FACTS & STATS: Site: Ross-Ade Stadium (67,332) -- West Lafayette, Indiana. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Michigan 4-2, Purdue 3-2. Away Record: Michigan 2-1, Purdue 1-3. Neutral Record: Michigan 0-0, Purdue 0-0. Conference Record: Michigan 2-3, Purdue 2-3. Series Record: Michigan leads, 41-14.
GAME NOTES: After a record-setting performance last Saturday afternoon, the Michigan Wolverines try to gather themselves for a Big Ten Conference meeting with the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette.
Against Illinois at home last weekend the Wolverines were hoping to snap a three-game slide, which they did, but they never imagined it would be a triple-overtime thriller that would end with a score of 67-65. The combined 132 points are the most in Big Ten history and the most for the storied Michigan program as the team won for the sixth time this season to become bowl eligible.
As for the Boilermakers, they too have hit a rough patch in their schedule and have gone from winning four of five outings to dropping three in a row. Last Saturday the squad was thumped by seventh-ranked Wisconsin in a 34-10 decision. During the current slide, the Boilermakers have been outscored by a combined 127-23 by Ohio State, Illinois and the Badgers.
Michigan owns a commanding 41-14 lead in a series that dates back to 1890, the Wolverines outscoring Purdue by a combined 1,484-766 thus far. However, the Boilermakers have won two straight in the series, including a 38-36 verdict last year on the road. Purdue is trying to string together three straight wins in the series for the first time since 1962-66.
After nearly four hours of playing time, Michael Shaw's one-yard TD run in the third overtime, combined with a two-yard conversion between Tate Forcier and Junior Hemingway made the difference as the Wolverines survived with the wild two-point win versus Illinois. Forcier was forced into action when Denard Robinson went down with an injury, the backup completing 12-of-19 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Add Robinson's efforts to the aerial attack, his 10-of-20 for 305 yards and three scores, and Michigan set a new single-game record for passing yards with 419 between the duo. Roy Roundtree turned nine catches into a staggering 246 yards and two TDs and Shaw produced 44 yards and three scores on nine carries. On Monday it was announced that Robinson had passed a series of concussion tests and was expected to be back in the starting lineup for the Wolverines against Purdue. Record-setting performances by Robinson early in the season had him as the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, but in recent weeks he has been tamed and corralled by opponents. In fact, in the last four outings he has thrown six interceptions, after having just one pick through the first five games of 2010. There's no doubt that Robinson is a beast when everything breaks the right way, but after coming off a head injury the coaches might not want him taking off and running with the ball that much.
At the end of the day the Michigan defense will be remembered for stopping the Fighting Illini on their two-point try in the third overtime session, but really the squad was beaten up rather well by the Illinois offense. The Wolverines allowed the visitors to score on five of their six trips inside the red zone and generate 561 yards of total offense. Jonas Mouton tried to keep the Illini in check with a team-best 14 tackles, adding a fumble recovery along the way, while Kenny Demens added 10 stops, but not once did the Wolverines manage to record a sack. Then again, sacks have been a bit of a rarity for the Wolverine defense this season, the team averaging just 1.33 per game to place ninth in the Big Ten and tied for 98th in the nation at the moment. Without a substantial push at the line of scrimmage the pass defense is being tested over and over again and for the most part the opposition is winning the fight. After nine games the Michigan pass defense is ranked 115th in the country with 285.6 ypg allowed, so it is easy to see how the squad has permitted 453.7 ypg (114th) thus far.
Purdue scored the first points of the game against Wisconsin last Saturday and led 10-3 late in the second quarter, but from there the Boilermakers clammed up and subsequently suffered the 21-point loss at home in Indiana. Quarterback Sean Robinson connected on 19-of-38 passes for 141 yards and a score, but he was sacked three times and had three passes picked off by the aggressive Badger defense. Robinson is the third quarterback to stand under center for the Boilermakers this season, which is one of the reasons why the offense has struggled to find consistency. Robinson has converted just 47.1 percent of his pass attempts for an average of 55.8 yards per game, but put all three of them together (Robert Marve and Rob Henry) and the group is averaging a mere 137.3 ypg and has 12 interceptions against just eight touchdowns. The rushing attack has been a bit more solid with 173.2 ypg, but the group has scored a single rushing TD in the last three games, so the end result is not always a positive one.
The defense for the Boilermakers looked rather solid for the majority of the first half, but just before the end of the second quarter the squad allowed a 38-yard rushing score by the Badgers and from there it all went downhill. Wisconsin was held to only 69 yards on the first three drives, but once the Purdue offense began to stall and make mistakes, giving the Badgers a short field to work with, it was all over. Gerald Gooden tried to keep it together for the group with three stops behind the line of scrimmage and one of their three sacks, but it wasn't enough. Ryan Kerrigan failed to have much of an impact in the meeting, yet he is still being recognized as one of the top defenders in the conference with his 7.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss through nine outings. In fact Kerrigan, has been named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, so even though the team has a losing record at the moment, his efforts have not gone unnoticed. As a team Purdue ranked first in the Big Ten in both sacks (3.0 per game) and TFLs (8.0), ranking sixth and fifth in the nation, respectively.
Even if Robinson has fully recovered for the Wolverines, the chances of having another wild offensive outing will be slim, especially on the road. However, assume that with all their weapons, the Wolverines will still come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 31, Purdue 20
Saturday, November 13th, 12:00 p.m. (et).