Here's The Deal … Purdue, as always, is trying to get past injury problems, but the overall production has been mediocre against bad teams like Middle Tennessee and Rice, and last week there wasn't a prayer of staying with Notre Dame in a 38-10 loss. Even so, if the offense can keep running well and the special teams can stay a plus, there's a chance to go on a decent run with Minnesota up this week followed by a very, very winnable game at Penn State and a home game against Illinois. The offense has to find some pop, and Minnesota is just the team to help the cause.
The Gophers are fighting through coaching problems, with head man Jerry Kill fighting to control his seizures, and offensive woes with the new attack not working out as hoped. Losses to New Mexico State and North Dakota State were among the worst by any BCS conference team this season, while the 58-0 loss to Michigan last week was lifeless and depressing. Minnesota didn't even show up.
With interesting regional games against Nebraska and Iowa up next, a win against Purdue on the road would be a terrific shot in the arm. A good performance, though, might be good enough.
Why Minnesota Might Win: There's no fear of a Purdue pass rush to worry about. There's no Ryan Kerrigan ripping it up in the backfield this season with the Boilermakers only generating four sacks on the year with two coming against Rice and two against SE Missouri State. Pass protection has been a huge problem for a Minnesota offensive line that hasn't been consistent in any way, and the quarterback – whomever that might be – desperately needs time.
Purdue has had an awful time keeping the mistakes to a minimum, and for a team that struggles so much offensively, nine penalties a game for 77 yards are way too many. The Boilermakers are 116th in the nation in penalties after committing 13 for 118 yards against the Irish, but …
Why Purdue Might Win: Minnesota isn't exactly much better screwing up seven times for 51.60 yards per game. The team is playing like a mess with nothing going right on either side of the ball. Purdue doesn't have a pass rush but Minnesota has less of one. Purdue is having consistency problems throwing the ball, but Minnesota is dead-last in the Big Ten in scoring. The Gophers couldn't stop New Mexico State or North Dakota State, and they didn't have a prayer against Michigan thanks to a defensive line that's not disruptive in any way and a secondary that's not coming up with any big plays.
The stats are a little skewed because of the 393 yards and seven scores against SE Missouri State, but the Purdue running game has been solid at times with a nice 1-2 punch in Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers. Against the Gopher front seven they should breakout after not getting a chance to do much against the Irish.
What To Watch Out For: Minnesota's biggest issue on the field is the lack of production from MarQueis Gray. The big, talented quarterback was supposed to make up for a slew of problems across the board by simply being the best play on the field at times. Instead, he's struggled and sputtered, he hasn't been able to get the chains moving, and now he has a problem with a toe injury and missed the Michigan game. True freshman Max Shortell is a good looking prospect, but he couldn't push the ball down the field against the Wolverines completing just 11-of-22 passes for 104 yards.
It's time for Bolden to get moving again. He started out the season with 120 yards against Middle Tennessee, and he ran for two scores against SE Missouri State, but he only ran six times for 17 yards against Notre Dame. He appears to be 100% after missing all of last year with a knee injury, and with the way the Gopher run defense had problems against Michigan last week, the holes and the space should be there for Bolden to crank out 100 yards.
What Will Happen: Minnesota will play with more fight and a bit more production than last week, but the run defense will get ripped up by the Boilermakers. Purdue will control the ball and the game, and then it'll take advantage of mistakes when the Gophers try to press.
CFN Prediction: Purdue 34 … Minnesota 24