Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2) are reeling after a 27-0 loss to Northwestern last week, and they will travel again to take on the Purdue Boilermakers (1-4) on Saturday. The Boilermakers also lost their Big Ten opener last Saturday, 24-21 to Michigan State.
Here’s a closer look at Saturday afternoon’s game, followed by my score prediction.
The Minnesota View
Two headlines surround the Golden Gophers this week-the quarterback situation and injuries.
Quarterback Mitch Leidner has mostly struggled this season, and he was finally replaced by Demry Croft in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss. Head coach Jerry Kill said Leidner will start on Saturday, but Croft should see more playing time and the true freshman signal caller should see the field before the fourth quarter.
Kill suggested that Minnesota will be without eight starters against Purdue. A notable re-shuffling has been implemented along a banged up offensive line, with new/old starters and players returning from injury this week. The secondary will continue to be thinned by injuries, with safety Damarius Travis (hamstring), cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee) and cornerback/punt returner Craig James (broken leg) all at least looking iffy to play on Saturday.
Purdue’s defense is not nearly as good as Northwestern’s, so if Croft sees extended action he should have some success. Leidner should be on a short leash if he struggles again, and it’s fair to wonder if Saturday will be his last start of the season.
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The Purdue View
Purdue’s offense will be led by true freshman running back Markell Jones and redshirt freshman quarterback David Blough. Jones had 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Michigan State last week, and he now has five rushing touchdowns this season. Couple with his involvement as a pass catcher (10 receptions so far this season), Minnesota should prepare for Jones to be the focal point of the Boilermakers’ offense.
The Boilermakers are no better than 87th in the country in total yards (435 yards per game-97th in the country), passing yards (240.4-87th), and rushing yards (194.6-100th) and points (33.0 per game-100th) allowed so far this season. If Minnesota can’t get going offensively on Saturday, it may never happen as the schedule gets far more difficult down the road.
If the Golden Gophers can’t put one in the win column this week, their chances to earn a bowl bid will start to come into question. Even injury-thinned and with a blooming (if not full-blown) quarterback controversy, Minnesota should be the better team on the field at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday.
Score Prediction: Minnesota 23, Purdue 17
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