Turning the page on the dumb football game that took place at Huntington Bank Stadium last Saturday, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-2) head to West Lafayette for a matchup with the Purdue Boilermakers (3-1) as we enter the Big Ten conference play portion of the season.
Can Purdue score on offense?
The Boilermakers are hurting right now. First, starting running back Zander Horvath had surgery to repair a broken fibula suffered in a Week 2 matchup with Connecticut. His back-up, King Doerue, has a “medical condition” that, according to head coach Jeff Brohm, could keep him out for the year. Top wide receiver David Bell suffered a concussion in Week 3 against Notre Dame and was not cleared to play last week against Illinois. Tight end Payne Durham is also in the concussion protocol now after taking a big hit in Saturday’s 13-9 win over the Fighting Illini.
Getting the bulk of the carries at running back will be redshirt freshman Dylan Downing, who has rushed for 131 yards on 33 carries over four games this season. If Bell and Durham are both out — and it’s a good bet the latter will not be available Saturday — Purdue will be without their top two leading receivers. Junior Milton Wright would step into the No. 1 receiver role, with support from Jackson Anthrop, sophomore T.J. Sheffield, and redshirt freshman Abdur Rahmaan-Yaseen.
Who will be slinging the football for the Boilermakers? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, but bet on seeing both junior Jack Plummer and fifth-year senior Aidan O’Connell. Brohm has declined to name a starter this week, but if their last two games are any indication, he will not hesitate to swap out one for other if he feels so inclined during the game.
The Purdue offensive line is also not very good, which has only further slowed a ground game already hamstrung by the loss of their top two running backs. They’ve also given up six sacks over the last two weeks while only averaging 13 points per game.
Please tell me the Gophers will be able to score
The Boilermakers finally have a good defense under Brohm. In a season-opening victory over Oregon State, Purdue held the Beavers’ offense to 21 points, which is below their current average of 38.2 points per game. Notre Dame averages 35.2 points per game but could only muster 27 against the Boilermakers’ defense. The unit is tied for eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average of 14.25 points per game through the first third of the season.
This is more of a bend but don’t break defense, only allowing three rushing touchdowns and three field goals in eight trips to the red zone. But the Boilermakers have been tough against the pass, though cornerback Cory Trice has been out since Week 3 with an ankle injury that will sideline him for a while. But fifth-year senior Dedrick Mackey is the leader of the secondary at the other cornerback spot, and safeties Marvin Grant Jr. and Cam Allen rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, on the team in tackles. The Purdue defense leans on them all quite a bit.
Up front, defensive end George Karlaftis needs no introduction. Both he and DaMarcus Mitchell each have 1.5 sacks through the first four games, and Karlaftis has already forced two fumbles. Let’s hope the Minnesota offensive line puts a better effort this week in protecting quarterback Tanner Morgan after giving up four sacks to Bowling Green a week ago.
The Boilermakers are not stout against the run, allowing an average of 124.2 rushing yards per game. So there should be some running room for Trey Potts and co., but again it all hinges on whether the Gophers’ offensive line from the Colorado game or the Gophers’ offensive line from the Bowling Green game shows up in West Lafayette on Saturday.
But who will score more points on Saturday?
I have a feeling this is going to be ugly. The hope is that Minnesota takes the field with a massive chip on their shoulder after an embarrassing loss to Bowling Green, but the issues last week were as much with the coaching staff as they were with the players. Have both of them learned the appropriate lessons from that game? We’ll find out on Saturday. In the meantime, I’ll go with the Gophers to win a slopfest, because why not. Minnesota 16, Purdue 13.