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Michigan vs. Purdue Preview

October 28, 2011
Quote That Most Represents This Game
“Just like yesterday
And I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again,
Don’t get fooled again….”
— The Who, song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

Names To Know
1. Justin Siller (WR/QB/RB #2) — If you want to keep yourself calm before this game, do not search for “Justin Siller 2008 Michigan” on YouTube.  If you do that search, what you’ll see is a nightmare of a defense get torched by a 6’3″ sophomore from Detroit named Justin Siller.  He had 266 passing yards and 3 touchdowns to go with 77 rushing yards and another score in his first ever start at quarterback.  That wasn’t the start of something special though because he only had ~250 yards passing the rest of 2008 and hasn’t attempted a pass in two and a half years. He’s a senior now though playing his last game in his home state, so he will come ready to play.  As the best all-around weapon for Purdue this year, expect to see him line up all over the field to try to duplicate his 2008 performance.

2. Caleb TerBush (QB #19) —  TerBush struggled early in the season leading the boilers to a 3-point squeaker over Middle Tennessee State in their first game and a 2-point loss to Rice in week two.  He got replaced for a bit by Robert Marve, but has since reclaimed the starting spot and got Purdue an upset victory over Illinois last week having an overall solid outing with 2 touchdowns and no turnovers.  He’s not a running threat, and the Boilermaker offense will only be as good as TerBush.  His play will be the key to Purdue staying in the game early.

3. Ricardo Allen (CB #21) — Michigan State showed the defensive gameplan that Michigan should expect to see from every team the rest of the year.  I doubt we’ll see as many personal fouls as the Spartans literally threw in our face, but every team will stack the box and force Denard to throw the ball.  Ricardo Allen is a playmaker defensive back who is going to be in a lot of single coverage this week.  If you see #21 breaking up passes or making interceptions, it could be another long day for the Michigan offense.

Offensive Strength
Purdue has not shown a lot on offense this season and actually had less yards than Illinois in their win last week.  The strength of the offense really is diversity in finding somebody with the hot hand and feeding them the ball.  Whether it’s Justin Siller, Ralph Bolden, Antavian Edison, or Akeem Shavers, they aren’t afraid to rotate players into different spots and try to exploit a weakness.

Offensive Weakness
When you have no go-to player on offense you often struggle staying on the field, which is clearly a problem for Purdue.  They are not a team known for long, plodding drives that wear down a defense.  Even in their victory over Illinois last week, they were only 5-for-14 on 3rd down conversions and averaged only 3 yards per rush and 7 yards per pass.  If the Michigan defense can stay fresh by getting off the field regularly, it should be a good day for the Wolverines.

Defensive Strength
The best game of the season so far for Purdue was their win against Illinois.  If we look at that game, the reason they won was because the defense held Illinois to 120 yards rushing and only allowed them to convert on 6-of-17 3rd downs.  Their plan was to stop the run, force Illinois to beat them in the air, and try to get them off the field.  It will be the exact gameplan they put out this week in Ann Arbor, and after seeing success last week they will have a ton of confidence that they can do it again.

Defensive Weakness
Even though the run defense held the Fighting Illini to 120 yards last week, they have been far from stout the rest of the season.  Penn State had 182 yards in their victory while Notre Dame put up a huge 287 yards on the ground in a 38-10 thrashing a few weeks ago.  Both of those teams had early success throwing the ball though, which loosened up the defense enough for the ground game to excel.  If Michigan can complete some early passes to force the defense to drop more players into coverage, they should be able to have a huge day on the ground.

My Game Expectations
Purdue coach Danny Hope hates a lot of things.  He hated Rich Rodriguez for stealing Roy Roundtree in 2008 even though he was verbally committed to Purdue leading up to national signing day.  It was that switch of commitments that caused Hope to utter the internet-famous quote about coaches coming in “wearing a wizard hat selling snake oil to these kids,” clearly referring to Rodriguez.  Hope also personally escorted a player after the game in 2009 over to Rich Rodriguez to sarcastically tell him “Thanks” because Hope believed Rodriguez verbally pushed the Big Ten to suspend the player due to a punch in the middle of a play.  It will be interesting to see Hope react to Brady Hoke this year because he started off on the recruiting trail just like Rodriguez did in 2008, by stealing Russell Bellomy who was committed to Purdue and is now the 3rd string true freshman quarterback for Michigan.

Defensively for Michigan this game is going to be similar to Northwestern.  Purdue isn’t great running or passing and relies on exploiting the defense with bubble screens and wildcat formations.  Michigan struggled early against Northwestern and never really slowed down their screen passes, so Justin Siller will likely be the recipient of some screens early in the game to test our secondary.  We also showed some problems stopping Kain Colter in the wildcat for Northwestern, so we should again expect Siller to get some early reps in that formation to see if our linebackers have learned to keep contain.

Every game the rest of the season will be the same test for Denard and the offense.  No team is going to respect our passing game until Denard shows he can beat them.  We’re going to see single coverage on the receivers, regular blitzes, and a linebacker spying Denard very often on first and second down.  I was expecting this against Michigan State and thought Coach Borges would counter this by throwing our own WR screens to Jeremy Gallon along with quick hitches and slants to keep the defense honest.  We didn’t see those plays very often, although the touchdown pass to Roundtree was a slant and the late interception Michigan State returned for a touchdown was when Denard threw a slant, but Vincent Smith ran a hitch.  What we did see against Michigan State wasn’t working though, so I don’t expect to see that type of plan again.

The bye week may have come at a bad time for fans having to deal with the Spartan loss for two full weeks, but it came at a great time for the team.  The coaches have been preaching toughness, accountability, and power football since they got to Ann Arbor, so what better way to get their player’s attention that those things are important than to actually get punched in the face by your instate rival?  The team has had two weeks to study film and practice ways to exploit teams selling out against the run.  They’ve had two weeks to listen to the media talk about how this is just another Michigan team ready to fall apart and lose more than they win the rest of the year.  I’m sure it wasn’t pretty in Ann Arbor the last two weeks watching film, but maybe to prevent another collapse a loss came at the best possible time for this team.  We will see the same type of defense thrown at us for the next 5 weeks, and I for one am praying we don’t get fooled again.

Michigan wins 31-17

-Mike Randazzo

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kref permalink
    October 28, 2011 6:15 PM

    “If Michigan can complete some early passes to force the defense to drop more players into coverage, they should be able to have a huge day on the ground.”

    Agree 100%. Hopefully we actually throw early and often (with success) and don’t employ the Lions playcalling of the past two weeks.

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