Can Northwestern Get Back on Track At Purdue?

Joe SlowikCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2009

EVANSTON, IL - SEPTEMBER 08: of the Northwestern Wildcats of the Nevada Wolf Pack on September 8, 2007 at Ryan Field at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

After two disappointing finishes, Northwestern goes on the road to face a Purdue team with more offensive weapons than the last few teams they've faced.

If I were a gambling man, I would take the over. Both of these teams have dangerous offenses and struggle to keep the other team from putting points on the board. An entertaining shootout is definitely possible.

NU is an underdog, but they definitely have a chance to win the game. Here are some keys to a Wildcat victory. Yes, they are fairly similar to what I've said in previous articles.

1. Stop the run

Purdue's running game is getting a bit more credit than it deserves in my opinion. It looks great on paper, but Bolden and Taylor did a lot of their damage against a Toledo team that can't stop anyone.

That said, they're still highly talented and NU hasn't exactly shut down weaker running teams. Bolden has more than enough speed to torch the Cats' defense if they have the same type of performance they have the last few games.

If NU can somehow avoid getting killed on the ground, their chances improve quite a bit. Elliot has done quite a bit of damage through the air, but hasn't been consistent. If the game comes down to a gun-slinging contest between Kafka and Elliot, that should favor Northwestern.

2. Let the running game out

Northwestern has had quite a bit of success through the air the last two games. However, the running game hasn't done much and it seems to be hurting the offense. The Cats have less than 120 rushing yards combined in the last two games. Teams have been going all out in the rush against Kafka and it's caused some very painful negative plays.

NU has the weapons to have a more balanced offense. Arby Fields is an explosive back that can get big chunks of yardage if he finds a seam and Kafka has also done significant damage in the past.

A more balanced offense will help take some pressure off Kafka, both literally and figuratively.

3. Take care of the ball

This is still a major factor for the Cats. They simply can't afford to leave any points on the field with the way they have been playing. They've also blown chances to win the game on late drives in each of the last two games due to turnovers.

Lost opportunities could doom the Cats pretty quickly in this game if they aren't careful. In the past two games they've been down two scores early in the second quarter. They simply can't afford to keep doing that if they want to play in a bowl game.

I'm not going to make a prediction in this one since they backfired in my last two articles. Like a typical NU game, I expect a close contest that will come down to the wire. Hopefully things will end better this time and the trip back from West Lafayette will be a happy one.