Threat(s):Running back Kory Sheets could carve up the Notre Dame defense.
Purdue's 32-25 victory over Central Michigan last week, gave head coach Joe Tiller his program-record 85th win. When Tiller took the job in West Lafayette 12 years ago, he installed a spread offense that at the time was innovative and very tough to stop. Since then, Tiller's Purdue teams and its passing attacks have played in 10 bowl games.
On Saturday, the Notre Dame defense will certainly get a heavy dose of quarterback Curtis Painter trying to sling the ball all over the field, but as the Irish continue to struggle against the run, teams are going to continue to ram the football down their throats.
In Kory Sheets, the Purdue offense has a reliable ball carrier, who's proved to be more than capable of handling the load this fall after co-starter Jaycen Tayler was lost before the season with an injury.
Sheets came into the season with 32 career rushing touchdowns, and in three games this fall, has already found the end zone six times. The 6-foot, 206-pound fifth-year senior likes to run between the tackles, and is averaging 117.33 yards per game, good for 12th in the nation. With the way the Irish have played the run, Sheets could give Notre Dame as many problems as Michigan State's Javon Ringer did in last Saturday's 23-7 loss to the Spartans.
Sheets 46-yard scoring rush with a minute to go, won the game against Central Michigan.
Tiller has been happy with the offensive line play of Garret Miller, Eric Hedstrom, Cory Benton, Justin Pierce and Zach Jones. They've only allowed six sacks this season, doing a decent job of protecting Painter and opening holes for Sheets.
Achilles Heal(s): The Purdue receivers haven't been as explosive this season as in years past.
Painter's top target is Greg Orton, who has 16 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown. Keith Smith has 15 receptions for 158 yards, and the one guy who could be dangerous, Desmond Tardy, has 13 receptions for 191 yards. A guy Notre Dame might have to watch out for as a deep threat is Aaron Valentin, a community college transfer that caught his first pass of his Purdue career for 57 yards in the win over the Chippewas.
Painter came into the season hyped as one of the best pro-prospect quarterbacks in the nation, and perhaps the best signal-caller in the Big Ten. But his season hasn't gotten off to the kind of start people in West Lafayette were expecting. After throwing for 29 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions a year ago, Painter has completed 68-of-114 passes for 754 yards, with only three touchdowns to three interceptions.
Miscellaneous: Purdue is 21-for-48 (44 percent) on third down this season. They're losing the time-of-possession battle, 28:46 to 31:14. The Boilermakers have been real good in the red zone, scoring on 18-of-20 opportunities, including 12 touchdowns. Also a threat out of the backfield and in the kick-return game, Sheets ranks ninth nationally in all-purpose yards at 177.33 yards per game. Tardy leads the nation in kick return average at 40.2 yards per return. He has a long of 68. Kicker Chris Summers is 5-of-7 on field goals this season with a long of 45 yards. His leg is definitely strong enough to make one from over 50 yards.
Anthony Heygood has been the one steady playmaker in the Boilermakers defense, ranking first on the team in tackles at 29. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound fifth-year senior has an interception and a forced fumble.
Traditionally, Purdue has a pretty good front four, but that's not the case this fall. However, Alex Magee has been solid, leading the team with two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Achilles Heal(s):As bad as Notre Dame has looked against the run, the Boilermakers have been much worse.
Saturday's game is the perfect opportunity for the Irish offense to find their running game. Purdue has been a bad-tackling team, that is allowing 192.33 rushing yards per game.
One of the worst defensive units in the country, the Boilermakers have been nearly as awful against the pass. Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen has an opportunity to throw for his first 300-yard passing game against a suspect secondary led by former walk-on safety Frank Duong, a fifth-year senior that played his prep ball at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind.
Miscellaneous: The one thing saving the Purdue defense is they get off the field on third down. Teams are just 15-of-49 (31 percent) against the Boilermakers in this situation. Purdue has also forced seven turnovers in its last two games. Teams are averaging 4.9 yards per rush and 9.8 yards per pass completion against the Boilermakers.
Game Notes: This is the 79nd-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue, and the Boilermakers first road game of the season. The Irish lead the series with a 51-26-2 record. The Vegas line has Notre Dame opening as 3.5-point favorites. Charlie Weis' record against Purdue is 2-1. Joe Tiller's record against Notre Dame is 5-6.
Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Purdue 27.
Both offenses will make plays, but the Irish will make one more. Look for Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate to have another big game.
Game Forecast: Purdue Week
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