Purdue Football is quickly approaching. With the second toughest schedule in the nation, it’s time to make a prediction for the first game of the season and for the season as a whole.

For the Northwestern kickoff game, let’ take a look at the position analysis to see who has the advantage.

2017 QB Stats  

Purdue vs Northwestern
3270 Yards(46th) >   3040 Yards(64th)
27 Touchdowns  >   17 Touchdowns

11 Interceptions  >   12 interceptions

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson is suspected to become a first-round pick come April 2019, but if you look at the numbers, he’s really not that impressive. Sure he’s a consistent and solid quarterback but some mock drafts have him going above Nick Bosa, a game-changing defensive lineman even in the NFL game.

Part of the allure coming Thorson’s way is because he’s a “dual-threat” quarterback. Yes, he did have eight rushing touchdowns in 2017, but all in all he only accumulated 23 rushing yards on 87 carries.

In that case, David Blough of Purdue should be called a serious dual-threat quarterback considering he posted 103 yards rushing in less than half of Thorson’s workload (42 carries) during Purdue’s 2017 campaign.

That’s not all, as David Blough might not even be Purdue’s starting quarterback; Elijah Sindelar is possibly the better option. Sindelar most notably had a career high 376 yards passing last season when both teams met in Evanston, despite tearing his ACL in the second quarter.

Sindelar played through the injury en route to three straight victories including a 396 yard, four touchdown gem of a performance in the Foster Farms Bowl vs the Arizona Wildcats.

Overall, both Purdue quarterbacks have a better TD/INT rate than Thorson ( Sindelar – 18/7 > Blough 9/4 > Thorson 15/12) and therefore, a better backup plan in case the starter is having a off-game or injured.

Adding to this, Thorson is questionable to play in Thursday’s game, and it would be a significant drop-off if T.J. Green, who only has one career pass, starts in his place.

With Blough, Purdue knows they’re getting an accurate quarterback, who according to Pro Football Focus had an 84.1% adjusted completion percentage when kept clean from pressure – the highest among returning QB’s in the nation.  

With Sindelar, Purdue knows it gets a bigger arm and risk taker, but also a fighter and proven-winner which is supported by his three wins in three tries with a torn ACL to end last season.

          – ADVANTAGE PURDUE

 2017 Wide Receiver and Tight End Stats

Purdue vs Northwestern

2913 yards  >  2615 yards

25 Touchdowns  >  17 touchdowns

   6/8 top pass-catchers returned = 6/8 top pass-catchers returned

*Doesn’t take into account production from RB’s, QB’s, S, LS, etc.

Since wide receivers and tight ends are the players who make or break a quarterback, especially at the college level, the argument for Purdue’s unit is just as strong as it’s advantage at quarterback, perhaps it’s stronger.

Since the general national consensus is that Clayton Thorson is a much better quarterback – though stats beg to differ – than the two who sport gold ‘n’ black, it would seem reasonable to be more impressed with Purdue’s receivers as opposed to Northwestern’s.

I’d like to add that, in terms of who has added more talent at receiver, the answer would also be Purdue. Last season’s Purdue squad put up better numbers than the Wildcats with strictly former two-stars and three-stars.

According to Rivals and 247sports, the top three true freshman on the Boilermakers roster are all wide receivers, including four-star freshman sensation Rondale Moore.

Both teams lost similar production – each lost two of their top four from a year ago to graduation – so the additions made by Purdue should outweigh Northwestern’s return of the injured Solomon Vault.

An X-factor to look for is whether or not quarterback-turned-wide receiver, Jared Sparks, is a full-go Thursday Night.

Sparks had a field day when these two teams met last fall – he and Sindelar connected on 11 throws for 130 yards – but he’s currently questionable for the first game. However, Sparks finished last year as only the team’s seventh leading receiver, so the Boilers are in good hands regardless.

           – ADVANTAGE PURDUE

2017 Running Back Stats:

Purdue vs Northwestern

1970 yards <  2264 yards

12 Touchdowns <  30 Touchdowns

Before anyone suggests that the advantage is obviously Northwestern’s, here is some food for thought. Keep in mind that Justin Jackson accounted for 1311 of those 2264 yards and 11 of those 30 touchdowns, and he’s now on the Chargers of Los Angeles, not the Wildcats of Northwestern.  

To trim the returning stats even more, according to insidenu.com, the depth chart for the Wildcats is as follows: Jeremy Larkin (503 yards, 5 touchdowns in 2017) followed by Isaiah Bowser (three-star freshman), John Moten IV (55 yards in 2017), and finally Jesse Brown (64 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2017).

Not all that impressive. The diversity of the four backs’ measurables (5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1 and 197-to-216 pounds) isn’t as vast as Purdue’s either (5-foot-7 to 6-foot and 200-to-250 pounds).

This means there is likely a better chance that Purdue’s defense will be able to lock on to how to stop Northwestern’s rushing attack opposed to vice-versa.

In addition to this, Purdue’s four running backs combined for 5.5 yards-per-carry on 299 carries, with each having at least 40 carries and 250 yards. Justin Jackson is probably Northwestern’s best running back ever, but his 2017 output of 4.6 yards-per-carry would’ve ranked below all four on Purdue’s depth chart (lowest was 4.8).

Given the relative inexperience of Northwestern’s running backs behind Larkin, it would seem to make sense to give him a similar “bell-cow” role like Jackson’s last year. If so, would it be fair to expect the same of him, and would it be enough to up-end Purdue?

