Purdue checks plenty of boxes in the elite player department on offense and defense, and the Boilermakers will present problems for Notre Dame.
That includes a defensive lineman that Irish head coach Brian Kelly believes is the best pass rusher in college football That would be Indiana native George Karlaftis, a junior defensive end who was a 5-star recruit according to 247Sports. Karlaftis had 17.5 tackles for losses and 7.5 sacks in 2019 as a true freshman and he has been disruptive in the first two games of the 2021 season.
It also includes another in-state standout, this time on offense, and we are talking about junior wide receiver David Bell. The Indianapolis native already has 14 catches for 255 yards with two touchdowns while averaging 18.2 yards per catch.
Purdue also has an efficient pro-style quarterback who hasn’t thrown an interception in 61-passing attempts this season That’s Jack Plummer, a 6-5 junior that is 45 of 61 passing for 558 yards with six touchdowns in just two contests.
Kelly said on Monday that Plummer has been “very impressive” so far this season while completing completing 73% of his passes.
“His accuracy is off-the-charts,” Kelly said. “I’m really impressed with the way he throws the ball. It looks pretty effortless.”
Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm is considered one of the best play-callers in the game.
"The thing about it is that Coach Brohm is a really good play caller," Kelly said of the Purdue head coach. "He's going to utilize every different misdirection, play action, trick play, he's got great creativity on the offensive side of the ball ... You have a lot of things going on there."
Nothing has been easy for Notre Dame in its first two games. Given its brief season history, this game will be a struggle too. The Irish are seven point favorites, which is slightly below what they were for the Florida State game.
Kelly said that Purdue has rediscovered itself after finishing 2-4 in 2020.
“Looking at this team, Purdue, in terms of where they are compared to last year. I think Jeff has done a great job of retooling both on offense and defense,” Kelly said.
Given the state of Notre Dame’s offensive line, which isn’t good, blocking Karlaftis is a priority. Karlaftis doesn’t have a sack but he has 11 hurries. Notre Dame has given up 10 sacks this season.
“He has a great motor, he can play the run, he’s extremely active and he plays with his hands really well. We have to have a plan for him,” Kelly said of Karlaftis. “He is a guy that you just don't say, 'We're going to deal with him one on one.' We have to have a comprehensive plan for him.”
Kelly is also high on 6-3 junior cornerback Cory Trice.
"He plays press man-to-man coverage," Kelly said of the Purdue cover man that had three interceptions in 2019. "He plays the ball well.”
It’s the first meeting between the teams since 2014.
The Irish have won a game in overtime and they scored the winning touchdown with 1:09 left against Toledo. They have won two games by a total of six points.
It could be a season-long theme.
“This is a great rivalry and it's back and we all know that these games are really close and hard fought,” Kelly said. “So, again, it’s a great challenge for our football team and one where we'll have to play a whole lot more consistent than we have in the first two weeks."
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