Breaking it down: Judgement time for Boilers
Who: Virginia Tech vs. Purdue
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, Purdue
Spread: Virginia Tech -7
Matchup to watch: Kendall Fuller vs. Austin Appleby
I know, I know. Austin Appleby’s bounce back game came against FCS Indiana State. Well, we’re going to see what kind of early strides he’s made when one of the nation’s top corners comes to town. Fuller did get put to sleep against Michael Thomas in the opener against Ohio State. But make no mistake, Fuller could easily jump a few routes if Appleby telegraphs passes like he did against Marshall. Fuller will either be lined up on the emerging DeAngelo Yancey or Danny Anthrop. Appleby might just avoid Fuller’s side altogether and feed whoever doesn’t haven’t the preseason All-American draped all over them.
Thing I’m excited for: More Markell Jones
Are you sick of hearing me talk about the Purdue freshman? TOO BAD. I’m a fan of the Columbus, Ind. native. He already has three touchdowns and has shown he can do it all. Darrell Hazell is confident putting him in to pick up short yardage, pass block or turn into a receiver out of the backfield. I get that D.J. Knox is still the guy, and rightfully so. He will still get the majority of the carries, even if it is by a slimmer margin than some might’ve thought. But it’s impossible not to be a fan of Jones. Virginia Tech was gashed by Ezekiel Elliott for an 80-yard run. I’m not saying Jones is anywhere near Elliott’s talent level, but the Hokies are vulnerable at the second level and the freshman’s big-play ability could surface in this one.
Number to remember: 11
That’s how many tackles for loss the Boilermakers are averaging. That’s second in the country. Last year, this group finished 105th in that category with 61. Jake Replogle and Antoine Miles have been fixtures in opposing backfields, which is exactly what the Boilermakers need against a quarterback making his first career road start. Brenden Motley will be more mobile than either of the signal-callers Purdue faced. A little pressure would go a long way toward making him feel unwelcome in his first trip to West Lafayette.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Purdue 21
Virginia Tech is an awfully tough team to judge. The Hokies were a completely different team after Michael Brewer broke his collarbone in the second half against Ohio State. But how much of a barometer was a ho-hum blowout against Furman? I still think Purdue makes life difficult for Motley and the Hokie offense. What’s the difference in this one? A late Appleby turnover. But if I’m wrong and Purdue does pull this one out, those Ross-Ade seats are going to see a major boost come Big Ten play.