Breaking it down: Purdue vs. Marshall
Who: Purdue vs. Marshall
When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET
Where: Joan C. Edwards, West Virginia
TV: Fox Sports1
Spread: Marshall -7.5
Matchup to Watch: Devon Johnson vs. Ja’Whaun Bentley
Purdue’s best tackler has plenty of potential to solidify the middle of the Boilermaker defense for years to come. He can assert himself as the leader of the unit early by containing Johnson, who rushed for over 135 yards per game last year. The 244-pound Marshall tailback looks more like the linebacker/tight end position he used to man. Unfortunately for Bentley, he’ll have the pleasure of meeting Johnson at the point of attack. The winner of that battle could easily wind up having the edge in this one.
Thing I’m excited to see: Danny Anthrop’s return
Purdue’s top receiver is back after tearing his ACL at the end of last year. An All-Big Ten candidate before his injury, the Boilers were a different offense without Anthrop in the lineup. They didn’t hit 20 points in any of the three games he missed. Austin Appleby needs a consistent pass-catcher like Anthrop, unlike last year when tailback Akeem Hunt became his go-to target. With Anthrop back, there’s no reason Purdue shouldn’t be able to stretch the field.
Number to Remember: 3,536
I get that D.J. Knox is the guy for now at tailback. But that’s how many rushing yards Markell Jones racked up in his senior year at Columbus East High School. Indiana’s Mr. Football is a special late bloomer that will eventually earn the majority share of the carries. Purdue has maintained that the true freshman will be involved in the gameplan early and often. There’s no redshirt season in sight for Jones. Don’t be surprised if and when he busts loose for his first monster run. Maybe it’ll come against a Marshall defense that returns just five starters.
Prediction: Marshall 42, Purdue 35
Hey, a shootout. Well, an inability to stop the run could tell the story in this one. I think both teams establish the ground game and exchange touchdowns. It’s rare to see a Conference USA team favored over a Big Ten team. But the Herd won 13 games last year and the Boilermakers haven’t proved they can hang with Big Ten competition in the Darrell Hazell era. It’ll hang with Marshall, but ultimately, Purdue won’t be able to get that big defensive stop it needs.