After a triumphant victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes last weekend, the Michigan Wolverines are headed to Indianapolis to attempt a repeat as Big Ten champions. In their way is a gutsy 8-4 Purdue Boilermakers squad that has played up to their competition many a time in the Jeff Brohm era.
They have typically done it with explosive offensive performances. Back in 2018, the Boilermakers upset Ohio State by 29 points at home by putting 49 on the board. In 2022, Purdue had two top-10 upset wins over Iowa (No. 2) and Michigan State (No. 5). In both games, they won by double-digits and leaned on their offense.
If an upset is brewing in Indy, it will likely be because of Purdue’s offense. So let’s take a look at the three players Michigan will have to slow down this weekend.
QB Aidan O’Connell
A lot hangs in the balance of Aidan O’Connell’s play. Last week, he threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns against Indiana. On Sunday, he released a statement saying his older brother, Sean, passed away over the weekend.
The devastating news has kept O’Connell out of practice this week as the team prepares for the Big Ten Championship. However, many have said the sixth-year senior will be suited up.
On the field, O’Connell has been excellent yet again for Purdue. His numbers are slightly lower than last year’s, but has still racked up 3,124 passing yards and 22 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. He ranks in the top-35 quarterbacks in the country in yards, touchdowns and QBR. Putting up big numbers is not out of the question as O’Connell has thrown for more than 300 yards five times this season, including a 424-yard performance against Syracuse.
The biggest knock on O’Connell and this Purdue team is they haven’t played much stiff competition this season. Their best win came on the road against Illinois a few weeks ago.
WR Charlie Jones
Charlie Jones has known Aidan O’Connell for quite some time. The two are childhood friends who grew up near Chicago. Their chemistry and connection are nearly unmatched in college football. Jones transferred over from Iowa in the offseason and has been one of the biggest portal additions in the Big Ten this year.
O’Connell has completed 288 passes this season and 97 of those have gone to Jones. That’s good enough for the third-most receptions in college football this year. Jones has five games where he has surpassed 10 or more receptions this season. He’s gone over the century mark in seven of the Boilermakers’ games this year. Overall, he has 1,199 receiving yards, good enough for a top-five spot in the nation. The sixth-year senior is also tied for third nationally with 12 touchdown receptions.
I’m all aboard the Charlie Jones (Purdue) hype train.— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) September 27, 2022
Legit 4.3 speed, leads the country in receptions (41), tied for 1st in TDs (7), and top three in yards.
Put up 12/153/1 on Penn State & 11/188/1 on Syracuse.
Michigan’s secondary did an excellent job of slowing down Marvin Harrison Jr. last week against Ohio State, but the task does not end there. While Jones is not the receiver Harrison is, he has out-produced him this season. He will be a tough test for whoever may line up against him this weekend.
RB Devin Mockobee
The redshirt freshman running back has really come on late in the season. In the final six games, Mockobee has accumulated 95.6 rushing yards per game. That accounts for 574 of his 849 rushing yards on the season.
He is also a threat through the air out of the backfield. He had five receptions for 58 yards last week against Indiana and has shown consistency in the passing game throughout the course of the season.
He’s got the illusiveness to be one the Big Ten running back that Purdue has been missing in the Brohm era. If the Boilermakers can establish the run and move the ball down the field, they could be in for a close finish with the Wolverines on Saturday.