Before every game, I ask a reporter who covers the Gophers upcoming opponent to give us a view from the opponent’s perspective.
I asked Jordan Jones from GoldandBlack.com six questions about the Purdue Boilermakers.
Minnesota travels to West Lafayette to take on Purdue on November 12th, this will be the 79th meeting between the two programs.
Huge thanks to Jordan for giving us his thoughts!
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1. Purdue entered the 2023 season as the defending Big Ten West champions, as they finished the 2022 season with an overall record of 8-6 and 6-3 in the Big Ten. Head Coach Jeff Brohm left the program after six years and went home to coach Louisville. Ryan Walters, the former defensive coordinator at Illinois, takes over. What were the expectations of this team entering this year? How would you grade the season so far for the Boilermakers?
The Vegas over/under win total before the season was either 5 or 5.5, so public expectations were certainly tempered for this Purdue team. However, the fan base had some real optimism based on Ryan Walters’s energy and the strong start he got off to in recruiting. No matter who coached this team, though, 2023 would require a “reset” of sorts. The Boilermakers lost eight NFL Draft picks over the last two seasons, and that type of production doesn’t replace itself easily at programs like Purdue. The roster has real holes that a single portal cycle couldn’t overcome, and injuries haven’t helped matters, either. None of Purdue’s issues this season come as a big surprise, but I don’t know that I had this team at 2-7 heading into the home stretch.
2. Purdue enters Saturday’s game with a four-game losing streak. The last four weeks have not been kind for Purdue, as two of those teams were Ohio State and Michigan. What has gone wrong for Purdue the last four weeks? Have there been any silver linings in their losing streak?
Purdue’s offense has struggled mightily over the past month, having not scored more than 14 points in a game since the month of September. The combination of a depleted offensive line, a lack of playmakers at wide receiver and struggles from quarterback Hudson Card have caused this offense to enter a real lull. On the bright side, Purdue’s defense continues to improve in Ryan Walters’ scheme. The pass rush continues to be effective, and the players appear more and more comfortable each week despite some key injuries on that side of the ball, too.
3. The Boilermakers offense is ninth in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 20 points a game. The offense is putting up 339 yards per game, which is seventh in the conference. What is the strength of this offense? In what ways can they improve? Can you give us a few players on the offense that Minnesota fans should know about?
That’s a great question. I guess the strength of the offense comes in the running game, which is averaging more than 130 yards per game. Should that hold serve, it would be Purdue’s highest average rushing total since 2018. On the downside, after a breakout freshman campaign, Devin Mockobee has fumbled seven times in just nine games. And, there’s only so much running a team can do behind an offensive line as limited as Purdue’s. As far as guys to watch, Purdue will use about a 50/50 split of Mockobee and Tyrone Tracy out of the back field, and wide receiver Deion Burks has shown flashes of big play potential throughout the season.
4. The defense is last in the Big Ten in yards allowed and points allowed, giving up 387 yards and 31 points per game. It seems like they are successful at getting after the quarterback; they are third in the Big Ten in sacks with 27. What are the weaknesses of the defense? Who should Minnesota fans worry about when the Gophers have the ball?
The pass rushing duo of Kydran Jenkins and Nic Scourton each sit atop the Big Ten sacks leaderboard with seven a piece, and they’ve been the story of this Purdue defense. Jenkins, a senior, is playing the best football of his career, while the true sophomore Scourton drips with NFL potential and continues to improve each week. Additionally, true freshman safety Dillon Thieneman has been a revelation for this team. He’ll be on every true freshman All-American team here in a few weeks. However, Purdue’s corners struggle in man coverage, which Purdue plays almost exclusively, and the linebackers struggle to stop the outside run. I’d expect Minnesota to try and exploit that early and often on Saturday.
5. You would have to live under a rock if you haven’t heard about what’s going on at Michigan regarding the Wolverines stealing other teams’ signals. Purdue’s head coach, Ryan Walters, has found himself in the spotlight when he said, “What’s crazy is they aren’t allegations. It happened.” He would later double down on the quote by saying, “I was just calling a spade a spade.” It has now been reported that Ohio State and Rutgers allegedly gave Purdue Michigan’s signals for the Big Ten Championship last year. This whole thing is something else, in my opinion. What’s the atmosphere like in West Lafayette regarding this whole situation? What is your take on it?
Ryan Walters certainly sparked a conversation with his comments from last week, but he seems to be echoing the sentiments of all the Big Ten coaches, just a little bit more outwardly. As I type this on Tuesday night, I can’t say there’s too much of a buzz on the Purdue end of allegedly having the signs for the Big Ten Championship Game. And, even if Purdue did have the signs, it still gave up 43 points as Michigan ran away in the second half. I’m not sure that I have a huge take right now. I have to believe sign stealing is more prevalent than most of us want to know, but it seems like Michigan went an extra few miles to get a leg up here. My guess is that Jim Harbaugh is coaching an NFL team by the time anything really happens from all of this.
6. This Saturday will mark the 79th time the Golden Gophers and Boilermakers will meet on the gridiron. Minnesota leads the all-time series, 40-35-3. The Gophers have won five of the last six meetings between the teams. Purdue won 20-10 in Minneapolis last year. Purdue is a one-point favorite for this Saturday. What do the Boilermakers need to do to end their four-game skid? What is your prediction for the game?
Purdue needs to get its offense rolling. Scoring 14 or fewer points again just won’t cut it, but the signs of life aren’t there. It needs a strong performance from Hudson Card, who slipped below 60% completion on the season recently and hasn’t eclipsed 200 yards passing in over a month. On defense, Purdue’s been vulnerable to allowing a busted play to turn into a touchdown. In a game that figures to be low-scoring, a big play touchdown could make the difference. Purdue’s probably better than the 2-7 record indicates, but it needs to prove it can win a game like this to build some momentum heading into a critical offseason. I’ll go 24-17 Minnesota, though, as I think the better team prevails.