Want a Big Ten snoozer for the weekend? How about this one, where talented but troubled Nebraska travel to West Lafayette to take on the woeful Boilermakers. Big Red stomped over Illinois last week in a game that was over long before the Illini showed any signs of life, while the Boilermakers had their butts handed to them by Northern Illinois. Other than playing teams from the same state last week, the Cornhuskers and Illinois look to be headed in different directions.
Time and Place: 12:00 PM ET in West Lafayette
The Skinny: Points, lots of points. Well, by Nebraska anyway.
What Nebraska needs to do:
Don’t screw up now: The Cornhuskers have been reasonably good at hanging onto the football this season, with just 7 turnovers (just 1 pick), so now is not the time to bring the great equalizer into play. With impressive looking Tommy Armstrong likely to get the nod again, now is not the time to self-destruct. Purdue showed in the first half against Notre Dame that they could confuse offenses – now would be a good time with a freshman at Nebraska’s helm.
Feed the beast: Ameer Abdullah already has over 60% of last season’s rushing yardage, and that’s just 5 games. His worst game of the season? 98 yards against UCLA. He’s coming off a career best game, and while Purdue’s front seven is quick, they don’t have the ballast to hold up against Nebraska’s hogs all day. Don’t forget Imani Cross when Abdullah needs a blow.
Keep tinkering with the D: There’s no shortage of talent on the Husker depth chart, but they aren’t getting it done on defense. I’m inclined to think it’s the system, but regardless, it needs to be fixed. The unit showed some improvement against Illinois last week, but the Illini aren’t exactly a powerhouse team, and they mustered 195 yards on the ground. Now would be a good time to try something new, as the schedule toughens from here on in.
What Purdue needs to do:
For the sixth week running…: Since the start of the season I’ve been harping on about the Boilermakers getting Akeem Hunt untracked. They haven’t been listening. While the problems aren’t all the coaching staff’s, Hunt is an explosive player who needs to see the ball in his hands in order to make plays. Returning kicks and 19 receptions = good; 61 carries in 5 games = bad. Get him the ball, even if your 21 points down, Hunt has the speed to make a difference.
Time to step up: Hunt is the team’s leading receiver; next is TE Justin Sinz with 15 receptions for just 119 yards and a couple of scores. No wide receiver has more than 10 catches – is there any reason Rob Henry wasn’t getting it done? Now Danny Etling is taking over after passing for 241 yards and 2 TDs against NIU (2 ints). The true freshman won’t be able to do it all on his own – Purdue need some wideouts to make some plays.
Consistency on defense: I’ve talked before about how quick the Boilermakers are on defense, but a lack of depth hurts them against power teams, and they can be worn down. Apart from Wisconsin and NIU, the Boilermakers have actually put up a fight early in games, before running out of steam. Of course some consistency on offense would be nice, but the defense needs to make some plays to help out too.
Prediction: Nebraska 52, Purdue 17
Tags: Akeem Hunt Ameer Abdullah B1G Football Big Ten Leaders Big Ten Legends Danny Etling Illinois Fighting Illini Imani Cross Justin Sinz Nebraska Corn Notre Dame Fighting Irish Purdue Boilermakers Rob Henry Tommy Armstrong Junior UCLA Bruins