Purdue writer: Michigan, outmanned at receiver, will fall to Boilermakers
Purdue is 3-1 and being considered a darkhorse Big Ten title contender. But has a weak nonconference slate masked underlying issues?
Michigan is 2-2 and considered one of the country's biggest early disappointments. But has a difficult nonconference slate made things seem worse than they are?
Both clubs will know a lot more this week, when they tangle Saturday in West Lafayette (4 p.m., BTN).
Mike Carmin, who covers Purdue for the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Boilermakers -- whom he thinks pulls out a win against Michigan.
MLive: Purdue has been highly effective this year through the air. The offense scored 51 points last week and seems to really be clicking. What is making
it so successful?
Mike Carmin: The 51 points is a little misleading since Purdue returned two interceptions for touchdowns, but the offense generated 443 total yards. Quarterback Caleb TerBush had his best game of the season, throwing for career highs of 294 yards and four touchdowns against Marshall. In its three wins against weaker competition, Purdue has put up some big numbers. I'm not sure the numbers will be quite as big against Michigan's defense.
MLive: The defense, on the other hand, allowed 41 points and a ton of yardage to Marshall. Michigan also happens to have a guy named Denard Robinson
playing QB. How do you expect Purdue to try to contain Robinson and that
offense, and do you think they can do it?
Carmin: Marshall's style is different than Michigan's and it's hard to read much into what happened last week. For the most part, Purdue has done an OK job against Robinson. He's been held to less than 70 rushing yards in each of the last two meetings and hasn't thrown for more than 176. I'm sure Robinson is determined to bounce back after the Notre Dame, and Purdue could pay the price. The defensive front is solid and I think they'll keep the big plays to a minimum.
MLive: There's a lot of hype starting to trickle out that Purdue could contend for a Big Ten title. Does it have what it takes to be in that conversation?
Carmin: Yes and no. I think they have what it takes on the defensive side, especially up front and at the cornerback positions. Not completely sold on the offense, despite some of the big numbers. The running game averaged 2.8 yards a carry against a weak Marshall defense last week and the line has protection issues that could be exposed in Big Ten play. Special teams have been hit and miss. Two blocked punts, two blocked PATs and four extra points missed. That could prove costly down the line. Everyone knows the Big Ten is wide open, and if Purdue can avoid an 0-3 start in conference play it will be right there.
MLive: Where on the field will be Michigan's biggest matchup disadvantage?
Carmin: I'll go with the receivers against Purdue's cornerbacks. Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson have a combined three interceptions against Robinson, including two by Johnson. Two years ago, Allen returned the first of his school-record four interceptions for touchdowns against Robinson and the Wolverines. His latest came last week. Allen also lines up as the nickel and moves around a lot.
MLive: Purdue was crushed last season when facing a post-bye Michigan team. It gets the job done this year if ...
Carmin: ... it can keep Robinson in the pocket, force him to throw, make sure Fitz Toussaint doesn't have another big day and find a way to generate a balanced attack on offense. TerBush to play well. I think a turnover decides this one.
Mike Carmin's prediction: Gone back and forth all week. Next week's game against Wisconsin is more important because of the implications within the Leaders Division, but this is an opportunity for the Boilermakers to make a mini-statement that the expectations around the program are justified. Purdue 24, Michigan 20
Check out Mike Carmin's work at the Lafayette Journal and Courier, and find him on Twitter at @carminjc.