What’s the sound? It’s Boilermakers’ fans sputtering aloud about their reemergence and upsetting Notre Dame. Don’t believe it for a second. Notre Dame’s rushing attack will squash the Boilermakers’ dreams of knocking off Notre Dame.
Quick reminder for anyone interested, Purdue fans included, Notre Dame rushed for 287 yards and two touchdowns versus Purdue last season. Purdue surrendered 182 yards rushing to Penn State, 339 to Michigan, 364 to Wisconsin, 166 to Ohio State, and 207 to a one-win Indiana team. The so-called much improved Purdue defense will once again take the field against the Irish. I say it’s good for Notre Dame. It’s Purdue. So what?
I will happily announce that Alabama possesses the best offensive line in the nation until otherwise proven. Beyond the Crimson Tide, few other offensive lines boast the talent and experience of Notre Dame. Louisiana State, perhaps Wisconsin, or Oregon, maybe Ohio State, Texas, or Southern California rank at or above Notre Dame (off the top of my head). Purdue’s defensive line was tattooed by Notre Dame last year. Heck, I could have scored a touchdown running through those holes. Here’s a closer look at how Notre Dame stacks up versus the Purdue front seven.
Left tackle – Zach Martin (RS JR), an All-American candidate and future NFL player. He’s the player that Purdue defenders will struggle with the most.
LG – Chris Watt (RS JR), the mauler of the front line, he helped open several of gaping holes for Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray versus Purdue last season. Not sure if he will be drafted, but he’s at least headed for NFL free agency after finishing up at Notre Dame at the conclusion of the 2013 season.
C – Braxton Cave (5th SR), possibly the strongest player on the team and one of college football’s best interior linemen. He’s another future NFL draft choice.
RG – Mike Golic, Jr. (5th SR), a spot starter last season, Golic played very well in the opener against Navy. He’s improved his conditioning and will be a valuable asset to Notre Dame this year.
RT – Christian Lombard (RS SO), the greenhorn of the group, Lombard must prove his worth. Good start versus Navy, but he’s facing better athletes this Saturday.
Keep in mind that Notre Dame's ability to use three excellent tight ends will help keep Purdue off balance. Everyone knows about Tyler Eifert, but Purdue players, coaches and fans will soon know about Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack. Even if they do not catch a pass between them, the two Eifert-understudies will be powerful blockers at the point of attack, and also aid the rushing attack with wham blocks (angle blocks). Niklas and Koyack will be like extra linemen for much of the game, but do not discount them in play-action situations either.
For the Boilermakers, their strength lies along the interior of the defensive line. Then again, that interior defensive line was shredded by Notre Dame last season.
DT – Kawaan Short, (5th SR) – A valuable player because of his girth and playmaking ability, Short registered 6.5 sacks last season. However, Short did not record a tackle for loss or sack versus Notre Dame. He did record a mere two tackles versus the Irish.
DT -- Bruce Gaston (JR), He recorded three sacks last year. He did not record a single tackle versus Notre Dame.
DE – Ryan Isaac (JR), a backup defensive tackle, Isaac moved to defensive end due to a lack of defensive talent and depth. He’s now listed at over 290-pounds. He recorded two solo and seven assisted tackles last season.
DE – Ryan Russell (SO), a solid contributor last season, Russell accounted for eighteen solo and fifteen assisted tackles. He recorded one sack on the season.
Based on the four players listed above, why so much ballyhoo about the Boilermaker’s defensive line? I just do not get it. Notre Dame dominated Purdue’s best player last season. Why would it be any different this season with an even better Notre Dame offensive line? The linebackers will suffer a similar fate.
Purdue’s linebacker core took a hit with the loss of inside linebacker Dwayne Beckford being dismissed from the team in late August. He earned 91 total stops last season, including six solo and two assisted tackles versus Notre Dame. Purdue also lost Joe Holland to graduation, its leading tackler last season with 94 stops.
I’m not saying that Purdue is chopped liver, but I do not buy Purdue defeating Notre Dame for one second. Notre Dame is more experienced up front, more talented up front, and will throw the two-headed monster of Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III at Purdue’s front seven. I expect Notre Dame's rushing attack to eclipse 225 yards rushing and three scores. Look for some play-action passes in the red zone that will catch Purdue defenders flat-footed as well.
Notre Dame will line up in two-tight end sets and force Purdue to come up in the box with an eighth defender. That’s when play-action passing and the read option series (you know it’s coming with Everett Golson’s athleticism) will pay dividends.
Purdue does not possess the depth or the talent to knock off Notre Dame. There are many other factors that will define the final score, but the primary reason Notre Dame rolls Purdue will be its ability to run the football between the tackles and smash Purdue’s confidence from the outset.
Notre Dame 44 Purdue 17