The Boilermakers will bring a new-look offense and a veteran defense to the game on Saturday. But just as important I believe, they'll bring their fans and their contempt for everything Irish on Saturday as well.
The chess match between Purdue head coach Joe Tiller and Irish head coach Charlie Weis should be worth the price of admission alone. While I don't think Tiller is on the same level of Weis as a coach, I do believe Tiller is smart enough to recognize Notre Dame's weaknesses and will bring a game plan designed to exploit them.
Looking at the talent on hand, Purdue's front seven on defense are impressive, especially their front four. But they do have a weakness in the secondary and that's been exposed as well.
The Boilermaker offense is averaging over 400 yards of offense per game, but they haven't exactly played the best competition thus far.
Surprisingly, the Boilermaker defense surrendered 300 rushing yards against Minnesota last week in their overtime loss to the Golden Gophers after allowing an average of 18 yards rushing in their previous two games. Is Minnesota that good of a rushing team, or were the other teams that poor rushing the football? Probably more likely, both teams were playing from behind most of the game and forced to abandon the run.
Regardless, Purdue has been stout against the run both earlier this season and last year as well. Essentially the same defense held the Irish to just 76 yards rushing last year on 36 rushing attempts.
I fully expect the Boilermakers to try to shut down Darius Walker and the Irish rushing attack. They have a solid defensive front seven and should be successful in slowing down Walker if that's what they choose to do.
However, the difference in this game will be the quarterbacks. One is experienced and the other isn't.
Opposing teams in the past would line up eight or nine players in the box on Saturdays and dare the Irish to beat them deep. Notre Dame didn't have much success previously.
But Brady Quinn is far more experienced and confident than he was at this time last season. I believe if Purdue tries to challenge Quinn and Notre Dame's passing attack, they'll lose. Quinn has been very effective throwing the football this year, and more importantly, he's making the correct reads and throws to beat opposing blitzes and defenses.
Purdue's quarterback Brandon Kirsch, while a nice player, doesn't have the experience of Quinn and will make mistakes. Kirsch can make some big plays while throwing, but he only completes just over 50 percent of his passes and has thrown just four touchdowns thus far.
The question becomes: will Notre Dame's offense score more points on the Purdue defense than the Purdue offense will score on the Irish defense.
Both defenses have some holes, but I believe the Irish have the more potent offense and the experienced quarterback. That's usually enough to win.
But one can't discount the environment and Ross-Ade Stadium is not a pleasant environment if you're wearing an Irish helmet.
The other factor that scares me is that the Irish haven't matched the intensity that Purdue brings to this game in recent contests between the two. If the Irish show up flat, they'll likely lose on Saturday.
Mike Frank Prediction
If the game were played in South Bend, I think the Irish would win fairly easy. But the game will be played in West Lafayette, and I think the Irish will struggle to win.
Notre Dame: 27 Purdue: 21