Saturday, October 6, 2012

Preview: Michigan at Purdue

Katie Stam is from the state of Indiana, but Purdue girls aren't known for their looks.
Rush Offense vs. Purdue Rush Defense
Michigan's running game begins with Denard Robinson, who is 14th nationwide with 110 yards/game.  Starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has been improving the past couple weeks, with 28 carries for 143 yards (5.1 yards/carry).  The offensive line had its best performance against a solid Notre Dame front seven, and they're growing into a more cohesive unit.  Meanwhile, Purdue has the #23 rushing defense in the nation, giving up just 106 yards/game; those solid performances have taken place against an FCS school, the #66 rushing team, the #84 rushing team, and the #95 rushing team in the nation.  This will be Purdue's biggest test yet, because Michigan will test them continuously with two good runners.  Defensive tackles Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston should be able to hold up fairly well, but this is a defense that was shredded for 170 yards by Toussaint last season.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Purdue Pass Defense
Michigan is not good in this area, but the Wolverines are capable of big plays.  Denard Robinson is tied for the third-most interceptions (8) in the country (behind SMU's Garrett Gilbert and Idaho's Dominique Blackman), despite attempting just 99 passes.  That means over 8% of his passes get intercepted.  He also completes just 13.5 passes a game, which is 100th in the country.  Purdue has the #81 pass defense, but they are #23 in pass efficiency defense and notch almost 3 sacks/game.  Kawann Short has 4 sacks on his own, and the team has 8 interceptions in four games.  Cornerback Josh Johnson and safety Landon Feichter have two picks each, and that's not to mention All-Big Ten corner Ricardo Allen.  Robinson's poor passing will likely continue, though Michigan should be able to pass block well and keep everyone but Short from getting a consistent rush.
Advantage: Purdue

Rush Defense vs. Purdue Rush Offense
The Boilermakers have the #32 rushing offense in the country, but most of that is on the strength of 392 yards on the ground against Eastern Michigan.  The two leading rushers are Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt (yes, both are named Akeem), with 60 and 42 yards/game, respectively.  Michigan's defensive linemen and linebackers played their best game of the season against Notre Dame, allowing just 94 yards on 31 carries.  Purdue struggled to run the ball against the only decent competition they've met, gaining just 90 yards on 30 carries.  Michigan should be able to hold down Purdue's rushing game if the front seven plays with the same fundamentals and aggression they did last week.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Defense vs. Purdue Pass Offense
Starting quarterback Caleb TerBush has completed 51/80 passes with 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.  The team averages 262 yards/game through the air, and TerBush is coming off his best performance of the year against Marshall (294 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception).  Marshall is terrible at stopping the pass, but that's neither here nor there.  Michigan is decent at stopping the pass, ranking #34 in the country in yardage allowed, despite having just 2 interceptions and 3 sacks.  Few turnovers and not much pressure would suggest a lower ranking, but Michigan has had the benefit of playing a poor UMass team and a run-heavy Air Force squad.  The Wolverines have mediocre cornerbacks, but the linebackers and safeties are solid in coverage.  TerBush should be able to complete a high percentage of short throws, but Michigan tackles well and they keep receivers in front of them.  This phase isn't an advantage for either team, really, but I'll give the edge to Purdue based on Michigan's lack of pressure and playmakers on defense.
Advantage: Purdue

Roster Notes
  • Michigan recruited CB Ricardo Allen and WR O.J. Ross, DT Ryan Watson, and LB Armstead Williams.
  • Redshirt freshman center Robert Kugler is the brother of 2013 Michigan commit Patrick Kugler.
  • Offensive tackle Devin Smith is from Ann Arbor (MI) Pioneer and attended Arizona Western before transferring to Purdue.
  • Wide receiver Jordan Woods is from Ann Arbor (MI) Skyline.
  • This will be a season breakout game for Roy Roundtree and Fitzgerald Toussaint.
  • Purdue will not be able to run the ball consistently.
  • Michigan 28, Purdue 14
A Look Back . . . 


  1. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that the line would struggle initially given Molk's exit, Schofield's move, and the last-minute switch for Barnum/Mealer. For all the talk about returning talent, only Lewan and Omameh were returning at their previous position. It is probably going to be too difficult to weigh how much of a (presumed) improvement will be credited to experience and cohesion (vs how much of it is just playing in a weak conference), but it makes intuitive sense that Michigan will start running the ball better. Toussaint killed them last year and I expect a repeat.

    I think most pundits (and Vegas) are focusing too much on this year. We're talking about a small sample size of games, and ones that are mostly irrelevant cupcake matchups. In this game at least we have the head-to-head comparison @Notre Dame. Michigan outgained ND by 60 yards and ND outgained Purdue by 80. Last season, Michigan dominated the game with 36 points unanswered.

    Michigan by 20. I might have money on this game.


    1. I was concerned about the OL prior to the season, hence so many offensive line types ranked highly in the 2012 Season Countdown. Obviously, Mealer starting at center threw everyone off a little bit, but I think Molk was somewhat underrated, even though he won the Rimington. People don't necessarily realize how much it helps to have a good center.

      I hope Michigan wins by 20. I don't want to be concerned about this game beyond halftime.

    2. Depth was obviously an issue that had most concerned (though I think some people took health for granted due to our recent good fortune in that department along the line). While you did rank the OL highly, I thought they should have been even higher. You're right about missing Molk, but I think if it was JUST swapping Molk for Mealer the OL would have been better. Barnum and Schofield faced a bigger than expected adjustment, and maybe Lewan and Omameh - with different people beside them - haven't been quite as in-sync as one might expect experienced veterans to be.

      Anyway, the situation is only exacerbating my concern about next year's OL. It's going to severely hinder the offense and make the QB, whoever he is, look a lot worse than he might otherwise. It's a good thing most of the defense will be back, that's for sure.


  2. Purdue's primary running back is Akeem Shavers, not Akeem Spence, who is a defensive tackle for Illinois.

    Pass defense, like you implied, will be Michigan defenders vs. tackling in space more than anything else.

    Good write up. I hope we score more points.

  3. In the immortal words of just about every major Star Wars character, "I have a bad feeling about this". UM has just been so lousy away from Ann Arbor the past few years that I have a hard time picking them to beat anyone other than a complete patsy. I think the game is close and relatively low scoring.

    Final score: One Team 24 Other Team 20...I just don't know who wins.

  4. Man...I just can't see UM beating anyone other than a complete patsy by 14 points on the road. In the immortal words of just about every major Star Wars character, "I have a bad feeling about this."

    My prediction: One team 24 Other team 20. I really can't decide who wins.