The 2011 edition of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl features the Purdue Boilermakers from the Big Ten Conference versus the Western Michigan Broncos from the Mid-American Conference.
The game will be played on Dec. 27 at 4:30 p.m. ET in Detroit, Michigan at Ford Field. The game will be televised on ESPN.
The game will be the first of two played on this Tuesday evening.
Record: 6-6 (4-4 Big Ten)
Biggest Win: vs. Ohio State, 26-23 (OT), Nov. 12
Worst Loss: at Rice, 22-24, Sept. 10
Purdue’s season was very much a roller-coaster ride, in which the Boilermakers never won consecutive games. However, by starting the season with a victory, only losing consecutive games once and finishing the season with a victory, the Boilermakers earned themselves a berth in a bowl game.
The Boilermakers looked to be in for a long season when they lost their second game of the year to Rice, but got a big win that helped propel them to a bowl bid late in the season when they upset Ohio State in front of a home crowd in an overtime thriller.
Record: 7-5 (5-3 MAC)
Biggest Win: at Connecticut, 38-31, Oct. 1
Worst Loss: at Eastern Michigan, 10-14, Oct. 22
Led by junior quarterback Alex Carder, the Broncos rank eighth nationally in passing yards per game. On the other hand, their rushing offense ranks just 86th nationally. In total offense, the Broncos rank 22nd nationally, but they have struggled defensively and rank 100th nationally in total defense.
The Broncos have certainly put up good passing numbers, but those have not come against great competition; the Broncos did not win a single game against a bowl-bound team this season.
Western Michigan QB Alex Carder, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: sixth to seventh round
Western Michigan’s offense is all about passing the football, in large part due to the ability of starting quarterback Alex Carder. Carder ranks eighth nationally with 312.2 passing yards per game, with a 28-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
At only 6’2’’ and lacking a great arm, Carder is not a great NFL prospect, but he is a very good collegiate quarterback and will need to play well for the Broncos to have a chance at winning this game.
Western Michigan WR Jordan White, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: fifth round
Wide receiver Jordan White has played a huge role in the success of Alex Carder and the Western Michigan passing offense. The Broncos are going to need to have a big performance to win in this game.
White has been tremendously productive in his senior season; he leads the nation in receptions with 127 and in receiving yards with 1,646. White is also tied for second nationally with 16 touchdown receptions.
White may not stand out physically, but he has terrific hands, is strong and runs good routes. White’s productivity speaks for itself; with a solid performance in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, he is likely to surpass 4,000 receiving yards for his collegiate career.
Purdue DT Kawann Short, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: third to fourth round
With Ryan Kerrigan having graduated, defensive tackle Kawann Short became the star of the Boilermakers defensive line this season. He leads Purdue with 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks this season.
At 6’3’’ and 310 pounds, Short is a massive defensive tackle who also has the quickness and explosiveness to make a huge impact in the trenches. Short is the Boilermakers’ biggest defensive playmaker himself, but by eating up space and demanding double-teams, he also enables his teammates to make plays.
Short’s combination of size and quickness, along with his collegiate productivity, make him a potential second-round selection if he declares for the 2012 NFL draft. His impact is going to be key to the success of the Boilermakers defense in this game.
Common Opponents: Michigan and Illinois
Purdue: win vs. Illinois, 21-14, Oct. 22; loss at Michigan, 14-36, Oct. 29
Western Michigan: loss at Michigan, 10-34, Sept. 3; loss at Illinois, 20-23, Sept. 24
Wins vs. Bowl-Bound Teams: Purdue 2, Western Michigan 0
Losses vs. Non-Bowl-Eligible Teams: Purdue 1, Western Michigan 1
Purdue’s Total Offense: 79th in nation, 371.4 yards per game
Western Michigan’s Total Defense: 100th in nation, 434.1 yards allowed per game
Western Michigan’s Passing Offense: eighth in nation, 328.8 yards per game
Purdue’s Passing Defense: 36th in nation, 202.8 yards allowed per game
The Boilermakers’ play has been very inconsistent this season, but they played in one of the nation’s deepest conferences, the Big Ten, and managed an even 4-4 record against their in-conference schedule to become bowl-eligible.
Meanwhile, while Western Michigan’s passing offense has been among the nation’s most prolific, they have yet to beat a bowl-eligible team this season.
I do not see that changing in this game. The Broncos defense has struggled mightily this season, and while Purdue does not have an explosive offense, they should come into this game with much more preparation, for they have played a much tougher schedule.
I do not see an upset from the Mid-American Conference coming into this game, in what should be a high-scoring game given the struggles of Western Michigan’s defense, but the ability of their passing offense.
Final Score Prediction: Purdue 34, Western Michigan 28
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