Top 5 Mid Major - Big Ten Games of 2009: #4 Purdue v. Northern Illinois

In our ongoing collaboration with The Rivarly, Esq. , we bring you the #4 game on our list of top five match-ups between Big Ten and Mid-Major football teams...

Purdue v. Northern Illinois

Game Hype

TRE: Purdue needs this game. Enough said. If the Boilers want a bowl game from this transition year, they need to disprove the following statement I made in 2008:

"The best MAC teams trump the worst Big Ten teams"

It's quite simple. Watch the depth of Purdue wear out NIU and give the Boilers hope for a bowl game...Or watch the improved and experienced Huskies team pull out another MAC win and spiral Danny Hope into a possible 1-2 win season.

No one is showing faith in Purdue. The play makers are gone and the defense was forgettable last year. But it's still the Big Ten! The depth of Purdue should win out, our logical minds tell us. The Big Ten athlete is still formidable, we repeat. When this game finishes, we'll know for sure if the 2009 edition of Purdue is downtrodden or still hanging onto respectability.

MMM: The Huskies will head to Rose-Ade Stadium in week three of the 2009 season for what looks to be a very competitive match up against the Purdue Boilermakers. The September 19th game will mark Jerry Kill's Huskies second game against a Big 10 opponent, and more importantly an opportunity to make a statement win early on in the season.

Admittedly, with his team on the road and playing for a pay check, Kill has much to gain and little to lose [at least from a job security standpoint] if his team walks away without the W. Regardless, a win here would give his team a ton of confidence for the rest of the season and this could turn out to be vital when they play teams such as Ohio and Central Michigan on the road.

If NIU plays smart ball and grinds down the Boilermaker D with their running gaming, there is no question that NIU can come out of West Lafayette with a big win.

Key Matchup

NIU QB vs. Purdue's Linebacking Corps

TRE: Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish can run...and throw...and lead. He proved this in 2008 as A FRESHMAN. Is he the next Dan Lefevour or Tim Hiller, MAC quarterbacks sure to get NFL hype? What will determine how the middle of Purdue's defense fares against Harnish's multi-faceted skills?

The Purdue LB corps is fast and small. While these smallish backers were overrun in 2008, this was due to inexperience and injuries across the board. After a glimpse at Oregon's explosive offense the week before, I can imagine Harnish and the run-first Husky offense will pose less of a threat. As cliché as this may be, Purdue's defense cannot afford to be cocky against this MAC school. Harnish will be fearless against Purdue, whether throwing or running. And for proof on how this works out, let's take a look at LeFevour's stats from last years Purdue game:

25-44, 291 yards, 2 td's, 2 Int's

24 carries, 112 yards, 1 td

Look out.

MMM: Purdue has quite a bit more to worry about with an inexperienced QB running the show...

Purdue Passing Game vs. NIU Secondary

This will be an exciting match up against two inexperienced yet talented niche of each team. With the departure of Curtis Painter, the Boilermakers lose their offensive rock for a used and abused pair of scissors... Joey Elliott. Elliott spent much of last year on the sidelines in street clothes due to an injured shoulder and worse yet is a polar opposite from Painter in every sense of the term. It will be very interesting to see if Elliott can not only bounce back from his injury but also grasp the unfamiliar playbook of new head coach Danny Hope.

Just like Elliot, the NIU secondary is a talented group of men [in their own special kind of way] however lack the experience needed to be considered a threat. The defensive unit loses a lot of its depth, which will force one of their few veterans FS David Bryant to cover a lot more ground than he did in 2008. Bryant led the Huskies with 83 tackles last season, but these numbers will be significantly lower if his supporting cast does not assist. Kills defensive backs are not known for their interceptions but more for their hard hits and tight pressure. This may mean some relief for Elliott, but whatever corps comes out ready to play that Saturday will be the deciding factor in the game...

Predictions

TRE: Upset special. These are two evenly matched teams, with one team returning a couple more play makers.

NIU 31, Purdue 24.

MMM: The Huskies will be much more prepared than a Boilermaker team who will be expecting to gorge on another delicious cupcake. The key for NIU is to capitalize on all scoring opportunities. Last years young NIU team struggled mightily within the red zone, but Kill has worked closely with Chandler Harnish during the off-season and West Lafayette will be the a good barometer of whether that work has paid off . Look to see Harnish use his legs to tear up a slower Purdue defense.

If they can convert at least 75% of their Red Zone attempts, the Huskies will walk away with the win.

NIU 27 Purdue 21

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