Northwestern Wildcats (2-2 SU, 0-3 ATS) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (1-3 SU, 3-1 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, October 3, 2009, Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind. TV: Big Ten Network
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Northwestern +6.5/Purdue -6.5
Northwestern and Purdue are good examples of why ATS records tell the tale more than SU records. Northwestern, at 2-2, has the better record than 1-3 Purdue. But Northwestern has been favored in all three of its games against FBS opponents and is yet to cover. Meanwhile, Purdue is 3-1 ATS and is a 6.5-point favorite at home in this Big Ten matchup.
Northwestern started its season with a 47-14 home win over Towson and stayed at home the next week to face Eastern Michigan. The Wildcats won the game, 27-24, but struggling to win against bottom-feeder MAC team (now 0-3) really defined Northwestern early in the season. With a 2-0 record, Northwestern had an opportunity to get a FBS non-conference road win at Syracuse, a team that any Big Ten team should be able to defeat. Instead, the Wildcats lost 37-34.
This past Saturday, Northwestern had a chance to bounce back at home against Minnesota, but the Wildcats lost 35-24. That was a pivotal game for Northwestern, as it was a bounce-back game at home in the Big Ten opener against a Minnesota team that only beat Syracuse by a field goal. It was a winnable game, but Northwestern showed once again that it is not a very good team this season.
Purdue has not been brilliant by any means this season. The Boilermakers opened the season with a 52-31 win over Toledo. Scoring 52 points is nice, but giving up 31 to a MAC team that was shut out by fellow Big Ten team Ohio State is not so nice. But a win is a win. In the second game, Purdue nearly went to Oregon and won a huge road game but the Ducks survived, 38-36. Despite the loss, Purdue showed its merit. The down point of the season thus far came the week after in a disappointing 28-21 home loss to Northern Illinois in which the Boilermakers gave up 280 rushing yards.
On Saturday, Purdue had a chance to even its record in West Lafayette against rival Notre Dame. Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen was hurt throughout the game and struggled. Notre Dame usually relies on Clausen, but without him the Irish ran the ball repeatedly and the Boilermakers couldn’t make any tackles. Notre Dame controlled the game and held the lead throughout, but Purdue bounced back late in the game and took the lead. But Clausen came up with a clutch touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal with 24 seconds left to steal a victory. The Boilermakers lost the game, but still covered the spread and showed they are a solid football team.
Purdue’s strength is stopping the pass game. Other than the game against Toledo, a team that threw the ball 67 times, no quarterback has thrown for 200 yards against Purdue. The Boilermakers put good pressure on opposing QB’s and cover well. They have five interceptions in four games. But the problem is stopping the run. If Northwestern follows Notre Dame’s game plan and runs the ball well and sticks with the run, the Wildcats have a good chance to win the game. There aren’t many FBS teams that are worse tackling teams than Purdue. But if they abandon the run and pass too much, Purdue will get defensive stops and slow the game down on offense.
Northwestern has had a balanced attack, with 160 rush attempts and 136 pass attempts. The passing aspect has been more effective than the running. The Wildcats have run for 529 yards, a 3.3 yards-per-carry average. Stephen Simmons is the team’s leading rusher with 150 yards, but that came in just two games, as Simmons missed the other two games with a leg injury. He is again questionable for the Purdue game. Quarterback Mike Kakfa has completed 72 percent of his pass attempts for 1,049 yards.
The Wildcats have tried to run the ball a lot, but it hasn’t worked for the most part. When they scored 34 points against Syracuse, they ran for just 55 yards but Kafka passed for 390 yards and three touchdowns. Against Minnesota, they didn’t do much better with just 64 yards, and Kafka again carried the load with 309 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Purdue likes to run the ball and control the clock. The Boilermakers will mix in some passing, and quarterback Joey Elliott isn’t bat at all, but he excels when the running game is working, making it easier for the senior QB. Ralph Bolden leads the Purdue rushing attack with 488 yards and four touchdowns. Bolden rushed for a remarkable 234 yards in the win over Toledo and 123 against Oregon, but the Boilermakers totaled just 79 rushing yards in the loss to Notre Dame.
Ryno’s Pick: Purdue has lost 10 of its last 13 games, but the Boilermakers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games and 4-1 ATS in their last five home games. Northwestern is yet to cover this season. Purdue played fairly well and competed against Oregon and Notre Dame. They are 1-3 but lost the three games by a combined 12 points. Kafka is the key to Northwestern’s offense and has been very good this season, but Purdue has a very good pass defense. Take Purdue -6.5.