By: Bo Bowen
Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats have won three straight overtime games, the first team in FBS history to do so. Northwestern finds itself ranked 25th in the CFP rankings after rattling off four straight wins. The Purdue Boilermakers lost their starting quarterback in David Blough, so the Cardiac Cats find themselves with a favorable matchup at Ryan Field Saturday night. With that in mind, here are 5 things to watch for this weekend:
Can Justin Jackson repeat his performance: Jackson had a field day against Nebraska; rushing for 154 yards on 31 carries. Purdue’s rush defense sits in the middle of the Big Ten in rush yards allowed. The forecast in Evanston calls for cold and rainy weather, meaning this may turn into a running back’s game. Look for Northwestern to pound the ball with Jackson and sophomore Jeremy Larkin behind him.
Which Clayton Thorson will we see: It’s been a tale of two Clayton Thorson’s this year. Coming off a solid performance against Michigan State, Thorson passed for 243 yards and 2 picks against Nebraska. Thorson has improved this year but still shows inconsistency from time to time. Purdue spouts an average pass defense, so a favorable matchup does exist. If Northwestern continues to utilize its committee of receiver effectively, Thorson could have a field day.
Purdue’s offense without QB David Blough: Blough suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Illinois last weekend. Elijah Sindelar will likely start for the Boilermakers this weekend. Blough was completing 64% of his passes with a passer rating of over 130, so Sindelar certainly has big shoes to fill. If Sindelar can build a rapport quickly with Jackson Anthrop, Purdue could keep its offense running relatively smootly.
Northwestern’s Secondary: Kyle Queiro had a monster game against Nebraska’s Tanner Lee. Quiero totalled 2 interceptions and 3 passes defended. With Purdue using a backup quarterback, Northwestern’s secondary is primed to have a big day with a cold, rainy forecast. We know Northwestern is solid at safety with Queiro and Godwin Igwebuike, the real question lies at cornerback.
3rd Downs: Both Northwestern and Purdue lie near the bottom of the Big Ten in 3rd down conversions. Northwestern has to convert more efficiently and extend drives if they want to keep their defense off the field. Both teams also rank lowly in the Big Ten in opponent 3rd down conversions, so each offense is primed to improve their conversion rate this week in Evanston.
It should be an old-school, cold weather football game at Ryan Field. Northwestern will look to keep its CFP ranking against the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue comes to Evanston hoping to add a signature win to what has been a less than impressive season in West Lafayette.