Michigan-Purdue Preview: Wolverines Should Get Big Win at Home
It looked like a misprint.
The statistics jumped off the page and not in a favorable manner: 377 rushing yards, zero turnovers, and two drives of 90 plus yards.
And 31 points in the second half.
After a first half in which the Wolverines went up 13-7, the Fighting Illini of Illinois came out with a vengeance and, with the help of very timely turnovers by Michigan, thumped the Maize and Blue to earn its first conference win of the season.
In earning the first conference win, it also deeply damaged Michigan's 2009 campaign.
However, even after losing four of its last five games, Michigan still has a chance at capturing some glory this season. It won't be easy, but with two home games left, Michigan must win this weekend against perhaps its easiest opponent left.
Purdue, that opponent, has had a real up-and-down season.
They nearly upset Oregon in Eugene and then promptly followed that effort up by losing to Northern Illinois at home. Close losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern crippled Purdue's chances in 2009, but one of their three wins this season came against Ohio State.
Even with the big win over the Buckeyes, the Boilermakers limp into the Big House having fallen victim at the hands of the Badgers just last weekend. Wisconsin took care of business at home, 37-0.
Both teams need a win, and while Purdue's season is over, Michigan still has the postseason in its sights.
Here are five elements of impact in Saturday's game between Purdue and Michigan:
1. Michigan Containing Purdue's Ralph Bolden
Bolden is third in the Big 10 in rushing yards, and Michigan just gave up 377 yards to an Illinois team that had won only one game all season.
Michigan needs to somehow pinpoint Bolden and force Purdue's Joey Elliott to beat them with the pass. The Boilermaker senior quarterback has already thrown 11 picks this season.
If Purdue can control the clock, quiet the crowd, and put together some successful drives behind Bolden, Michigan might have a struggle on their hands.
However, if they can shut him down without having to bring an extra man up in the box, it'll go a long ways for Michigan as they try to get the victory at home.
Here we are again.
Michigan's costly turnovers against Illinois and its inability not to force them has been a problem all season.
Purdue and Michigan are the bottom two in the conference when it comes to turnover ratio. They both also lead the conference in turnovers committed (26 and 21, respectively).
Michigan needs to take care of the ball and this is especially true of the senior running backs. The freshmen have coughed up the ball at times and Michigan needs to ensure that the ball stays secured in this game if they are going to win.
If not, Purdue could take down another Big 10 opponent on the road.
3. Defense, Defense, Defense
Both teams can't really brag much about their defenses save for a few stalwarts on each side. They both rank in the bottom half of the league in several categories.
Both the Wolverines and Boilermakers are leaps and bounds from where they'd like to be defensively. That's easy to recognize.
So what will happen Saturday?
It's as simple as this: Whichever team makes some game-changing plays on defense wins.
They have been few and far between for Michigan, but when they're able to get some (like Warren's pick against Iowa), it really has helped out.
4. Red Zone Chances
Michigan had some issues capitalizing inside the red zone last weekend and they need to make sure they finish the drives off with touchdowns, or at least points against Purdue.
Purdue gives up the most touchdowns in the red zone of any Big 10 team. Because of this, Michigan needs to take care of business.
For Purdue, they don't get to the red zone often, so when they do, they need to make sure they capitalize. They are 20-for-24 this season, so if they can get there, look out.
5. Minor and Brown
These two are a handful to handle if they both get going.
Should both play, and if Minor can stay healthy during the game, Purdue could have a tough time stopping the duo.
The run game could also open up the game for the freshmen quarterbacks.
Michigan leans on the run and the Wolverines churn out the yards on a suspect Purdue defense. The defense plays much better, but still gives up some big plays to the Purdue offense. The Maize and Blue hold their turnovers in check at home and are able to muster out the win. Their sixth win of the season gets the team closer to postseason play.
Michigan 26, Purdue 20
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