Nebraska rush offense vs. Purdue rush defense
Purdue allows 4.82 yards per carry (second-worst in the Big Ten), even without giving up very many big runs — the Boilermakers have allowed 21 rushes of 10-plus yards. One would expect Nebraska to stubbornly feed Ameer Abdullah, who’s accumulated more yards on the ground (690) than 30 FBS offenses (including Purdue’s). Advantage: NU
Nebraska pass offense vs. Purdue pass defense
Nebraska’s quarterbacks have completed 71 percent of their passes for an average of 15.5 yards during the past two games. Purdue will try to disrupt Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg, but it will likely take some extravagant blitz schemes to do it. The Boilermakers have nine sacks, but five came against an FCS foe. Advantage: NU
Purdue rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
Running back Akeem Hunt has big-play potential, but he’s averaging just 3.2 yards per carry running between the tackles out of the Boilermakers’ pro-style looks. Nebraska’s always vulnerable against the run, but limiting Purdue’s struggling ground attack shouldn’t be too difficult. Advantage: NU
Purdue pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
There’s some uncertainty about how Purdue will structure its passing game with freshman Danny Etling getting his first career start. He has an arm. He threw 39 times in just more than two quarters against Northern Illinois. The element of surprise should help against a young Husker defense. Advantage: Purdue
Hunt is dangerous on kickoff returns, with 29.3 yards per chance and one touchdown. But Mauro Bondi’s strong leg could neutralize that threat. NU’s 25 touchbacks are tied for third-most nationally. With three touchbacks, Purdue doesn’t have that luxury against Kenny Bell, who gets 30.1 per kickoff return. Advantage: NU
Purdue is 1-4 and committed already to preparing its young players for future seasons under first-year coach Darrell Hazell. So the Boilermakers have nothing to lose. Expect them to play like that. Nebraska, meanwhile, often struggles in the favorite’s role.Advantage: Purdue
Key matchup: Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen vs. Nebraska’s receivers
Allen is not very big (listed at 5-foot-9, 186 pounds), but he doesn’t back down. He’s been on NFL scouts’ radar since his freshman year when he ran two interceptions back for touchdowns. He’ll have his hands full with Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa. But the battles should be fun to watch.
Nebraska wins if ...
It avoids adopting a blowout mentality. Trying too hard to win in style often leads to silly mistakes. Just take care of business.
Purdue wins if ...
It can score early, manufacture a couple of long gainers on offense and force several turnovers. A lot has to go right.
Nebraska dominated Illinois last week, and it appears to be in position to do the same at Purdue on Saturday. Taking control quickly and decisively again against an outmatched opponent would help rebuild the Huskers’ once-shaken confidence. Most assume NU shouldn’t have any trouble doing that.
Our prediction: Nebraska 45, Purdue 17