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J.J. McCarthy: Michigan must take Purdue seriously

Purdue’s a threat and in Michigan’s way of a Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff.

Maryland v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Purdue has four losses on the season, but don’t let that record fool you, Purdue can get things done.

“It’s just not going to be a team that’s 8-4,” Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy told the media on Tuesday.

Purdue has done a great job of playing spoiler during the Jeff Brohm era, with wins over top five teams such as No. 2 Ohio State in 2018, along with No. 2 Iowa and No. 3 Michigan State last year. Now they have a tilt with No. 2 Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game.

“The biggest thing to me is that they’re 3-0 against top-five teams. That’s something that jumps off the table right away,” McCarthy explained. “We’ve got to take these guys seriously.”

Purdue is a scrappy team, and their record could be even better this year if it weren’t for a couple of narrow losses, a 35-31 last-minute loss to Penn State, and a 32-29 loss at Syracuse.

Purdue’s passing offense is something Michigan’s defense will have to keep a close eye on, with Aidan O’Connell to Charlie Jones becoming a magical connection. Jones has 97 receptions this season along with 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns, O’Connell has passed for 3,124 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Purdue ranks 21st in passing offense.

“They have great athletes on defense, got a very well-coached offense, and Aidan O’Connell is a great quarterback,” McCarthy said. “It’s gonna be a fun one, really excited to see how we match up.”

Head coach Jim Harbaugh says it will be two dangerous teams going at it.

“A tremendous passing game and they’ve incorporated the run. They’ve gotten good at that. That’s been a huge part of their success.”

Purdue has been a predominantly pass-first offense during the Jeff Brohm era, but that’s changed with the emergence of Devin Mockobee who’s averaging an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. Mockobee, a red-shirt freshman and former two-star recruit is up to 849 yards on the season with eight touchdowns. Purdue will undoubtedly be looking to get the running game cooking in this one and control time of possession, a category they rank 27th in.

The last time Michigan played Purdue was in West Lafayette five years ago, the Wolverines won 28-10. Although the two programs haven’t seen one another in a while, Harbaugh noted he’s watched plenty of the Boilermakers.

“I’ve been watching them. We haven’t played them since 2017 but we watch them either on TV or we watch them in the film exchange,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve beaten a lot of really good teams. A lot of really good football teams in the Jeff Brohm era.”

Purdue is a worthy competitor and will challenge Michigan in certain facets on Saturday. If Michigan is able to roll in this one it would be a great sign heading into the College Football Playoff. For Purdue and Jeff Brohm, they know how significant the Big Ten Ten Championship is for Michigan’s playoff chances.

“There’s going to be more pressure on Michigan, of course,” Brohm said. “They’ve got a chance to really do something special this year and they’re in a great position to do that. For us, this is a one-game shot to play in the championship game and roll the dice and see what we can do.”

We’ll see it on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.