Friday, November 06, 2009

GBMW: Doc's Thoughts -- Purdue at Michigan

Michigan at Illinois

GBMW: Doc4blu -- Purdue University and University of Michigan Football Preview

Last week there was a dour more than dire prediction that the Illinois and Michigan game was essentially a box of chocolates squared. This week’s game is also not far removed from the chocolate factory. Purdue lost to Northern Illinois (who played well, but was aided greatly by turnovers) and beat the most athletic team in the conference, Ohio State. Both games were at home.

Purdue and Michigan are winless on the road and at this time that is the one thing Michigan has going for itself. Purdue, defensively, looked great against a one-dimensional team, Ohio State, but has not looked good against versatile offenses. Michigan may start off with I formation iso blasts and then hit the Boilers outside. The Boiler defense appears vulnerable on the edge and appears vulnerable all over if a quarterback has time to put a big hurt on the secondary. A good strategy appears to run the d-backs off and hit a delayed attack on the boundary. But that poses an important question: can Michigan hold off the pressure long enough for some damage to be done? Play action has caused Purdue some trouble this year. Pryor was rushed successfully and contained by the combined line and blitz schemes Purdue threw at Ohio State. This does look like a good time to get Carlos Brown or Moundros out in the flat on delays. Some teams, like Notre Dame, have beaten the Boilers straight up to the edge. One factor that may diminish the threat of Michigan doing well on the boundary is the injury to Odoms.

It is the match-up of Michigan’s defense versus Purdue’s offense that is scary. Purdue possesses a good running back (Bolden), very similar to what UM has seen all year, good but not great. Good running backs can kill a team that cannot tackle. So item number 1 for Michigan is to immediately shut down the Purdue running game and face the inevitable dilemma of stopping a pretty good passing attack.

Joey Elliot will not win First Team Big Ten honors, but he is solid. Joey hits near 60%, can get out on the perimeter a little, sees downfield pretty well, and is a decent game manager. It appears that what Joey can do to hurt Michigan the most is hit the quick slant or the pass to the flat that can spring a guy with good wideout blocking.

Coach Robinson may not be as inclined to play the safety gambits on defense that have now become common fodder for opposing offenses. Simply put, if the blitz does not get to Elliot, Purdue can cash in quick. The best defense against the Purdue passing game this year has been quick pressure up the middle, something Michigan does not excel at. We will all see if Coach Robinson goes with what has worked for others and throws the safeties up the middle and gambling against the big hitter. This may not be a totally bad idea, even when parked 12 yards deep, the safeties have had little effect.

Michigan’s failure to throw deep may cause Purdue to play more press and bring up the safeties to support the run game. But Purdue needs to beware here as well, because if the Boilers bring the safeties up and Michigan hits a shot on the perimeter, the Purdue corners and linebackers may not be able to catch Carlos.

The Purdue punting game is average and Michigan might just pick up some yardage over the course of an entire game. The placekicking is solid so far for both squads. Michigan’s coverage teams picked up some last week. So in the special teams area Michigan might be fine this week.

Neither team has a clear advantage, although Purdue’s receivers breaking past Michigan’s defensive backfield is the biggest potential gamebreaker. Purdue is not a run stuffing defense but is not soft either. Clearly the Boilers will do all in the realm of possibility to force Tate Forcier to beat the defense with his arm, a scenario that is approaching Groundhog Day status.

Purdue was on the way up last week until the receivers took the week off, much like Michigan’s receivers against Penn State.

So, crank up the computer programs with specialized factor loading, spew out the wisdom, and account for every imaginable scenario. This game remains hard to pick and will probably come down to some old school fundamentals like turnover margin, mental toughness, the coaching staff who most successfully attacks the other’s defense, special team play and more than anything else, which team or even an individual player will find a way to win.

Come back later today to see GBMW predictions

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Written by Doc4blu

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