Both teams took a loss over the weekend. Purdue (3-5; 0-4) is hoping to break a 4 game losing streak, while PSU (5-3; 3-1) is looking to bounce back after a disappointing finish in Happy Valley against OSU.
Hurricane Sandy forced PSU practice indoors Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Not ideal. Forecast for Saturday’s game in West Lafayette looks to be a mix of clouds, sun, and perhaps showers; mid-40s at kickoff. Sounds like your standard football conditions in the Midwest if you ask me.
Purdue QB switch
Current Purdue QB situation seems to be an issue of concern. Purdue’s senior Caleb TerBush has been starting all-season, but head coach Danny Hope pulled him towards the end of the game on Saturday against Minnesota in favor of fellow senior Robert Marve. Coach Hope confirmed on Tuesday that Marve will be starting against PSU. It’ll be interesting to see how the offense performs given the change in ‘command’.
It has a similar feel to what PSU was going through the last couple years – Kevin Newsome, Paul Jones, Rob Bolden, Matt McGloin – it wasn’t until this season did PSU have a true starting QB in McGloin. As we’ve heard many times already — Newsome, Bolden, and Jones were all highly recruited QBs coming out of high school. None remain on the team. Newsome now plays back-up at Temple, Bolden 3rd string down at LSU (personally, I’m happy he’s gone), and Jones attends PSU but no longer on the team (likely transfers come Spring). And then there is McGloin, the walk-on from Scranton, who waited his turn, and continued to out perform his supposedly more talented counterparts. A good example where character and discipline often beats out talent and size.
Purdue Record Deceiving?
Purdue has lost all of their Big Ten games thus far (Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota), which puts them at 3-5 overall. The only other loss was at Notre Dame very early in the season, where they lost a close battle 20-17. And then 2 weeks ago many thought they were about to upset the Buckeyes in Columbus, until losing in overtime. My point is that Purdue can play (although the Minnesota loss sure doesn’t help this point). They’re due for a win and PSU may in for a surprise challenge.
Special Teams a hit or miss
Inconsistency remains a big concern for PSU special teams. Mike Hull had a clutch punt block against OSU, but otherwise, special teams remains stagnant. I’ve yet to see a solid kick or punt return. O’Brien has made it clear that starting return players will be decided on a week-by-week basis. Hard to say how things will turn out — it’s really a hit or miss. Kicker Sam Ficken seems to be building some much needed confidence after a dismal start to the season, despite recent news that he is battling a quad issue (doesn’t sound too concerning). I wouldn’t be surprised if Ficken nails a few big FGs this game. He grew up about 90 minutes from Purdue campus, so I’m sure he’ll have some friends and family in attendance — perhaps his cousin Robbie Hummel (former Purdue basketball star, now Minnesota Timberwolves)? I would love to see Ficken have a break out performance and this might be it.
A good offensive line can make a mediocre player look good…..a decent player great. PSU never really got things going offensively against the Buckeyes and it started with the offensive line. OSU manhandled PSU up front. I bet after seeing film and getting an ear full from the coaches, these guys will be ready to move some bodies around come Saturday. This will open the running game with the 1-2 punch of Belton and Zwinak, which never did get going against the Buckeyes. And of course once you establish the run game and control the line? Well, McGloin can start throwing daggers, pad his stats, and heck, maybe even get a run play in there himself. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re the most talented RB or WR on the field if you don’t have a solid offensive line creating holes and protecting the QB. Control the trenches — control the field.
Prediction: Both teams have some concerns. PSU is favored to win, but I see it being a closer match-up than many people think. I don’t expect Purdue to put too many points on the board, especially with the solid PSU front 7. The PSU offense comes out aiming to establish the run game and controlling the line — expect Belton or Zwinak to run for 100+ yards. O’Brien took the OSU loss to heart and I know he’ll make sure to have his team more focused and ready for Saturday. PSU wins by 14 points, although it’ll feel much closer.