September 21, 2007

Purdue vs. Minnesota - Guest Preview

As I'm sure you've noticed I haven't exactly been into week by week previews here at Gopher Nation. I guess that is primarily because I don't feel I'm familiar enough with our opponents that I could give an adequate and fair preview. I would have been very wrong 2/3 of the time thus far so I guess it was probably the right decision.

So instead of me breaking down the MN/Pur matchup I have asked Off the Tracks, a Purdue blog who has been brilliant in the Big Ten Pick'em , to give Gopher Nation his take on Saturday's game.

1. If Minnesota is going to win, schematically what will they have to do to the Boilermakers?

Honestly its going to take Purdue turning the ball over, a lot. Last week The Boilers had five turnovers and still won comfortably against Central Michigan. So far Purdue has been able to pass, pass, pass, but what is keeping teams honest is the ground game. before Jaycen Taylor got hurt Purdue had both him and Kory Sheets splitting the carries just about evenly. Sheets ran for 144 yards and two TD's last week, plus Curtis Painter has proven the past two years he can run the ball if he has to. This year Purdue seems to have more balance than in past seasons. Sheets will be the man now, but true freshman Dan Dierking will see more action with the first unit. In mop up action he already has mroe than 100 yards and a pair of TD's.

Minnesota's best hope is to probably use its ground game to keep the Boilermaker offense off the field. The Gophers also can't afford to turnt he ball over like they did against Florida Atlantic. If Purdue gets a short field often, it will be over in a hurry. Purdue also has so many dangerous receivers that someone is going to be open that can catch the ball. minnesota will need to get to Painter and not give him time to throw, something that no one has done yet. To my knowledge Painter has been sacked just once so far. If he has all day to throw like he has in the first three games he's going to find someone, and he's already thrown TD passes to eight different receivers. He has yet to throw an interception and only came close once, but an Eastern Illinois defender dropped the pass. Last season Painter led the nation with 19 picks in 14 games.

2. Over the years Pur / Min has typically been a high scoring affair with yards and points piled up. Going back to the games with Alstott and Chris Darkins running all over the field these teams have combined for 60+ points in 9 of their last 12 games.

2005 - 42-35 (OT)
2001 - 28-35 (OT)
2000 - 24-38
1999 - 28-33
1998 - 21-56
1997 - 43-59
1995 - 39-38
1994 - 37-49
1993 - 59-56

Will they combine for over 60 on Saturday and if so, how many of those points will Purdue have?

Purdue's averaging just under fifty on their own and I have seen where Minnesota can score in a hurry as well, so this should be a fun one. Purdue defense is much improved over the last two seasons, but it was hard to get much worse. They've improved to the point that they can now get the occasional stop and hold teams to about 20-25 points. Last year we gave up 35 to one of the worst 1-AA teams in the country in Indiana State. People may say that we're a product of our schedule, but that result from last year tells we couldn't stop anybody. This year we've played slightly better teams in our first three games and have never been threatened.

I think there will be sixty points scored, and honestly unless Minnesota's defense shows drastic improvement or Purdue throws a lot of interceptions about 45 of those will be Purdue's.

3. If Painter breaks his leg in the 1st qtr who will replace him, is he any good and how many yards will he have?

Joey Elliott is our backup and he has seen only some very limited action the past two seasons. So far on the season he is 1 for 4 for 7 yards and an interception while primarily handing off to Dan Dierking to kill the clock. Elliott is big at 6'3" and is a redshirt sophomore, and was 6 of 10 for 72 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT last year. He honestly hasn't played a ton, and not at all in a real game situation, but as a redshirt this is his third year in the system. He's also the only other quarterback who has actually seen the field, so he would play in a situation like that.

I honestly can't say what Elliott would do, but I'd probably be unconcious from a heart attack if Painter left the game anyway. I think he would do alright, but simply from lack of actual game experience there would be a serious dropoff. What makes Painter so good is that he has had essentially the same receiving options since he became the starter two years ago. They've grown intot he offense together and it is very hard to repalce that.

4. Which Golden Gopher is the one who strikes fear in the hearts of Boilermaker fans, players and coaches?

Amir Pinnix. The last two season we have struggled to stop the running game and it has killed us. We've faced a couple of good backs so far in Toledo's Jalen Parmele and Central Michigan's Ontario Sneed, but they are only good by MAC standards. Pinnix is in a different class and if our defense really isn't that much better Pinnix could be in a field day. I attended the game in minneapolis two years ago and both Gary Russell and Laurence Maroney tore us up. Last year Pinnix didn't find the end zone, but he did rush for more than 170 yards.

If Purdue can contain him then suddenly the defense will have a lot more confidence for the rest of the season, as Pinnix is one of the top backs in the league and Minnesota has always had a good running game. Minnesota needs to use him to control the tempo and keep the Purdue offense off the field.

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