Michigan 2nd rated total defense that gives up just 262.2 yards per game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Michigan at Iowa

Jeff Brohm is known for some innovative concepts and finding ways to expose weaknesses in defenses and although this Michigan defense doesn’t have the star power it did last year with Aidan Hutchinson, they are still as good as that unit was last season. Purdue’s offense has been hot and cold all season and doesn’t have a consistent second threat at wide receiver to take the pressure off of Charlie Jones and Aidan O’Connell. The emergence of Devin Mockobee and the reliance of Payne Durham are wonderful but without a known second commodity that can get open and make plays in the passing game, Brohm may find it very difficult to generate enough points to win on Saturday.

2 | Purdue C Josh Kaltenberger vs. Michigan Defensive Tackles

Making his first career start versus the Indiana Hoosiers with a chance at the B1G West Division Title on the line is no easy feat but Kaltenberger fared well for the Boilermakers. The offensive line did surrender 3 sacks to a less than stellar IU defensive line and were only able to generate 99 yards of rushing but they kept the pocket clean for the most part when it counted for Aidan O’Connell to find receivers.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Purdue at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan will serve a major step up in competition for the young center and the entire offensive line and it is likely the Michigan DC Jesse Minter will want to put pressure on Kaltenberger by changing looks and forcing him to make calls against unfamiliar fronts. The silver lining here is that because Gud Hartwig had been battling injuries for some time Kaltenberger had been getting plenty of snaps with the first team offense.

The defensive tackles for the Wolverines has been relatively steady when it comes to generating pressure with the group accounting for 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks but most of the production behind the line of scrimmage is done by their extremely talented linebackers. If the defensive line is able to control the line of scrimmage and allow the linebackers to make plays freely, Purdue will struggle to achieve much of anything offensively.

3 | Michigan 3rd Down Conversion Rate vs. Purdue’s Defensive 3rd Down Conversion Rate

An aspect Purdue needs to win on Saturday will be their ability to get the Michigan offense off the field on 3rd downs. Michigan has a wonderful running game that sets them up for lots of 3rd and short opportunities where offensive coordinators Sherrone Moore and Matt Weiss have the capability call anything in the Michigan playbook. Allowing play action on those short yardage opportunities is a recipe for disaster as Purdue has struggled with that all season long.

Purdue will want to keep Michigan in obvious passing downs as much as possible and that typically means 3rd down and 6 or more yards. If there is something the defense can take advantage of it is that Michigan has just the 91st rated passing offense in the country 214.6 yards per game. That low of ranking may be more in part to the Michigan offense wanting to be strong and physical running team where they rank 5th in the country at 244.5 yards per game. Michigan has a very good 3rd down conversion rate largely because of their ability to get into 3rd and short where they rank 18th in the country at 46.6% but the Boilers also rank well coming in at 19th in the country only allowing 31.5% of conversions. In this game, something will have to give for either side to take control.

4 | Devin Mockobee vs. Michigan Linebackers Junior Colson & Michael Barrett

It seems that after six seasons Jeff Brohm has finally found himself a running back that he has confidence in to garner 20+ carries a game. Devin Mockobee has largely come out of nowhere to garner that responsibility but his addition to the lineup has allowed Purdue to be a little more diverse in their play calling with his ability to run both between the tackles and outside, catching screens and swing passes, and even providing adequate pass protection in the backfield. Mockobee may set the Purdue single season freshman record for rushing yards as he needs just 26 yards to pass Markell Jones’ 2015 mark of 875 yards (currently at 849). In fact, if Mockobee can get to 100 yards the next two games he would get into the top 6 of all time single season rushing records for Purdue.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Purdue at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The main issue with that is trying to get those yards against one of the best linebacker duos in the conference in Junior Colson and Michael Barrett. The two Wolverine’s are first and second on the team in tackles with Colson having an impressive 80 and Barrett at 57. Those 137 total tackles account for over 20% of all the tackles this Michigan defense has made all season. They also both account for 9 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks so they have the ability to play downhill and in space.

If Mockobee and the offensive line can find success early in the game establishing a run game that Michigan feels as though is hurting them, that will free up Payne Durham, Charlie Jones, and others underneath and in seams to sustain drives and shorten the game against one of the best teams in the country.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Michigan at Indiana Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

5 | Michigan Defensive End Mike Morris vs. Purdue Offensive Tackles Eric Miller & Mahamane Moussa

No way around this matchup here as defensive end Mike Morris has some gaudy numbers to show for his pass rushing prowess. He isn’t the player that Aidan Hutchinson was for the Wolverine defense but he has still managed to accumulate 11 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks on the season. Morris is a former 3 star recruit (247) who has spent his time improving behind Hutchinson and is now the featured pass rusher in first year defensive coordinator Jesse Minter’s defense.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Purdue’s offensive tackles Eric Miller and Mahamane Moussa need to hold up against a very good player in Morris if Purdue wants to get running back Devin Mockobee established and provide Aidan O’Connell enough time in the pocket to allow Brohm’s passing concepts to develop down field. Against Indiana Miller did get burned for the three total sacks that the Hoosiers were able to get and he has struggled at times in his career with high end defensive ends. He is a veteran player and is rarely out of position but just needs to execute to his ability. On the other hand, Moussa is a high ceiling type of players as a young offensive tackle. Purdue frequently will run to his side because of his ability to get to the second level or throw screens to the running backs and wide receivers because of his ability to get into space. He lacks overall size right now but Moussa is an exceptional athlete for a player of his size.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Purdue at Illinois