Head Coach: Joe Tiller
2004 Record: 5-1, 2-1 Big Ten
Returning starters: 8 offense, 3 defense, and kicker
Offense: Single back spread
3:30 EDT on ABC
Brent Musberger, Gary Danielson, and Jack Arute.
Wolverines hold 39-12 series advantage.
QB: Kyle Orton (Sr.)
RB: Jerod Void (Jr.)
WR: Taylor Stubblefield (Sr.)
WR: Kyle Ingraham (So.)
WR: Dorien Bryant (Fr.)
TE: Charles Davis (Jr.)
LT: Mike Otto (So.)
LG: Uche Nwaneri (So.)
C: Matt Turner (Jr.)
RG: Tyler Moore (Sr.)
RT: David Owen (Sr.)
Offensive Stat Leaders
Passing: Kyle Orton: 144/217 - 1877 yds - 66.4% -3 INT, 19 TD - 165.15 eff.
Rushing: Jerod Void: 82 att. - 386 yds. - 4.7 avg. - 2 TD
Receiving: Taylor Stubblefield: 38 rec. - 608 yds. - 16.0 avg. - 11 TD
Stat-Big Ten Ranking
Scoring offense (1st) 37.7 pts
Pass offense (1st) 331.8 yds
Rushing offense (6th) 153.3 yds
Rushing defense (3rd) 77.3 avg.
Total offense (1st) 485.3 yds
Kick returns (2nd) 29.7avg
Other stats of note:
Purdue: 3rd down conversion 58%
Michigan: Opponent 3rd down %: 27%
Purdue scores most in 1st and 3rd
Michigan allow least scores in 1st and 3rd
Offense MVP: QB Kyle Orton
Weakness: Offensive line (it's not bad though)
Key to success: Running game
Surprise player: WR Dorien Bryant
Purdue runs its trademark one-back, multiple wide receiver offense well and makes defenses cover the entire field. The BoilerMakers run the ball more than perceived. In 2003 the team ran the ball more than it passed and this year's offense is very balanced (only four more passes than runs). Brandon Jones and Jerod Void do a good job off keeping defenses honest and that translates into more success for Orton and the passing game. Also, watch for the ball to be thrown to the tailbacks on screens and swings to the flat. Purdue has done it all year and Illinois burned Michigan on passes to the backs. Purdue believes in getting the ball short to it's playmakers and allowing them to do just that- make plays. On Saturday look for a balanced attack initially. Michigan will be using a lot of defensive backs in nickel packages to offset the passing game. A consistent ground game may force Jim Hermann to add a man to the box, giving Orton more single coverage looks.
Backfield & Offensive Line:
In the backfield you will see two backs, Jerod Void and Brandon Jones. Void is a up the middle type back that has decent speed. His pass catching skills have improved and he has gotten much better in pass protection (which will be key this week). Jones is a bigger kid that doesn't have great shiftiness, but he's an assertive runner up the middle and is a productive receiver…even more so than Void. He's also a big bodyguard for Orton at 240 pounds. Jerome Brooks might get in a touch or two. He's a shifty guy that lacks consistency. but can reel off some long runs. The offensive line isn't spectacular but there are some young stars in the making, namely left tackle Mike Otto. Otto is an athletic lineman that grades out well against the run and pass. The interior is fairly solid. Tyler Moore is the best of the bunch inside. David Owen has found a home at right tackle and has done a decent job. He does his best work handling athletic ends. The line as a whole is pretty good at pass blocking allowing only 11 sacks.
How do they stack up vs. Michigan?
The spread offense obviously forces the defenses to spread its defenders. Rarely can a defense afford to add another man to the box. That means the pressure is on the front seven to stop the run. That may not be a bad thing, considering Michigan's front seven has buried the run all year (save the 2nd half against Notre Dame and the 1st half against Minnesota). Even better is the fact that Michigan does not give up the inside running game, which is where the Boilers have most of their success. Gabe Watson, Larry Harrison and Pat Massey all are tough guys to block and they occupy their gaps well. The Purdue offensive line will have trouble trying to move that big front out of the middle. If the line shuts down the inside run, the linebackers can reach the flanks and cut off the sweep plays. Neither of Purdue's backs have great speed and the linemen (sans Otto) don't excel at pulling or in space. The outcome may be different on Saturday but on paper this area looks bleak for Purdue. It will be very important for Joe Tiller's offense to run the ball because the last thing they can afford is for Michigan to lose respect for their ground game. Michigan will run the nickel defense quite a bit to match up better. Unless Purdue can run the ball effectively, they will see extra defensive backs all game.
