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10 Reasons Purdue is the Best Team Michigan Has Faced Thus Far

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Will Coach Brohm’s revival of Purdue lead to an upset?

NCAA Football: Ohio at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After three weeks of double digit wins against average to below average non-conference foes, No. 8 Michigan (3-0) begins its Big Ten Schedule against a revitalized program in the Purdue Boilermakers (2-1).

Prior to the season starting, no one was predicting the Purdue game to be a hurdle for the Wolverines. However, two blow out wins and a narrow loss against No. 19 Louisville has quickly changed the national perception of Purdue. The following are ten reasons Purdue is the best opponent on Michigan’s schedule to date:

#1. Jeff Brohm is the best coach Michigan has faced all year.

What Coach Brohm has done at Purdue through the first three games is nothing short of remarkable. Purdue’s 35-3 romping at Missouri wasn’t just surprising, it was the first time Purdue has had back to back wins against anyone since 2012. They also acquitted themselves very well in a 7 point loss against a then 16th-ranked Louisville team and actually led 21-13 in the 3rd quarter. Jim Harbaugh mentioned in his weekly presser he believes Brohm should be coach of the year.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Missouri
Jeff Brohm is the best coach Michigan has faced all year
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

#2. Harbaugh and his staff will be facing an extremely clever offense.

Purdue’s offense does not do one thing extremely well, but relies on the opposing team overplaying or misdiagnosing plays. They run a lot of play action and intend to run between 4-8 trick plays a game.

Florida’s offense was as predictable as the sunrise, Cincinnati’s only offense was wide receiver screens, and Air Force basically ran the same play in different ways every time. Purdue’s offense is a legitimate force with excellent play calling and the players all know what they’re doing. The advantage here is that Michigan still has quite a bit more talent and has the best Defensive Coordinator in the country.

#3. David Blough is the best quarterback Michigan has faced all year.

Granted, that isn’t saying much and Elijah Sindelar will likely see time as well, but Blough has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 15 straight games and can make plays with his feet. He also has the added benefit of an excellent coaching staff that calls plays to his strengths and at the best times. He has the third best efficiency rating of all Big Ten quarterbacks (17th nationally) with 174.5 and has eight touchdown passes to just two interceptions.

#4. Purdue has a better turnover margin than Michigan.

Purdue has a +3 turnover margin while Michigan is only +1. This is a big advantage for Purdue as they’re playing a young Michigan team in its first road game and one that has turned the ball over five times already, three times against below average competition. David Blough threw 21 interceptions last year, the worst in the Big Ten. He has improved this year and has been pick free the past two games. However, Michigan is going to put his development to a huge test as dominant defensive ends Winovich and Gary will likely be making plays in the backfield all day.

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

#5. Purdue has played tougher competition than Michigan and has played better against it.

Wins and losses don’t always tell the whole story. Purdue stood very tall in its loss to Louisville, made big plays when it needed to, capitalized every time Louisville made mistakes, but just came up short. Then, they hammered a decent Ohio team, piling up 558 total yards. Finally, they thoroughly beat an SEC team in Missouri - admittedly, the Tigers are a bottom feeder in that conference - but Purdue did it on the road and completely outclassed the Tigers 35-3.

#6. Michigan’s 3rd down conversion problems have kept less talented teams in the game for an uncomfortably long time.

It is certainly safe to say Michigan is the more talented team on both sides of the ball. However, that was the case against Cincinnati and Air Force and, at least in part, Florida, but they were still locked in a dog fight through the first three quarters in all three games. Purdue only had four tackles for loss and no sacks against Missouri, but the Tigers were only 2 of 11 on 3rd down. There is no reason to assume Michigan is going to blow Purdue out. Most analysts expect Michigan to break away in the 4th quarter, but if the Wolverines keep playing games this close to the chest, eventually their opponent is going to get momentum or just lucky.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan
Michigan’s 3rd down conversion problems have kept less talented teams in the game
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

#7. The Boilermaker front seven has been solid and seems to clamp down in the red zone.

Led by a talented group of linebackers, the Purdue defense has forced 8 turnovers this year, which is tied for 7th best in the nation. Lining up from their own goal line, the Purdue front forced two huge fumbles against a dynamic Louisville offense. This should be a big area of concern for a Michigan offense that has scored exactly 1 touchdown in 10 red zone appearances. Check out this nasty interception by DB Kamal Hardy against Missouri at the 4:03 mark.

#8. Purdue’s red zone efficiency is the complete opposite of Michigan’s.

Again, Michigan’s one touchdown in 10 red zone appearances is so awful, Michigan fans are starting to wish for punts from midfield just to save face. In 13 trips to the red zone, Purdue has ten touchdowns and three field goals. The Wolverines lucked out several times against Cincinnati and Air Force with missed field goals and poor clock management from the other side. Purdue is not going to make the same mistakes on that side of the field and Michigan is not likely

#9. Michigan will be facing its first true road game before a sold out crowd during homecoming.

This Saturday will be the first time Purdue has sold out Ross–Ade Stadium (capacity 57,000) since 2008, but it will probably not be as hostile an atmosphere as some of the other Big Ten stadiums with bigger and more experienced crowds. However, the Purdue fan base has really been awakened and has responded well to the improvement of play evident in their football team. They want this win bad and haven’t been in a better place to get one in years. The last time Purdue beat a top 10 team was in 2009 against Ohio St.

Ohio v Purdue
This Saturday will be the first time Ross-Ade Stadium has been sold out since 2008
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

#10. The Purdue receiving core is confident and doesn’t need to make big plays to move the ball down the field.

The Boilermakers have two fantastic tight ends in Cole Herdmen and Brycen Hopkins. They have consistently made big plays down the stretch in the open field and in the red zone. Earlier this week, starting receiver Gregory Phillips was quoted in an ESPN article confidently that Purdue would beat Michigan. The article talks a lot about the deep offensive playbook Brohm runs and how much his players love running it. It’s safe to say, Michigan’s secondary will have its hands full.

Don’t get it wrong, Michigan is a 10 point favorite for a reason. Blough has improved, but he still tends to panic or scramble under pressure and he simply cannot outrun a fast group of defensive ends and linebackers. The Purdue run game has been underwhelming. Even in their wins they have only been able to average just over 4 yards per carry. Points are going to be very hard to come by for this Purdue offense. Michigan’s kicking and punt game also look superior. Purdue is the best team Michigan has faced so far. It probably won’t lead to an upset, but it will likely be a hard fought game until the end.