No. 3 Michigan and Purdue are set for a rematch of the 2022 Big Ten Championship Game when they meet Saturday night to begin the final month of the regular season. The programs have trended in opposite directions since their last meeting. Michigan has dominated every opponent it has faced this year and has an argument as the best team in the country, while Purdue finds itself in the middle of a rebuild under first-year head coach Ryan Walters.
Walters arrived after previously serving as defensive coordinator at Illinois and is in the process of putting his own stamp on the program. Though just 2-6, Purdue has a quality 24-17 win at Virginia Tech on its resume along with a 44-19 blowout of Illinois. Those performances have demonstrated the Boilermakers’ potential, although there have been some rough moments along the way.
The rough moments for Michigan have mostly been confined to the sign stealing scandal that has engulfed the program over the past two weeks. On the field, the Wolverines have been a juggernaut, rolling to 8-0 without a single margin of victory less than 24 points. But with a trip to No. 11 Penn State is up next and the an all-important showdown with No. 1 Ohio State just three weeks away, this could be regarded as a trap game for Michigan.
Michigan vs. Purdue: Need to know
Walters vs. McCarthy: Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy is a Heisman Trophy frontrunner with 18 passing touchdowns and just three interceptions. His quarterback rating of 199.1 ranks second nationally behind only Jayden Daniels of LSU. Since taking over the starting job early last season, McCarthy has been a steady star. But the lowest single-game quarterback rating of his career came the last time he faced Walters, who was the defensive coordinator for Illinois when the Illini fell just short of a monumental upset in a 19-17 loss to Michigan last year. McCarthy completed just 18 of 34 passes for 208 yards without a touchdown or interception in the game, and the Wolverines needed field goal in the final seconds to win. Walters’ first defense at Purdue isn’t nearly as talented as the Illinois unit he coached last season, but his previous success slowing down McCarthy should certainly help Purdue.
Michigan’s passing defense: The Wolverines are No. 1 nationally in passing yards allowed per game, giving up an average of just 141 through the air. That’s especially impressive considering opponents have been playing from behind against Michigan all season. Michigan is also tied for No. 10 nationally in interceptions with 11, which will be of concern for the Boilermakers since quarterback Hudson Card has been intercepted seven times in eight games. Overall, Purdue’s passing efficiency ranks 112th, which suggests it will be particularly hard-pressed to find success though the air against Michigan’s stingy defense.
Growing distraction: Michigan has played just one game since news of an NCAA investigation into the program’s alleged sign stealing scheme broke, a 49-0 beatdown of Michigan State. Since then, the scandal has widened and intensified, with NCAA investigators on campus and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s future becoming a hot topic of speculation. Has the issue seeped into the Wolverines’ program enough to become a distraction? Players and coaches may say that they don’t pay attention to anything other than the opponent at hand, but the investigation is a massive story in college football. If nothing else, it’s shifted the external conversation away from Michigan’s historically-dominant season.
How to watch Michigan vs. Purdue live
Date: Saturday, Nov. 4 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Michigan Stadium — Ann Arbor, Michigan
TV: NBC | Live stream: fubo (Try for free)
Michigan vs. Purdue prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
It would be surprising if Purdue scores anything more than a late touchdown against Michigan, likely once the game is out of reach. Given that a massive game at Penn State awaits next week, look for Michigan to relent offensively in the second half for the purpose of preservation. The Wolverines should be content to run clock and move on with their health and stamina intact. There is no need to try and make some grand national statement by running up a huge number. It’s obvious — and has been for weeks — that Michigan’s season comes down to its performance against Penn State and Ohio State. Pick: Under 50.5
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