           – ADVANTAGE PURDUE

 

2017 Defensive Stats:  

Purdue vs Northwestern

29 sacks (51st) < 32 sacks (31st)

81 TFL (53rd) < 94 TFL  (22nd)

21 Turnovers (44th) < 25 Turnovers (23rd)

242.5 Passing Yards Allowed (93rd) > 249.5 Passing Yards Allowed (100th)

132.9 Rushing Yards Allowed (29th) < 107.7 Rushing Yards Allowed (9th)

Total Defense- 375.5 YPG (52nd) < Total Defense- 357.2 YPG (34th)

50.62 Penalties YPG (57th) < 49 Penalty YPG – (49th)

 3rd down defense- 35.9% (41st) > 3rd down defense- 36.1% (44th)

 20.5 ppg (24th) < 20.1 ppg (20th)

 4 Returning Starters < 6 returning starters

Defensively is where things begin to tip Northwestern’s way. Linebacker Paddy Fisher is a stud. In 2017 he had 111 tackles, 9 TFL, 4 FF, 1 int. Linebacker Nate Hall (81 tackles, 17 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 int.) is as well. Defensive end Joe Gaziano (35 tackles, 13 TFL, 9 sacks, 3 FF) again, a stud.

Cornerback Montre Hartage (57 tackles, 2 int.), stud. Even defensive tackle Jordan Thompson (26 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and defensive end Sam Miller (32 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) are studs.

In case those stats don’t stand-out to you, according to Athlon Sports, Gaziano, who led the Big Ten in sacks and Fisher, who led the conference in forced fumbles, are second-team players at their positions in the entire conference.

Additionally, Hartage (second-team) and Hall (third-team) were listed on one of the conference top three teams. How does Purdue matchup in terms of studs on defense? Not too well unfortunately. Let’s break this down.

Purdue’s defense only returns four starters from a year ago – That unit allowed 20.5 points per game, which is near Northwestern 20.1 allowed per game in 2017. Those four returners combined to achieve only 12 sacks and five interceptions last season and only one- linebacker, Marcus Bailey, with 89 tackles, 11 TFL, and  7 sacks, is on any of the three preseason All-Big Ten teams (second-team).

Therefore, Purdue’s defensive unit is going to have to rely heavily on very young and inexperienced players in order to have success. This being the new defense’s first game means it’s more than likely that Purdue’s offense must outshine its defensive lapses to be successful on Thursday night.

I’m not going to even argue, the writing is already on the wall.

           – ADVANTAGE Northwestern

Obviously, Northwestern’s advantage on defense makes up for the three facets of shortcomings on offense, right? Defense wins championships, and all that.

Well, yes, and obviously there is something to say about Northwestern managing 10 wins last season without a strong offense, but they also happen to be on the road in this one.

If you recall, the Wildcats lost their first two road games last season; against Duke 41-17 and Wisconsin 33-24.

The real reason why playing on the road could be a bigger factor than it usually is has to do with the up-rise of the Purdue faithful.

In a prior article I referenced the rise in hype amongst Purdue fans, and it should only be more robust with this game being on ESPN to kickoff the Big Ten football season.

Score Prediction

                          

NORTHWESTERN(0-0)  24 PURDUE(0-0) 27

Surprise Star Performer:

Rondale Moore – 6 rec, 83 yards, 1 td + 2 carries for 11 yards

 

Premature Season Preview at a Glance

9/8                           9/15

Vs              Vs 

Win 34-17              Win 41-37

9/22                     9/29

  Vs          @ 

   Win 31-23            Lose 28-24

10/13                    10/20

                 @              Vs                   

Win 26-24           Lose 37-20

 10/27                       11/3

    @           Vs 

Lose 23-14             Win 27-23

11/10                       11/17

   @          Vs 

Lose 31-28            Win 24-20

 11/24                 1/1(Outback Bowl)

  @               Vs 

Win 30-27             Lose 24-23

        Season: 8-5 (5-4)

Next week I’ll review the Northwestern tilt and look ahead to Eastern Michigan.

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Author Details
Content Creator at Armchair Purdue , The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
Drew Cubitt- Growing up in Evanston, IL I come from the heart of Northwestern nation. That said my choice of fandom was neither hard or forced. My parents both went to Purdue and met senior year. I was named Drew in large part due to Purdue great Drew Brees who would be drafted by the chargers just 2 months later. Yes I’m only 17. But because of this, at the spry age of eight I was witnessing the baby boilers of Purdue basketball, and a super bowl victory from my favorite NFL team, the Saints(Drew Brees). It is from here that I learned we can’t all be winners, as both the Saints and boiler basketball teams have combined to have 5 losing seasons since… not to mention myself never seeing a better than 6-6 regular season from the football squad(started following 07-08). BTW my golden retriever’s name is Boiler 😉
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Content Creator at Armchair Purdue , The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
Drew Cubitt- Growing up in Evanston, IL I come from the heart of Northwestern nation. That said my choice of fandom was neither hard or forced. My parents both went to Purdue and met senior year. I was named Drew in large part due to Purdue great Drew Brees who would be drafted by the chargers just 2 months later. Yes I’m only 17. But because of this, at the spry age of eight I was witnessing the baby boilers of Purdue basketball, and a super bowl victory from my favorite NFL team, the Saints(Drew Brees). It is from here that I learned we can’t all be winners, as both the Saints and boiler basketball teams have combined to have 5 losing seasons since… not to mention myself never seeing a better than 6-6 regular season from the football squad(started following 07-08). BTW my golden retriever’s name is Boiler 😉

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