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Key matchups week 4: Purdue

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Purdue will welcome Michigan to West Lafayette with a lot of confidence and a full homecoming crowd. Here’s the keys to the game.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 23rd

Game Time: 4:00 p.m. ET

Venue: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN

Network: FOX

Betting Line: -10 UM

Michigan heads into week 4 with a perfect record and is preparing for the Big Ten opener.

Surprisingly enough though, this game is drawing more interest than it probably should.

The Wolverines are heading to West Lafayette to take on a Purdue team (2-1) that is coming off a blowout 35-3 win at Missouri.

Meanwhile, Michigan struggled for the second straight week to finish off drives and score touchdowns, allowing Air Force to hang around longer than most expected.

It'll be homecoming for the Boilermakers and probably the biggest game they've hosted in a long time. If Michigan doesn't show up ready, things could get ugly in a hurry.

Here's a look at the key matchups that will take place on Saturday.

Michigan’s Secondary vs David Blough

Purdue appears to have an offense to take serious this season and that is because of their quarterback.

Blough took a lot of punches in the gut against Louisville but truly never gave up, converting third downs and keeping his team in the game until the end.

The senior has thrown for 597 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions on the season so far. However, he isn’t the only quarterback Michigan will see on Saturday.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Sindelar has also played the position for the Boilermakers this season, tossing for 263 yards, four touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Regardless of who is playing, it's something that Michigan’s young secondary will be tested on.

To this point in the season, the Wolverines have held their own back there, with Lavert Hill and Tyree Kinnel leading the way by each returning an interception for a touchdown. This offense may be the best one Michigan has faced, ranking 38th in total offense and 32nd in passing offense.

They can also run the ball with Tario Fuller who is averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season, totaling 261 yards this year with a pair of touchdowns. It allows Blough and the Purdue offense to open up.

If Michigan wants to win this game, they will need to keep the passing game in check which will start with the secondary giving the pass rush time to get in the quarterback's face.

Michigan’s offense in the red zone

This has been the primary concern around the Michigan football team for the whole season and it won’t change until they finish drives.

Purdue doesn’t exactly have a great defense, ranking 78th in points allowed on the year. Michigan however, has only scored a touchdown once in their 10 trips to the red zone this season.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Wolverines can’t find a way to get the ball across the goal line it doesn’t matter how many yards the Boilermakers allow. Field goals may not get the job done against Purdue’s offense.

Expect to see Jim Harbaugh and company get more creative by the end zone in this game. What offensive coordinator Tim Drevno has been electing to roll with isn’t working and the fans are growing restless.

Whether it’s having confidence in Wilton Speight to air it out by rolling out of the pocket to find a tight end or going back to the Khalid Hill rushes, something should be changing. Or in that sense, going back to what worked a year ago.

Michigan’s youth vs Purdue’s crowd

The reason that more progress needed to be made with the offense before this game is because the young offensive core isn’t playing in Ann Arbor this weekend.

Big Ten crowds away from your home stadium aren’t nice. Period.

Homecoming for Purdue with the No. 8 ranked team in the country coming to their house is a recipe for disaster. Experience for playing on the road is truly hard to match until you’ve actually done it.

What is evident is that the Wolverines did play at a neutral site against Florida at Cowboys Stadium, which nevertheless is a nerve racking game, and they came out on top.

NCAA Football: Florida at Michigan Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Even when it started to go south for Michigan with the back-to-back interceptions returned for touchdowns by the Gators, they were able to respond and never look back.

That will be needed in this game because if the Boilermakers force a turnover, the crowd is bound to feed off it and give the home team more life.

How Michigan responds to adversity in this game will go a long way in the final result.

Prediction: Michigan 24 Purdue 10

I don’t think Michigan will figure it all out this week on offense, but they will finish the game strong and pull away from Purdue late in the fourth quarter.

Purdue is a team that looks legit so far this season and that gives them every reason to play alongside Michigan who has been struggling to score points.

The Wolverines will have a couple turnovers early in this game, but per usual the defense will pick them up and hold them in the game long enough to win.

Michigan will end with a late touchdown pass from Speight to give him a jolt of confidence moving forward and maybe, just maybe, it changes how the offense produces in the upcoming weeks.

Key Injury:

Freshman wideout Tarik Black broke his foot in last weeks game against Air Force. Jim Harbaugh said he will be out for an indefinite period of time.

Black had 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown so far on the season. He will more than likely be replaced by Eddie McDoom who is a speedster that has mainly been used on jet sweeps.