Quarterback & Receivers:
As I said in the Big Ten preview magazine, Kyle Orton is one of finest quarterbacks in the country. What makes him special? Michigan cornerback Marlin Jackson said it best: "He has been there for the past three, four years, so he really has a hold of the offense. When you are dealing with a quarterback that knows the offense like the back of his hand, he's going to be very dangerous because he always knows where to go with the ball."
Orton knows where to go with the ball all right! He's the third leading passer in country. Kyle has a very good grasp of recognizing defensive packages and reading the field. He has been like a fine wine in Tiller's system. Although pressure can throw off his timing, he has done a much better job of hitting his hot reads since last years Michigan sack-fest. He throws the ball best in the short to medium range passing game, which is the bread and butter of the Tiller system. I've watched Kyle play a lot and the only knock I can come up with is his long ball and deep range accuracy. It's not that major of a problem though, as he has really improved in that area this year the offense doesn't rely on a lot of deep passes anyway.
Aiding Orton in his aerial assault is a diverse set of receiving options. Taylor Stubblefield is a smaller guy who’s made a living at making things happen after the catch. Kyle Ingraham is a huge target at 6'9, and towers over everyone on the field. Size doesn't equal speed but he has been a consistent guy in short yardage situations for the team. Ray Williams and Dorien Bryant have speed and can stretch a defense. The whole philosophy of the offense is to get the ball to the receivers in stride so they can make things happen. They key on Stubblefield and Bryant to do this more so than Ingraham. Bryant has been a guy that has really stepped up and his hands have become reliable "His hands have been the one surprises for me," said Orton. "Everyone knows he can run, but he struggled over the summer with catching the ball." While Bryant's hands have improved, he's still a below average route runner and he doesn't know the entire playbook yet. The tight end Charles Davis has been a surprise receiving threat. His forte was as a blocker but this year he has been getting a few balls thrown his way.
How do they stack up vs. Michigan?
As I said previously, Purdue loves to run the short routes and give it to their receivers in stride. The way to stop that is with press coverage. Marlin Jackson, Markus Curry and Leon Hall all have good size and are not afraid to get up in a receiver's face. Marlin will draw Stubblefield on most occasions. Few are better than Jackson at one on one coverage. Jackson has the skill and strength to delay Taylor off the line and battle for position on the inside routes. Stubblefield hasn't been himself as of late. Due to injury he only practiced once leading up to the Wisconsin game, where he only hauled in 3 receptions and he was yanked from returning punts. Markus Curry is probably the feistiest of the Michigan corners in bump and run. The problem is in the "run" part of that equation. He doesn't always find the ball when it's in the air. While Purdue's style isn't chucking he ball deep all game long, they may test Curry based on his performance in the last few games. Steady Leon Hall will also have to bring his physical game. Orton enters the game with great respect for the talent Michigan has on the flanks. "They have great athletes who are physical and big and really make a lot of plays," Orton said. The best part of their defense is the secondary."
Like last year Michigan will play with added defensive backs to offset the spread look. It's going to be hard to throw Orton off this time. He sniffs out defense's well and he's pretty much seen it all in terms of coverage’s. The key is defensive pressure and disrupting the timing of the passing game. Michigan will mix up the coverages and we should see a hefty dose of the zone blitz. Look for Ernest Shazor to be all over the field Saturday. He will probably spend as much time up in the box as he does back in the secondary. He could again be a vital part of the pressure package. Expect some blitzes from the short side or slot corner as well. Hermann will definitely earn his keep this week. He came up with an excellent scheme last year so I expect a well-conceived plan Saturday.