On Saturday, Michigan will play Purdue in Indianapolis, with a second straight Big Ten championship on the line.
This will be the first time the two teams have played since 2017. The Boilermakers are 3-0 against AP top-five teams under head coach Jeff Brohm, and are looking to play the spoiler.
But what exactly do they bring to the table, and how does Michigan stack up?
Purdue’s offense is very high volume, but not overly productive. The Boilermakers have no major offensive statistics within the top 50 in the FBS, with most offensive passing stats putting them around 60th in the country.
Statistics-wise, their offense is comparable by many metrics to Maryland — in fact, both teams have earned exactly the same amount of offensive yards this season. The Terrapins gave Michigan fits earlier this season, and although the defense has since tightened up, Purdue has the caliber of offense to potentially do damage offensively, even if not comparable to an Ohio State team that the Wolverines completely shut down last week.
The Boilermaker offense is headlined by quarterback Aidan O’Connell and wide receiver Charlie Jones. The connection between the two, and the uneven target share reminds me of Marvin Harrison Jr. and CJ Stroud, and of course, we all saw how that turned out.
Look for cornerback Will Johnson’s name to be called again this week, as his physical game and size will be best suited to shut Jones down.
Purdue’s rush offense is present, but inefficient, averaging 125.8 yards per game on 3.84 yards per carry, only good for 97th in the country. But getting Michigan to at least respect their run game will be critical for the Boilermakers. Otherwise, the Wolverines can simply sink into coverage, and lock down Purdue’s receivers, neutralizing its passing game as well.
Look for the Boilermakers to be productive initially, but get increasingly inefficient as the game goes on.
In many ways surprisingly, at least statistically, this is Purdue’s stronger side of the ball.
They allow 23.1 points per game on average, a decent, but by no means elite metric.
This defense will be tasked with preparing for a newly dynamic Michigan offense. They have to gameplan for running back Donovan Edwards, who poses a serious threat both on the ground and as a pass catcher out of the backfield, especially if his hand is on the mend. And they will have to be wary of quarterback JJ McCarthy, who engineered several explosive offensive drives through the air.
Throughout the season, different Big Ten teams have tried different methods to try and best slow down the Wolverines. Illinois, Indiana, and the Buckeyes all tried to stack the box and force Michigan to beat them through the air — that failed. And the teams that didn’t get run over by Black Corum and Edwards.
Purdue’s defensive game plan is still unknown, but regardless of what they do, the Wolverines will utilize their excellent in-game adjustments to still be productive offensively.