Northern Colorado – W (42-10)
Oregon– L (32-26 OT)
Central Michigan– W (32-25)
Notre Dame – L (38-21)
The Boilermakers limped through their out of conference schedule and come into Saturday's contest at 2-2. They took then-ranked Oregon to overtime in a 32-26 heartbreaking loss, a game they could have won had they had something that resembles a kicker. Then last week they parlayed a 14-14 halftime tie into a sole-crushing 38-21 loss to not-so-ranked Notre Dame. There's a lack of leadership on this team as evident by Purdue defensive tackle Mike Neal's comments after the ND debacle.
When you come out flat and you're not ready to play a football game and you look bored at halftime, what do you expect?" Neal said. "Then you have a lot of guys after you go through a first series like that, and they run the ball down your throat and you get to the sideline and look into everybody's faces, and they don't look interested in playing a football game.
Boilermaker quarterback Curtis Painter has been shaky at best throwing 5 TD's and 4 INT's this season. Compare that to the 15 TD's and only 2INT's he threw in OOC play last season and it's easy to see this team is going in the wrong direction. In 104 passing attempts against Penn State, Painter has yet to throw a touchdown. Derrick Williams is coming off the best game of his career and oh by the way, he caught 10 passes for 95 yards and scored two TD's (one through the air and one running) against Purdue in last year's game. Let's just say things aren't looking good for the men in Black and Gold.
Purdue is a very respectable 21st in the nation in passing offense led by the aforementioned Painter and even though they rank somewhere around 90th in rushing offense, running back Kory Sheets is a very good running back averaging over the century mark per game and just under 6 yards per rush. The problem is Purdue refuses to use him instead going back to the pass when they get into trouble. If Purdue finds a running game against Penn State and manages a pulse on defense, they could give the Nittany Lions a run for their money. Painter does spread the ball around as four players have caught at least 16 passes on the season led by WR Greg Orton who has 25 and Desmond Tardy with 23.
While Purdue's offense leads the conference in passing and can score points the defensive side of things is… well… just plain bad. They rank 99th in rushing D, 95th in pass D, 81st in scoring D, and 107th in total defense. The abovementioned Mike Neal is probably Purdue's biggest threat on defense coming in with 2 sacks and 4 TFL to lead the team in both categories and Purdue has four interceptions and two fumble recoveries but there's not much to write home about. Linebacker Anthony Heygood leads the team in tackles averaging 10 per game with an INT a forced fumble and 2 TFL.
Did I say the defense was bad? Purdue ranks 112th in net Punting averaging just under 30 yards per punt. Kicker Chris Summers is 5 for 8 on the year but he botched the Oregon game missing a 44 yarder at the end of regulation that would have ended the game and then missed a 47 yarder in overtime right before Oregon scored a game-ending TD. It's not ALLLL bad, WR Desmond Tardy is averaging 40.2 yards per kickoff return on 4 tries and we know Penn State's woes on kickoff coverage.
There are so many subplots to this game from the return of Jordan Norwood to the Big Ten's best offense vs. the Big Ten's worst defense. Can Penn State come out strong or will we see the notoriously slow road start we've seen in the past? Is this team a lame duck in Joe Tiller's last season or can they start a new run with the start of conference play? This would be a huge win for a team struggling to find itself after a humiliating second half against hated rival Notre Dame.
Realistically Purdue will have to play some bend but don't break defense score a lot of points with their offense and hope for a couple breaks. If Penn State comes out slow and Purdue can get ahead by 10 or 14 points they could make a game of it. If the Nittany Lions take the ball and ram it down Purdue's throats in the first quarter it will be a very long day.
PSU – 56
Purdue - 35