Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, College Football Week 5, Saturday, October 1, 2011, Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Indiana, TV: ESPN
by Scotty L, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ND -12.5/Pur -12.5
Over/Under Total: 48
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The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame make the short trip to West Lafayette to take on the Boilermakers of Purdue. The Boilermakers are 2-1, while Notre Dame sits at 2-2, but this is a tale of two different teams with very divergent paths. Purdue has been in relatively easy-against Middle Tennessee State, Rice, and SE Missouri State. They barely beat Middle Tennessee, lost to Rice in the Owls’ only win this season, before trouncing SE Missouri 59-0 two weeks ago.
Notre Dame has been in awfully tough, losing their first two games to South Florida and Michigan, before righting the ship with back-to-back wins over Michigan State and Pittsburgh. They don’t have far to travel this week, but this is their 3rd tough road game in 4 weeks. Frankly, they didn’t look very good against Pittsburgh, relying on a stout defense, while their offense struggled to put up points. Standout WR Michael Floyd was quiet. QB Tommy Rees was just OK. Cierre Wood ran for 94 yards, but they never kicked it into high gear.
Turnovers and penalties, both of which always seem to occur at the most untimely of moments, continue to plague this team. They have gotten it under control compared to their first two games, but it still helped allow Pittsburgh to hold a lead until halfway through the 4th quarter over their heavily favored opponent. Performances like that could help teams stay in games against the Irish, whose offense and defense should be allowing them to cover big numbers on a much more consistent basis.
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Purdue is working with a first-year starting QB in 6’5″ Caleb TerBush, who hasn’t been doing too badly. Luckily, he has a prolific running game to fall back on, with Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers doing a good job. TerBush has also shown he can move a bit himself. He has a pretty deep crew of pass catchers, featuring Justin Siller and OJ Ross and 4 others with at least 6 catches. They even have a nice kicker in Carson Wiggs, who has already hit for 50 this season. The progress of this team’s offense depends a lot on how well their quarterback improves, though last game’s 59-0 win could have given him some needed confidence.
At the same time, the Boilermakers putting up only 27 at home against Middle Tennessee State wasn’t too comforting. Neither was scoring only 22 against a Rice team that went on to give up 56 to Baylor the next week. Last season, they opened the season with an 11-point loss at Notre Dame, but were also 2-1 after 3 games, before going 2-7 in their last 9 games. Their first two wins last season were also against weaker teams, so this 2-1 start isn’t necessarily a cause for excitement. They are coming off a 2-week break, so at least they might be fresher than a Fighting Irish squad that has really been put the grinder in the first month of the season.
The Irish defense giving up a little over 200 total yards to a home Panthers team on Saturday was encouraging. If this defense continues to congeal, they should be extremely tough on opposing offenses, particularly against the Purdues of the world. They have given up only 25 combined points in their last two games and appear to be hitting their stride.
Offensively, the Irish struggled, but more pass catchers are stepping up to provide some relief to Michael Floyd, who is getting swarmed in light of the numbers he was posting. WRs Tyler Eifert and Theo Reddick made their presences felt on Saturday and if Rees continues to grow, this passing attack could be poising itself to become a major threat later this season.
Scotty L’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Purdue’s loss to Rice and narrow 3-point win over MTS say a lot about where they truly are as a program. Rice has talent in certain spots, but Notre Dame is a lot deeper in that department and will be a lot harder on Purdue than the Owls were. Sure, Purdue is at home, but Notre Dame is in-state and far more battle-tested, after experiencing a whole season’s worth of tribulations in a mere four games.
The question is can we depend on the Irish to cover big spreads like this? Time and again, we see miscues and turnovers allowing teams that are mismatched on paper to hang in there with Notre Dame. Purdue could rise to the occasion at home and the Irish never get great value. Look for the Irish, however, to play closer to the form they showed against Michigan State and cruise over a not-ready-for-primetime Purdue team. Take Notre Dame minus 12.5 points.
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