How worried should Michigan be about Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game?

Kickoff is Saturday at 8 p.m.

The Michigan Wolverines will travel back to Indianapolis to defend their Big Ten Championship against the Purdue Boilermakers Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium. (WDIV)

INDIANAPOLIS – The Michigan Wolverines will travel back to Indianapolis to defend their Big Ten championship against the Purdue Boilermakers Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Pundits and fans of the Michigan faithful think the matchup against Purdue is all but sold up as the reigning champions of the Big Ten West Division look like an inferior opponent, especially after dominating the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus for the first time since 2000.

They’re 12-0 for the first time since 1997, and they’re also back-to-back champions of the Big Ten East Division with goals of finishing the season 15-0.

“12-0 is really hard to do no matter what conference you’re in or what team you’re on but I just feel like 12-0 doesn’t matter unless you finish the job and no matter what happens next we’re still focused on going 15-0,” said quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

Purdue’s 8-4 record is different from their representation as a football program when playing against ranked opponents, preferably teams in the top five. And if the Wolverines are looking past the Spoilermakers, they better think twice, as they’re known for slaying giants.

Spoilermakers

Since 2018, when facing teams ranked in the top five, the Spoilermakers are 3-1. As a program they have an FBS record of 17 victories against ranked opponents when they’re unranked, including the Ohio State.

The Spoilermakers took down the No. 2 Buckeyes 49-20 in a game that will live on in Boilermakers history. During the matchup, both teams combined for six touchdowns as Purdue handed Ohio State their first loss of the season.

Purdue center Kirk Barron (53) and running back Tario Fuller (25) celebrate late in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Purdue defeated Ohio State 49-20. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Purdue, in a home matchup, took down the No. 3 ranked Michigan State Spartans 40-29, spoiling their hopes of making the 2021 College Football Playoff.

Purdue defensive end DaMarcus Mitchell (15) celebrates a sack with defensive tackle Branson Deen (58) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Three weeks before that shocking victory, Purdue took down No. 2 Iowa 24-7 on the road in the vaunted Kinnick Stadium, raking up 464 combined yards while controlling the time of possession 34:46 to 25:14.

Purdue linebacker Kieren Douglas (43) celebrates at the end of an NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa. Purdue won 24-7. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Their one loss came against No. 4 ranked Ohio State falling 59-31 in Columbus in 2021. Quarterback C.J. Stroud completed 31-38 passes for 361 yards and five touchdowns.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud plays against Purdue during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Quarterback/Coach

There were two common denominators in a couple of those games, sixth-year quarterback Aidan O’Connell and head coach Jeff Brohm who too is in his sixth year as the leader of the Boilermakers.

Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm talks with quarterback Aidan O'Connell during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 35-24. (AP Photo/Andy Manis) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The duo is known for creating and fulfilling schemes around matchups, especially with their air raid attack, as it can be lethal. Brohm and O’Connell have thrown the ball almost 60% of the time, and their offensive attack will provide many trick plays to keep the Wolverines on their heels.

For instance, O’Connell completed 30-40 passes for 375 yards and two touchdowns against the Hawkeyes, who led the Big Ten in Interceptions in 2021. He threw 54 times, completing 40 for 536 yards and three touchdowns against the Spartans. In the loss to the Buckeyes, O’Connell completed 40-52 passes for 390 yards and four touchdowns.

They are confident, especially after they defeated Illinois on the road 31-24, which Michigan barely escaped the Illini at the Big House on Senior Day. O’Connell completed 25-40 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns in that game.

If he did that against a stout team on the road, imagine what he and Brohm are capable of doing in front of a semi-home game in Indy. Not to mention Illinois and Michigan are mirror images of one another, so Purdue has that in their back pocket as well.

Read: Senior Day in Ann Arbor to feature similar styles as Michigan football squares off with Illinois

Purdue will probably do what Ohio State did last week and make McCarthy have an encore performance. If they sell out to stop the run, like the nation saw this past weekend, forcing McCarthy to toss the ball around the yard could be reminiscing of last year’s Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa.

J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after scoring a rushing touchdown during the fourth quarter of a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (2022 Getty Images)
Michigan WolverinesPurdue Boilermakers
Record: 12-0Record: 8-4
Points Per Game: 39.8Points Per Game: 28.6
OPP PPG: 12.7OPP PPG: 23.1
PPG DIFF: +27.2 (Best in FBS)PPG DIFF: +5.5

Don’t take the cheese

Saturday’s (Dec. 3) matchup could be the ultimate trap game for the Wolverines. Teams are known for laying eggs and having huge letdowns after overcoming emotional victories.

“The way we look at it is it’s another game in the way of our ultimate goal which is a national championship,” McCarthy said. “Last year it was kind of our main goal which was to win a Big Ten Championship. Obviously we’re not taking them (Purdue) lightly. We’re not taking this game lightly whatsoever. But we’re just excited to get back there, enjoy it and dominate on all three cylinders.”

Both teams matched up against each other five years ago, where the men in maize won 28-10 on the road in West Lafayette, but times have changed, and both teams are light years apart.

Nobody is giving Purdue a chance, as the Wolverines are heavy favorites which Brohm and his coaching staff are fine with.

With the announcement of Heisman hopeful Blake Corum being done for the season after receiving knee surgery, is your confidence still as high as it was, or do you think the Boilermakers have a chance to unblemished the Wolverines in the loss column?

Read: Michigan football star Blake Corum reportedly out for rest of season due to knee injury


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About the Author:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.