FACTS & STATS: Site: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Purdue 3-2, Minnesota 3-1. Away Record: Purdue 0-2, Minnesota 1-2. Neutral Record: Purdue 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference Record: Purdue 0-3, Minnesota 0-3. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 33-32-3.
GAME NOTES: The Purdue Boilermakers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers will do battle in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon, with the winner emerging with their first Big Ten Conference victory of the season.
Purdue's season started off promising as it went 3-1, but things took a turn once the Big Ten opponents started showing up on the schedule. The Boilermakers have been blown out at home versus Michigan (44-13) and Wisconsin (38-14), and they dropped a hard-fought decision at Ohio State last week in overtime, 29-22.
Minnesota got off to an even faster start as it won each of its first four games, but much like its counterpart, the Big Ten slate has not been kind. The Gophers have dropped three straight against Iowa (31-13), Northwestern (21-13) and Wisconsin (38-13), and they have now lost nine of their last 11 conference matchups. They have found success at home this year, winning three of four at TCF Bank Stadium.
These two programs have played each other tight over their 100-plus year history, with Minnesota holding the slightest of advantages, 33-32-3. The Boilermakers have won the past two meetings, but the Gophers have a strong 28-12-3 lead in Minneapolis.
Judging from the stats, it appears that Purdue has one of the more productive offenses in the conference (31.3 ppg, 380.9 ypg), but after scoring 48 points or more in three of its first four games, it has averaged only 16.3 ppg during its three-game losing streak.
Caleb TerBush put together one of his strongest performances of the year in the loss to Ohio State last week, completing 19-of-30 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. TerBush has been inconsistent under center (93-of-151, 946 yards, 10 TDs, seven INTs), meaning more playing time for Robert Marve (49-of-73, 500 yards, four TDs, two INTs) could be in the offering.
Both Antavian Edison (381 yards) and Gary Bush (225 yards) are among the conference leaders in touchdown receptions with five apiece. O.J. Ross (299 yards) is the most trusted receiver when it comes to moving the chains with a team-high 38 catches.
Akeem Shavers (384 yards, three TDs) gets the bulk of the work out of the backfield, but he sports a pedestrian 4.2 yards per carry average. Akeem Hunt has gotten just 28 carries, but he's been explosive with 272 yards (9.7 ypc).
With another interception against the Buckeyes, Landon Feichter now has a team-high four picks to go along with 41 tackles, also tops on the squad. Josh Johnson (three INTs, FR) has also been active in the turnover battle. Kawann Short (nine TFL, four sacks) and Ryan Russell (5.5 TFL, three sacks) have been a solid duo along the defensive line.
Much like Purdue, Minnesota's offensive output (22.6 ppg, 356.4 ypg) has decreased in league play, as it has scored just 13 points in three consecutive losses.
The first half of the season saw the Gophers splitting time between quarterbacks Max Shortell (60-of-105, 791 yards, six TDs, four INTs) and MarQueis Gray (33-of-55, 464 yards, five TDs, two INTs), with Shortell being the more conventional gunslinger and Gray showing more promise as a runner (320 rushing yards, three TDs). There was a major shake-up in the lineup last week however, as freshman Philip Nelson got the start (13-of-24, 149 yards, two TDs, two INTs) and Gray saw action at wide receiver (three catches, 20 yards).
Gray's permanent move to the receiving corps hopes to give a boost to the unit. Other than A.J. Barker (25 receptions, 422 yards, five TDs), no other Gopher has more than 11 receptions.
Donnell Kirkwood is the team's featured back with 116 carries for 475 yards and three touchdowns, although he has gone over 100 yards just once this season.
Minnesota's defense (22.4, 331.7 ppg) has also suffered as the schedule has gotten more difficult, as the unit has allowed 31 points or more in two of its last three games.
The Gophers have struggled to force turnovers, recording only seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries through seven games. If you take away production from D.L. Wilhite (5.5 sacks) and RaShede Hageman (four sacks), the team has recorded only 3.5 sacks.
With both teams in the midst of a serious mid-season slide, this is a must-win for each. Minnesota hopes that its new-look lineup can bring a new energy to the field and the Golden Gopher faithful always come out in full force for home games, but the Boilermakers earned their stripes against a very good Ohio State team last week, and they will be ready to come away with a road victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Purdue 24, Minnesota 23Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 27, 3:30 p.m. (et)