Over the last decade, Purdue has struggled on the football field. Going 43-80 since 2007, which includes three different head coaches. And just over a quarter of those wins actually came under Joe Tiller in 2007 and 2008. So, it’s fair to say things haven’t gone very well for the Boilermakers recently.
But has PU finally figured things out? That’s what a lot of fans and analysts are thinking now that Jeff Brohm has taken over the program and had his guys performing very well in his first three games as head coach. That includes two nice wins over Ohio and Missouri, as well as a near shocking win over 2016 Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson, and Louisville. It’s (partially) why national and local college football media members are picking the Boilermakers to upset the Wolverines on its biggest home game in recent memory.
The other main reason Purdue is seen as a legit upset candidate is the struggles of Wilton Speight and the entire Michigan offense.
Will UM figure it out with conference play here? Who will step up with Tarik Black out indefinitely? Check out my top four things to watch in my 2017 Michigan vs. Purdue game preview:
Coming Alive in the Dead Zone
Is Michigan’s offense truly struggling or were the coaches watering down the playbook for out of conference opponents? I’m not one of those people that really buys the latter idea. While I do believe Michigan held some things back while out of conference, I don’t believe Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton decided to not use sure-fire scoring plays in the red zone when the offense was struggling to put the ball in the end zone against Cincinnati and Air Force.
Michigan needs to figure things out on offense against a team that can put points on the board. Though the UM defense is legit, only getting three points on every drive is going to bite the Wolverines in the ass very soon.
More Higden Reps
Ty Isaac has led the Michigan offense over the first three weeks of the season, averaging 112 yards on the ground per game while becoming the go-to guy for big plays. However, his timidness to run over tacklers and hit the hole at 100 mph is something that could start to be more of an issue as the season continues. And with Chris Evans looking to be a bit in the dog house, Higdon is the guy who I believe could see the most reps against Purdue.
His ability to make one-cut and go between and outside the tackles makes him, arguably, the best option for this young offensive line. If Onwenu and Ulizio continue to struggle a bit, having a guy who can take advantage of the quick closing holes should put the offense in better distance to goes on every possession. Look out for my preseason breakout pick to see more touches on Saturday.
Will DPJ have the Leash Taken Off?
The loss of leading receiver, Tarik Black, to a broken foot bone is pretty killer to the offense, especially with it already struggling. But, like with all teams, it’s next man up and that next man looks to be the other top freshmen receiver on the roster, Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Uber talented and crazy athletic, Peoples-Jones looked to need some more time in practice and in the playbook to really make an impact on the field. But, as everyone saw against Air Force, just putting the ball in his hands is dangerous for the opponent. He flashes that 4.4 speed with ease on short passes, jet sweeps and punt returns, but it now may be time to completely let him off of the freshmen leash.
Look for Peoples-Jones to fill Black’s role as Eddie McDoom, Nico Collins, Oliver Martin and Moe Ways look to fill that 4th wide receiver role formally held by DPJ.
First True Test for the Secondary
Thanks to outstanding performances in the first three games of the season, the young Wolverines defense is the least of worries for Michigan fans heading into this game. However, If there was one thing to question on the defense, it’s the secondary that has yet to truly be tested.
Though David Blough and Elijah Sindelar are far from superstars, both can sling the rock around, especially in Brohm’s high powered offense. It’ll be a great test for Lavert Hill, David Long, Brandon Watson, Josh Metellus and Tyree Kinnel. To lend a helping hand, expect a little assistance from Don Brown’s blitz heavy, dominant front seven.
What are the main things you’ll be watching in the 2017 Michigan vs. Purdue matchup? Will Wilton Speight get things figured out on the road? Will the defense hold up against a pass heavy offense? Let us know in the comment section below!