Mike Carmin (JConline)
For the last time, at least until 2020, Purdue and Notre Dame meet on the football field.
A neutral one at that. Indianapolis. Sound familiar? It happened 30 years ago inside the now destroyed Hoosier Dome (they set up a baseball field in that place one time and it was strange). The Boilermakers stunned the Irish 23-21 in football, not baseball.
Are we in for a repeat at Lucas Oil Stadium? And who’s the quarterback? I think you know the answer.
On with the preview:
Useless statistical information: Purdue has beaten Notre Dame 26 times, the third most of any opponent behind Southern Cal (35) and Michigan State (28). Even if the Boilermakers win, they can’t catch the Spartans until at least 2020. Told you this was useless statistical information.
From the Vegas Sports Hut: The Irish opened as a 29-point favorite. ND is coming off an impressive win over Michigan. Purdue is coming off a lackluster loss to a MAC school. That equals a high number. The line has dropped to as low as 27.5 but 28 is the consensus. This is not the biggest point spread the Boilermakers have faced. In fact, they were a 31-point underdog to Ohio State last season, at home. This is the seventh time Darrell Hazell has been an underdog of 20 or more points in his head coaching career. Six of those have been at Purdue.
3 BOILERMAKERS TO WATCH
• Danny Etling. Assuming he’s the starting quarterback (I don’t think it’s a big leap), the sophomore has to clean up his performance. Is Etling really thinking too much? Is it more mental than physical? Can he relax and just play? Might be hard with big, athletic players chasing him. He won’t have receiver B.J. Knauf (groin) who is out. If Etling is going to be the No. 1 guy, he has to show it at some point. It may not be in this game but it has to take place soon.
The Purdue safety is expected to see action as the fifth defensive back against the Irish(Photo: USA Today Sports)
• Frankie Williams. Another assumption in 3, 2, 1 … Williams is expected to play the nickel spot. Not every down but Purdue should have five defensive backs on the field for a majority of the game to match up with the Irish’s quickness. Williams is also strong enough and has the right mindset to help stop the run and not lose anything in pass coverage.
• Akeem Hunt. Hazell promises more than three carries. Start counting. Hunt needs a lot of touches and so does Raheem Mostert. The only way the Boilermakers have a chance is to hit the ground running. Hunt hurt the Irish on a big screen play last season. He’ll need a handful of big plays in this game.
3 IRISH TO WATCH
• Everett Golson. He’s a changed quarterback since missing last season because of doing things he shouldn’t have done in the classroom. Golson worked with a quarterback guru to improve his footwork and accuracy issues. So far, the results are there. As long as he plays at a high level, the Irish are going to be hard to beat.
• Sheldon Day. Leader of the defensive front, which will put a lot of pressure on Purdue’s offensive line. Took over a starting role last season and is on the Outland Trophy Preseason Watch List. May take two Boilermakers to keep him out of the backfield.
Notre Dame sophomore linebacker will be tough to contain(Photo: Scott Boehm/AP)
• Jaylon Smith. Just a sophomore, but on nearly every Preseason All-American Watch list. Started all 13 games as a freshman and finished with 67 tackles, the third-highest total by a rookie in program history. The athletic linebacker will be handful.
3 PURDUE QUESTIONS
• Should quarterback Austin Appleby receive extended playing to see what he can do?
• How much will the return of Taylor Richards help the defense?
• Can the offensive line hold up against this talented defense?
3 NOTRE DAME QUESTIONS
• Is the defense that good?
• Can the Irish go three straight games without a turnover?
• Will ND’s secondary suffocate Purdue’s receivers?
WHO WINS AND WHY
The Boilermakers need better play out of the quarterback position, but this may not be the game to show it. More importantly, Purdue has to clean up the penalties, turnovers, missed tackles and mental mistakes. Those elements last week resembled 2013, and no one wants to see that again. Even if all of that happens, not sure it will be enough to beat the Irish, who are going to have to help by making their own mistakes to keep the Boilermakers close. Notre Dame 43, Purdue 11.