Purdue enters into their first B1G Championship Game with a 2 game winning streak and ending the season with their first back to back 8 win regular season since Joe Tiller’s first two seasons in West Lafayette in 1997 and 1998. In fact, if Purdue can get a win in the B1G Championship Game or in their bowl game, it would mark just the 4th time in program history with back to back 9 win seasons (1997 & 1998; 1979 & 1980; 1978 & 1979).
The Boilers are led by 6th year senior QB Aidan O’Connell who has thrown for 3,124 yards with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions (missed one game due to injury). O’Connell currently stands at 8,853 passing yards in his career which places him 6th in program history along with the potential for a second top 10 season passing season. O’Connell will join the list of ‘Cradle of Quarterbacks’ in Purdue Football history when his career is over.
Devin Mockobee leads the Boiler backfield in rushing this season and will look to set the freshman season rushing record against the Wolverines. Mockobee needs roughly 30 more yards to overtake Markell Jones’ mark and he will attempt that mark against one of the better defenses the Boilers have faced all season. Mockobee has rushed for 849 yards and 8 touchdowns while rushing for over 100 yards in 4 games (had 99 against Indiana). He is also a threat out of the backfield with 217 yards receiving.
Charlie Jones, the first team All B1G wide receiver, has been revolutionary for the Boilers this season. The Iowa transfer ranks 1st in the B1G in receptions (99), yards (1,199), touchdowns (12), receptions per game (8.1), and reception yards per game (99.9). Alongside Jone, Payne Durham was voted 2nd team All B1G while having 54 receptions, 550 yards, and 8 touchdowns.
On the defensive side, Purdue is led by Sanoussi Kane and Jalen Graham on the backside of the defense. Kane leads the team in tackles with 63 along with 2 forced fumbles while Graham has 48 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, 5 passes defended, and 1 forced fumble. On the defensive line, Purdue has enjoyed success as a committee where they have gathered 21.5 sacks on the season and are led by Jack Sullivan’s 5.5, Kydran Jenkins’ 4, and Khordae Sydnor’s 4.5.
Michigan enters their second consecutive (and second overall) B1G Championship Game going 23-1 in regular season games the last two seasons. Those 23 wins are highlighted by two impressive victories over Ohio State by a combined 90 - 50 along with an appearance in the College Football Playoff last season (lost to Georgia 34-12). Michigan would become just the 7th team in the NCAA to have multiple CFP appearances (Alabama 7; Clemson 6; Ohio State 4; Oklahoma 4; Notre Dame 2; Georgia 2).
Michigan is led by their elite rushing attack that was led by Heisman Trophy hopeful Blake Corum who will miss the rest of the season due to necessary surgery on his knee he injured against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Corum, on the season, rushed for 1,463 yards, averaged 5.9 yards per carry, and had 18 touchdowns. His injury and being unable to play is a major hit to Michigan’s offense but against Ohio State the Wolverines were able to lean on backup running back sophomore Donovan Edwards who rushed for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the season Edwards has rushed for 687 yards, 6 touchdowns, and averaging 7.9 yards per carry.
Quarterback J.J. McCarthy doesn’t have a lot of eye popping numbers becuase of the rushing attack but he has a corps of capable receivers at his disposal highlighted by Ronnie Bell and Cornelius Johnson. The two have combined for 1,147 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns on the season. McCarthy has thrown for a total of 2,215 yards completing 65% of his passes for a total of 17 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions.
Michigan’s defense is led by two outstanding linebackers in 2nd Team All B1G Junior Colson and 3rd Team All B1G Mike Barrett. Colson racked up an astounding 80 tackles by himself which is 23 more than the next Wolverine Barrett at 57. Both players also have multiple sacks on the season with Barrett also grabbing 2 interceptions. The story of the defense may be the duo of Mike Morris and Mazi Smith who garnered 1st Team All B1G from the defensive line. Morris exploded this season grabbing a conference leading 7.5 sacks on the season. Smith has grabbed 43 tackles himself on the season and is expected to play following the release of information that he was arrested on felony weapons possession following an incident on October 7th of this year. Smith did not miss any time due to this issue.
Purdue Wins If...
Purdue wins if everything works their way. Let’s be honest, this Michigan team may be the best in the country and Purdue would be hard pressed to go out and just beat them face to face. However, if Michigan plays a sloppy game, can’t stay in front of the chains, and allows big plays in the running and passing games, Purdue has a chance. Purdue will likely need at least two turnovers to make this thing interesting as they just can’t seem to get stops when they have needed them during the season. Purdue will also need to rush for over 150 yards and probably have two highly successful trick plays. Purdue’s always got a shot with AOC and Brohm teaming up but this one might be too big a mountain to overcome.
Michigan Wins If...
Michigan wins if they simply play clean, fundamental football. If they simply don’t beat themselves with turnovers, penalties, and allowing big game changing type plays, Michigan can probably withstand the best Purdue can throw at them. My guess is Michigan will want to establish the run early and often to setup the play action pass in similar fashion that Wisconsin has used for the better part of two decades to beat Purdue.
Michigan will win this game rather handily and that’s not an insult to Purdue at all. As Daniel Cormier one said ‘there are levels to this game,’ and Purdue just isn’t on their elite level yet. Michigan has an eye on possibly jumping into the #1 spot in the CFP with an impressive performance and given how they looked last week, I can’t see them stumbling now.