|West Lafayette: where ACLs go to die.|
THE OFFENSIVE MATCHUP I'M WATCHING IS... Denard vs. fans' opinions. I was going to write a dedicated post about this but the timing had passed after people began to let State go. After MSU, many people were calling for Devin to start at QB and using Denard as a RB/WR in a Percy Harvin-like situation--something that has been suggested since Hoke took over. I am in the shrinking minority who believes Denard should stay at QB, though Devin has earned considerable snaps anyway, and addressing the dual-QB stuff in the off-season. To me, this has been the first real point of conflict among fans since Hoke took over. It's important to remember, however, that we see the good and bad of Denard at QB on the field, but the coaches see the good and bad of Devin at QB in practice. Denard may have been shaky, even in some of the wins, but he's the QB that ultimately got us to 6-1. State, not great--that's obvious. But a bounce back game with a Minnesota-like passing performance should help alleviate fans' growing anxiety about taking the most explosive player in college football away from his natural position. Also, not throwing anywhere in the direction of CB Ricardo Allen would be great.
THE DEFENSIVE MATCHUP I'M WATCHING IS... Michigan linebackers vs. wrapping up Ralph Bolden. Purdue is a team that's perfectly content running between the tackles 3 times in a row at 3-4 ypc. And that will be the difference: 3 or 4 ypc. That difference will be determined by how the front 7, specifically Michigan's backers, hit RB Ralph Bolden at the point of attack and now allowing him to stretch runs into extra yards. Purdue likes to play ahead of the downs and distances--who doesn't--but they really break down under 3rd-and-long situations. It'll be how Michigan defends the run on 2nd down that will win this game defensively.
IF I HAD ONE WISH ON SPECIAL TEAMS IT'D BE... Not to play in a trash storm. Oh the game isn't in East Lansing? Good. Hagerup had some of his best punts against Purdue, including a 72-yard bomb last year. Michigan should be able to control the game offensively against Purdue but it's nice to know we can switch the field on them, if need be, on Hagerup's leg.
I AM WORRIED ABOUT... TerBush on the edge. Purdue will likely babysit the playcalling down to TerBush's comfort level, much like how Borges tries to establish a rhythm for Denard. When short, quick passes aren't available, broken plays will have TerBush on the outside with a minor threat to run. Michigan's inability to contain on the edge has been well-documented. It will be frustrating if TerBush can extend plays on this defense. I will freak out of an OLB jumps on a pump fake; tackle him or make him throw into the secondary.
I AM COMFORTABLE WITH... Nothing after last week. Getting Purdue at home, despite their impressive win against the Illini last week, is what this team needs. Take care of business on the field, get over the mental hump, and feel good about 7-1 heading on the road. Nothing fancy. Nothing more.
I AM EXCITED ABOUT... Blitzing. I think this defense comes out hungry. Furthermore, I think Mattison comes out angry. Now Mattison is too goofy looking to picture actually being visibly mad but he shows it through his playcalling. Michigan is usually pretty conservative their first 1-2 drives to feel out the offense's gameplan but I think the defense comes out aggressive to prove a point.
BOLD PREDICTION... Fitz with over 100 yards, including a break out run. This could just be wishful thinking. The backs, especially Fitz, started off the season strong before tapering off and being essentially non-existent against State. The emphasis will and should remain on a balanced running attack and I think (hope) Fitz proves to be that guy for the second half of the season.
ALMOST FORGOT... Purdue's win last week against the Illini, despite not scoring in the second half, should have earned our undivided attention. They Boilermakers have now played 2 solid halves against decent opponents: the 2nd half against ND and the 1st half against Illini. They could put it together. This is a game, not a blowover. More reason we need this game.
GAME PREDICTION... Mattison blitzes the hell out of Purdue and earns Michigan a fast start from the get-go. A Denard pick and offensive stalling via crazy formations lets Purdue back into the game, but never really within striking distance. Denard finishes with average numbers and the debate continues on whether he's our main signal caller going on the road. Michigan wins just comfortably enough to feel good about the game. Michigan 38-17.