clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Citrus Bowl | Purdue vs. LSU | Matchups to Watch

Purdue is a longshot in the Citrus Bowl but let’s take a look at the key matchups for the Boilers vs. the Tigers

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Finding some key matchups will be a bit difficult due to opt outs for both teams but Purdue’s offense is bound to look very different with Charlie Jones, Payne Durham, and Aidan O’Connell opting out along with Purdue not having Jeff Brohm on the sideline to call plays.

1 | Purdue’s Red Zone Offense vs. LSU’s Red Zone Defense

Purdue may not have a lot of advantages in this game versus LSU because of opt outs but one has to think the red zone success Purdue has enjoyed this season would translate with the emergence of Devin Mockobee. When the field shortens up inside the 20 yard line it is even more important to have a running back who can find lanes and get into the end zone and Mockobee has shown a growing ability to do just that.

If you do go back to that FAU game where Burton had 8 rushing attempts for 15 yards, we could see more of the option game from the Boilers which can be effective in the red zone. Purdue was one of the best red zone scoring offenses this season ranking 7th in the country scoring 92.5% and splitting the scoring pretty evenly between rushing and passing. Using Burton and Mockobee in the run game or even more RPO-action will help Purdue score inside the red zone.

LSU, on the other hand, ranked tied for 36th with an 80% where they gave up many more rushing scores than passing scores. LSU gave up 15 rushing scores versus just 7 passing scores and with Purdue likely to be focusing more on the running game inside the red zone and featuring Burton and Mockobee, it could be a slight advantage for the Boilers. If Purdue can’t get the running game in the red zone working, look to tight end Paul Piferi and WR TJ Sheffield to be the focal points for the Boilers.

2 | Purdue Running Game vs. LSU Rush Defense

It was no secret that Jeff Brohm struggled to get the running game going in his 6 seasons at Purdue. The previous three seasons Purdue averaged 84.8, 82.2, and 83.5 but in 2022 with Devin Mockobee getting more and more opportunities Purdue got up to 123.1 yards per game. In fact, since Mockobee became the featured back Purdue has had games of 140 yards (Northwestern), 142 yards (Illinois), 217 yards (Nebraska), and 160 yards (Minnesota). However, it will be very interesting to see how Purdue’s offense will feature Mockobee with a mobile QB in Austin Burton and without the weapons outside in Jones and Durham. Will we see more option runs like Purdue ran early in the FAU game? That seems like a very real possibility and if Purdue can control the clock and grind this game down to be much shorter, it bodes well for the Boilers.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Purdue vs Michigan Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

On the other side of the ball you have a defense that has ranked 71st for the season in rushing yards given up per game at 152.8. LSU will also be without most of their starting players up front as only Mekhi Wingo will play who started this season for the Tigers. The Tigers also rarely rotated this season so the backups don’t have the experience that you would normally see in a program like LSU’s. In fact, LSU may end up having to play inside linebacker Mike Jones at defensive end to help mask some of the inexperience they will have on the defensive line.

If Purdue is going to have a chance in this game against another high quality SEC opponent, they are going to need Burton and Mockobee to control the clock on the ground and stay out of 3rd and long situations where passing is the only option to get a first down. When Purdue can get into 2nd and 3rd down situations that are 6 yards and less, Burton’s ability to be effective in the running game can really put LSU into a bind.

3 | LSU WR Malik Nabers vs. Purdue Defensive Backs

One of the bigger opt outs for the Boilers that hasn’t really been talked about from a national media standpoint is that of Cory Trice. The Boilers clear number 1 cornerback would have given Purdue a much needed boost against an LSU offense that has a lot of options to throw to. With the news of Kayshon Boutte opting out, it could have meant Trice could have focused solely on Nabers more while Purdue’s other defensive backs could have covered every one else.

Nabers is LSU’s clear #1 option at wide receiver where he caught 63 passes for 854 yards but only scored 2 touchdowns. Purdue will now look to Reese Taylor, Jamari Brown, and Bryce Hampton but we may also see Kansas State transfer Tee Denson along with true freshman Jordan Buchanan thrown into the mix as well.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue will need to keep LSU’s best player in QB Jayden Daniels one dimensional as he leads the Tigers in rushing on the season but allowing Nabers to beat them deep down the field will open up Daniels’ lanes in the running game and could spell disaster for the Boilers. We will have to see if Daniels’ is fully healed from his injury he sustained in the SEC Title Game but LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly stated Daniels only needed about 7-10 days of rest to recover.