The Gophers finished 3-0 in nonconference, albeit narrowly. Purdue went 1-2. Both benefited from a bye ahead of Big Ten play. The Gophers have recovered after a rash of Week 3 injuries. The Boilermakers could still miss their quarterback. But they always have Rondale Moore.
Prediction: Gophers 31, Purdue 24
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar has been in the concussion protocol for nearly three weeks and remains questionable. He has completed 68 of 104 passes this season for 932 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Freshman Jack Plummer filled in but wasn’t great in Week 3.
Brooks is back
Gophers senior running back Shannon Brooks has returned from a knee injury to play in his second game since Oct. 28, 2017. He’s historically excelled against Purdue and could add to his 1,882 career rushing yards.
Feel the rush
The Gophers’ are finally full strength at running back and looking for a breakout game from the backfield. Purdue allowed 346 rushing yards by TCU and on average allows more than 175 yards on the ground.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Purdue WR Rondale Moore vs. Gophers CB Chris Williamson
Sophomore phenom Moore has 369 yards on 27 catches, including two touchdowns this season. But if the Gophers’ best cornerback, senior Williamson, learned from TCU, which limited Moore to three catches for 25 yards, he can stymie the All-America, too.
Gophers offense vs. themselves
Purdue has been allowing opponents an average of 438.7 yards per game this season. The Gophers offense averages 356.7 yards per game. That number could be more, if the Gophers get out of their own way. Turnovers, both interceptions and fumbles, prove costly. A leaky offensive line allows sacks and hinders running backs. Cleaning up those mistakes will be huge.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
50 Percentage of the Gophers’ scoring drives this season that have taken at least 10 plays, with six of the 14 lasting longer than five minutes. Coach P.J. Fleck said the team’s first one, which covered 91 yards in 18 plays and more than 10 minutes, is the Gophers’ style and has to happen all the time for the team to win.
THE Gophers WILL WIN IF …
The offensive line plays better. Fleck has hinted at personnel changes up front, and if those spur the run game to more than the 2.6 yards per carry the Gophers’ currently average, it will be a big boost.
Purdue WILL WIN IF …
Sindelar is in, and Moore is unstopped. Purdue is a passing threat, which the Gophers haven’t quite faced yet this season. Fresno State was the closest, and the Gophers endured some downfield plays there.