Dorien Bryant, WR- Purdue has been known for its ability to throw the ball ever since Joe Tiller arrived in West Lafayette 10 years ago, and this season is no different. Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter leads the Big Ten in passing yards, and his top target is the 5-10, 175-pound Bryant. Bryant leads the Big Ten with 6.0 receptions/game and 74.3 yards/contest – averages that equal his effort against IU last season when he had six catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns in Purdue's 41-14 win.
While Bryant will be of utmost concern to IU cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors, he's also a dangerous threat in other areas. In addition to his 66 receptions for 814 yards and six touchdowns, Bryant also averages 20.0 yards/return on kickoffs, where he'll be back deep along with Boilermaker tailback Kory Sheets. When Purdue's on offense, don't be surprised to see Bryant run a reverse or two as well. He has 16 rushes this season for 133 yards and a touchdown. He's coming off one of his best games of the year last week against Illinois – nine catches for 120 yards and a touchdown to go along with four rushes for 32 yards and another score – so keeping him under wraps is imperative.
Dustin Keller, TE - While we're on the subject of pass catchers, Keller has been a primary target of Painter as well. While Indiana relies almost exclusively on three and four-wide receiver sets with its spread attack, Purdue does utilize the tight end a great deal, evidenced by Keller's 46 catches for 643 yards. He hasn't been as integral in the offense in recent weeks – he has only 13 catches for 123 yards in his last four games combined – but he'll be a valuable weapon for Painter over the middle, especially if Indiana opts to blitz the Boilermaker quarterback early and often.
Chris Summers, PK - While Bryant and Keller present big concerns for the IU defense, Summers is someone the IU coaching staff won't mind seeing on the field. That's because the 6-1, 170-pound freshman from Fishers, Ind., has suffered through a miserable debut season, converting only 8-of-19 field goal attempts. In Purdue's 17-15 win over Michigan State two weeks ago the Purdue staff actually turned to fifth-year senior Casey Welch for the game-winning 18-yard field goal – which he made – but Summers was once again handling the placekicking duties in last week's 42-31 win over Illinois. While he was perfect on six extra-point attempts, he missed his only field goal attempt from 36 yards out.
Summers' struggles are why Indiana needs to keep Purdue out of the end zone and force Summers to put points on the board with his leg. He's made only three out of his last 13 attempts, so his confidence is as about as low as it can go. Couple that with the fact he's a freshman playing in his first Old Oaken Bucket game and it's easy to see his struggles continuing if the IU defense can keep the Boilers out of the end zone.
Anthony Spencer, DE - Indiana might have gone up against the Big Ten's best defensive end last weekend in Michigan's LaMarr Woodley, but Spencer isn't too far behind. When it comes to productivity, in fact, Spencer is as good as it gets, leading the nation with 26 ½ tackles for loss to go along with 9 ½ sacks, four forced fumbles and a team-best 82 tackles.
It remains questionable whether freshman Rodger Saffold will be ready to go this weekend, meaning sophomore Kyle Thomas and senior Scott Anderson could draw the unenviable assignment of keeping Spencer from causing havoc in the IU backfield. The 6-3, 261-pound Spencer has been the player that opposing offensive coordinators concern themselves with the most, as the Purdue defense as a whole surrenders 406 yards and more than 26 points per game. If Indiana can keep Spencer from single-handedly shutting down Kellen Lewis and the IU attack, the Hoosiers should be able to put plenty of points on the board.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Matchups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
Four Days and Counting...
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