OHIO BOBCATS (1-0)
at PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (0-1)
Ross-Ade Stadium – West Lafayette, IN
Kickoff: Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Purdue -4.5, Total: 56
Can Purdue keep up a high level of play after nearly toppling Louisville?
In perhaps the least-heralded neutral site game of college football's opening weekend, the Purdue Boilermakers were laid out on a platter at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium as a snack for reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the #16 Louisville Cardinals. Fortunately for Purdue fans, things didn't quite work out that way—in fact, their team almost won. As 25.5-point underdogs, the Boilermakers led partway through the fourth quarter before ultimately falling to the Cardinals, 35-28. For a team that was (and perhaps still is) considered likely to once again finish the season near the bottom in the Big Ten standings, it was an encouraging Week 1 performance. Their opponent this Friday, the MAC's Ohio Bobcats, got a literal victory, not just a moral one, in their opening weekend game. It wasn't much of a surprise, as the opponent was FCS Hampton, but the Cats looked especially impressive in winning 59-0 against a 36.5-point spread. Since 1992, home teams that closed out their previous season with at least four straight losses but return at least five offensive starters (PURD) are 15-42 ATS in the first month of the season. Another trend favoring Ohio is the facts that bowl teams from the previous season that had a winning record despite losing their final two games (OHIO) are 36-10 ATS as road underdogs in the first month of the season since 1992. Purdue starting running back Markell Jones (team-high 616 rushing yards in 2016) suffered a leg injury versus Louisville and will sit against Ohio.
Without Jones in the lineup, the Boilermakers will need to lean on backs Tario Fuller and D.J. Knox if they want to establish a running game against the Bobcats this week. Despite their offensive success, it was something they were wholly unable to do against the Cardinals, rushing 21 times for a paltry 51 yards. Fuller had eight carries for 29 yards and four carries for 25 yards. This Purdue offensive line is working to replace three starters from last season, and it showed as Fuller and Knox struggled to find holes against an (admittedly formidable) Louisville front seven. Going forward, though, perhaps the greatest concern for Purdue's offensive coaching staff will be making a definitive choice at the quarterback position. After starting all of last season—he was third in the Big Ten in passing yards (3,352) and second in passing touchdowns (25)—QB David Blough was the presumptive starter entering this year. It was somewhat surprising, then, when QB Elijah Sindelar, his backup from last season, got the start against Louisville. Sindelar played into the second quarter, Blough entered the game and played through the third, and then Sindelar finished the game. Sindelar completed 15-of-31 passes for 118 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Blough was 18-of-26 for 175 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. He did lead the B1G with 21 picks last season, so throwing two in limited action last week was perhaps cause for concern. It's uncertain who will start on Friday, but it's likely both Blough and Sindelar will see action once again. Redshirt freshman WR Jackson Anthrop was excellent in his career debut, catching seven passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Along with Toledo, Ohio was the team that MAC coaches selected as a preseason favorite for their conference. 72-year-old coach Frank Solich has been at the head of the program since 2005, and he has built a football team that is remarkably consistent from year to year. If the Bobcats can get by Purdue and, next week, Kansas, they'll be a confident squad as they enter conference play. Against MEAC member Hampton, Ohio probably didn't give viewers much of an idea of what they'll show against Purdue—but they were nonetheless dominant. Sophomore QB Quinton Maxwell passed with precision in his first career start, completing 7-of-9 passes for 100 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His backup, JUCO transfer QB Nathan Rourke, completed 6-of-10 passes for 72 yards, but more tellingly rushed six times for 50 yards and three TDs. Maxwell beat out Rourke (who is also a sophomore) for the starting job in the offseason, but it's perfectly feasible that Solich plays both—Rourke's ability to run the ball offers a valuable change of pace. RB A.J. Ouellette rushed 12 times for 63 yards against Hampton, and backup RB Dorian Brown carried the ball 10 times for 49 yards and a touchdown. Using the FCS matchup as a tune-up, Solich got plenty of guys in on the action: Six guys had at least five carries, four scored rushing touchdowns and the team rushed for 248 yards. Redshirt freshman WR Cameron Odom led the team in receiving with four catches for 75 yards. WR Papi White, the team's leading returning receiver, caught Maxwell's lone TD pass. The defense held Hampton to 108 yards.