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Keys to the Game: Purdue vs. Michigan

Purdue will face a Michigan program swirled in turmoil in Ann Arbor but the mountain they face to victory may be too much to overcome themselves

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 21 Michigan at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Purdue Boilermakers will head north to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on the Michigan Wolverines in a rematch of the 2022 B1G Championship Game. Although the rematch has lost most of the the potential luster due to Purdue’s struggles to a 2-6 record, Purdue is still fighting for bowl eligibility while Michigan is still fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Head Coach Ryan Walters didn’t mince words in his weekly radio show appearance saying the Boilermakers had to chance their signals due to information they had of multiple times UM staff members or other directed individuals were in attendance at Purdue games.

In the long run, it more than likely makes little different given Purdue’s struggles offensively for the entire length of the season but that’s not why we are here. If Purdue is going to beat the Wolverines, here is what needs to happen.

Let’s get into the Keys for the Game!

1 | Force a minimum of 3 turnovers and turn them into touchdowns every time

Purdue is doing a great job as a defense of getting pressure on the quarterbacks and forcing ball carriers into fumbles. Purdue’s defense averages 1.6 turnovers generated per game on the season and has averaged 2.3 over the previous 3 games. They will need to have a repeat type of performance from last week where they got 4 turnovers against Nebraska but the offense sputtered and couldn’t capitalize and in fact gave up 7 points of their own off a blocked field goal attempt.

If Purdue can generate 21 points off turnovers while also not turning it over themselves, that is always a recipe for a big upset. That means Dillon Thieneman, Kydran Jenkins, and Nic Scourton will have to all have big games and come up with big plays throughout the entire game.

2 | Generate First Downs to Keep Michigan’s Offense Off the Field

Purdue was gifted with about as good of a chance as you can get on the road at Nebraska to shut a game down early and take control when the offense was given the ball three times inside Cornhusker territory along with a defensive scoop and score. They did little to nothing to generate any momentum all day by failing to get 100 yards rushing or passing on the day. The defense was constantly placed in bad situations, especially in the early parts of the game, by having an offense that couldn’t generate first downs and keep them off the field.

If Purdue is going to have any chance in this game they are either going to suddenly show an explosiveness to their offense that simply hasn’t been there all year and probably lack overall or they are going to have to generate a lot of first downs to make the game shorter and control the flow of the game. If Purdue can do that to the tune of controlling the time of possession through sustained and controlled drives that lead to points on a consistent basis, it’s another big check mark in a major upset.

3 | Get a Touchdown on Special Teams or Defense

Scoring a defensive touchdown is a devastating turn for an team to overcome. Although stats are hard to come by for the college game, according to stats in the 2010 season in the NFL, teams won games 86.4% of the time they scored a defensive touchdown. In another set of stats from the NFL, a team wins 85% of the time they score a special teams touchdown. In games where the talent level appears to be quite overwhelming, a team stays in it when they can generate their own momentum through game changing type of plays that allows doubt to start creeping into the minds of their opponent.

Let’s be honest here and state the obvious. Michigan has blown everyone out so far this season having given up double digit points only once this year. That was 10 to Minnesota where the Wolverines scored 52. However, what happens when an opponent drags them to the deep end, so to say? What happens when momentum is clearly on the side of the opponent and you haven’t been pushed into that late game situation where nerves and being unsure of yourself comes into play? For the Wolverines, that is probably the only question mark that remains for them this season.

4 | Hold Michigan to 30 Points or Less

Of all the keys pointed out here, this may actually be the hardest to do. Michigan’s offense did struggle a bit at the start of the season but have turned it on as of late scoring 45, 52, 52, and 49 the last four weeks. How will they look coming off a bye week and looking ahead to their three toughest opponents of the season in Penn State, Maryland, and Ohio State? Could UM revert back to their early season form and struggle? Could they have a game where the bottom drops out?

Purdue’s offense just isn’t likely to score a bunch of points against a defense that is probably the best in the country. The next best is Ohio State and Purdue did manage to put up 17 points and should have scored into the 20’s. There is the potential there to score some points if Burks, Miller, and the duo of Tracy and Mockobee get going. The question is can the Boilermaker defense hold UM to under 30?


Let’s not kid ourselves here. This may be the best overall opponent Purdue has faced in the better part of a decade. There have been some really good Wisconsin and Ohio State teams Purdue has faced and those LSU and Auburn teams Purdue faced in bowl games were incredibly talented. This Michigan team legitimately may be the best in the country BUT they have year to really face an opponent that could be placed in the same discussion as being on their level. So far, that best opponent is Rutgers and their best opponents are in the three weeks following the Boilers.

In all honesty, this is probably the lowest I have felt about the probability of a Boilermaker victory as I’ve felt since the Hazell years. Not because I feel Walters is doing a poor job or that I feel this team is devoid of talent, which I don’t feel at all. It’s just that Michigan is clearly head and shoulders better than Purdue.

This one is probably over mid-way through the first quarter after Michigan scores two quick touchdowns and gets the ball back and heads down the field for a third touchdown before the end of the first quarter.

Purdue: 13
Michigan: 48