By: Jon Suarez
It’s officially Game Day!
The Purdue Boilermakers get ready to take on the Northwestern Wildcats tonight at Ross-Ade Stadium!
This game marks the beginning of Purdue’s 2018 Football journey, in hopes of taking a step forward under second-year Head Coach Jeff Brohm. Now before we get into knowing your opponent, allow me to briefly inform you that I am not your typical Deep Dish WL writer. In fact, I’m a guest correspondent from the purple side of town. My job is to get you the fan, up to speed on everything Northwestern before this upcoming Thursday.
Tale Of The Tape:
PUR 13 – NU 23
~RB, Justin Jackson
~FS, Kyle Queiro
~SS, Godwin Igwuibueke
~TE, Garret Dickerson
Justin Jackson headlines an impressive group of departed players. The Running Back eclipsed 1,000 yards in all four years as a Wildcat. As you can see NU graduated both of its starting Safeties, so there is a gap to be filled in that secondary, look for Sophomore JR Pace to fill Igwuibuekes shoes. Tight End or Super Back Garret Dickerson was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection last year as well.
~QB, Clayton Thorson
~RG, Tommy Doles
~WR, Bennet Skowronek
~CB, Montre Hartage
Clayton Thorson’s status for Thursdays Season opener is still unknown at this point, however for what it’s worth he was taking first team reps all camp. Tommy Doles who was recently named a team captain is poised to have a breakout season. Bennet Skowronek made this list solely for his performance against Purdue last year (7 catches, 117 yards 1TD) look for him to repeat those numbers against a pair of rookie Purdue Cornerbacks. Montre Hartage is slowly becoming a household name for NU fans and rightfully so, the Running Back turned Safety is loaded with athleticism.
Players To Watch:
~RB, Jeremy Larkin
~QB, TJ Green
~LB, Nate Hall
~WR/KR, Solomon Vault
Jeremy Larkin has some pretty big shoes to fill in Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher Justin Jackson. Larkin, however, seems ready for the challenge coming fresh off of a 503-yard Freshman campaign. TJ Green made this list because it was announced yesterday he won NU’s backup QB battle, with Thorson’s status still uncertain if he can’t go Green would be his replacement. Line Backer Nate Hall is coming back from an injury similar to Thorsons, however, Hall suffered his ACL tear a full month earlier than Thorson. Special Teams Guru Solomon Vault is set to return after missing the entire 2017 season with a “lower body injury”, look for him to make an immediate impact on Special Teams.
1. NU’s edge Receivers (Bennet Skowronek & Flynn Nagel) Vs. Purdue’s RS Freshman Cornerbacks (Kenneth Major & Dedrick Mackey)
As stated earlier Skowronek had his career best game Vs. Purdue last year largely due in part to a healthy Clayton Thorson. Flynn Nagel also had an impressive game against Purdue (6 catches, 78 yards). On the other side of the ball, you have 2 Redshirt Freshman cornerbacks. Respectively both Major & Mackey are Redshirts so they have had their time to get acclimated to the scheme. If Thorson can play confidently look for this matchup to favor NU.
2. Purdue’s Run Game Vs. Northwestern’s Line Backers
Last year with David Blough sidelined, Elijah Sindelar(37/60, 376 yds, 2TD, 1INT) threw SIXTY PASSES against Northwestern! For Purdue to have a chance they need to balance their attack, look for Markell Jones & D.J. Knox to try and establish some momentum early on. Northwestern returns its leading tackler in Linebacker Paddy fisher who was just named a team captain as a Sophomore.
3. Special Teams
The title speaks for itself, for either of these teams who are pretty evenly matched in my opinion to get an edge, they have to win the special teams battle. Purdue seemingly always finishes in the lower tier of Punt Return yards in the Big Ten. In steps transfer Punter Jake Collins for the Wildcats, over three seasons at Western Kentucky he averaged 41.3 yards but still provides a question mark in the Special Teams game. Returning kicks, on the other hand, will presumably be Solomon Vault for the Wildcats with Flynn Nagel as a secondary. Expect that duo to establish the field position game early.
NU 20 PUR 19
I think this game will go down to the wire but start somewhat unappealing. If Clayton Thorson is a go look for Northwestern to extend their nation-best winning streak from eight games to nine. If Thorson can’t play then the Wildcats will be in some serious trouble.