Speaking of karma, our opponents seem to have done something horrific to piss off the Football Powers That Be. The Boilers have had one thing after another go horrifically wrong each week, usually having something to do with injuries. That's why they come visiting us in Evanston with a 2-2 record and seeking a lot of answers from new players. Coach Danny Hope didn't have anything like this planned when we took the head coaching job last year. That said, even if they don't right the ship this year (and I certainly don't think that will happen against us), Hope's probably got another free year before his seat really starts warming up.
More about why we lick Purdue Pete's tears after the break:
Purdue was expected by many to be a dark horse candidate to win the Big Ten, or at least be very competitive in the process. The Boilermakers compiled a 5-7 season record last year, but had a LOT of momentum coming into this year. The back half of Purdue's 2009 season looked something like this: Win vs OSU, win vs Illinois, loss at Wisconsin, win at Michigan, loss vs MSU, win at Indiana. That's a 4-2 record in their last six games, and the first one's in bold for good reason. Hope had his team going in the right direction, and they were about to bring in a potentially solid QB in Robert Marve, transfer from Miami. Unfortunately, the injury list has been piling up since training camp and hasn't let up at all during the season.
So, why on earth should we cover the -8.5 that Vegas is giving us?
1. Purdue's throwing a redshirt QB to the wolves in his first start.
Robert Marve's knees kicked the bucket two weeks ago against Toledo -- he's now out for the season. Enter Rob Henry, Marve's backup, who has had a little bit of PT due to Marve's injuries, but hasn't put together anything resembling a solid showing. I don't care that this guy's had two weeks to prepare for us. We're going to stack against the run and force Henry to throw the ball. And generally speaking, when a freshman QB throws the ball, bad things happen. Not only that, this guy's making his first start on the road. In primetime. That's what we call pressure, ladies and gentlemen.
2. Purdue's redshirt QB has no one to throw to.
As if he wasn't going to have enough trouble already, Henry will be in the backfield sans three major skill players. Starting RB Ralph Bolden and WR Keith Smith are both toast for the year with torn ACLs. As if that wasn't bad enough, WR Justin Siller will be out for the game, nursing a high ankle sprain. Without Henry's top three potential targets in the game, Purdue will be dying for a couple of players to step up and produce. Our recovering secondary will make sure that doesn't happen.
3. Dan Persa is looking for some redemption.
Don't even think for a second that Persa is content with having coughed up the ball twice in the red zone last week. Or that dropped passes from his teammates allowed his completion pct. to drop below 80%. Or that no one's paying attention to him outside of the NU blogosphere because Denard Robinson's a walking vacuum. He's going to find Jeremy Ebert twice in the end zone. He will run 150 yards downfield if he has to. He will show. No. Mercy.
4. Fitz is pissed about the penalties.
When you've committed about 20 penalties over the course of two games, that's enough to make any football coach pull his hair out. We saw Coach Fitz actively shoving his players into the locker room at halftime against Minnesota. The man's not going to tolerate miscues like that. He's going to get his players intense and focused, especially since this is a home game under the lights, and an undefeated record is at stake.
5. Did I mention that this is a prime-time home game?
This year we've already managed to win two games with a late kickoff, both of which were on the road. Now the 'Cats finally get their turn in Ryan Field, where projected attendance is north of 35,000 for the contest. Most everyone will be decked out in purple. We're the only thing on the Big Ten Network at that time. This is our
Final Score Prediction: Northwestern 34, Purdue 19. GO 'CATS!