Northwestern (4-6) at Purdue (3-7) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500) -- West Lafayette, Indiana. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: NU 2-4, PU 2-4. Away Record: NU 2-2, PU 1-2. Neutral Record: NU 0-0, PU 0-1. Conference Record: NU 2-4, PU 1-5. Series Record: Purdue leads, 50-27-1.
GAME NOTES: The Northwestern Wildcats will once again fight for their postseason lives on Saturday afternoon when they visit Ross-Ade Stadium for a Big Ten Conference clash with the Purdue Boilermakers.
Northwestern rallied back from an 11-point deficit late in the fourth quarter on the road last week to knock off 15th-ranked Notre Dame, 43-40 in overtime. That victory snapped a four-game slide for the Wildcats, who need to win out in order to qualify for a bowl. Following this tilt, they'll return home to face Illinois next week in the regular-season finale.
Purdue enters this contest trying to put an end to its own four-game skid. The Boilermakers had a bye last week, which was preceded by a 34-16 home loss to No. 14 Wisconsin. Already eliminated from the bowl picture, the Boilermakers' finale is next Saturday at Indiana in the annual battle for the Old Oaken Bucket.
Purdue owns a 50-27-1 series lead, and that includes a 20-17 victory in Evanston when these teams last met in 2010.
After scuffling along to an average of just 12.5 points per game over its previous four contests, Northwestern erupted for a season-high 547 yards and put 43 points on the board at nationally-ranked Notre Dame. True freshman tailback Justin Jackson was the catalyst, as he eclipsed the century mark on the ground for the fourth time this year with 149 rushing yards. In fact, it marked the highest rushing total by an individual against Notre Dame this season. The offensive outburst seemingly came out of nowhere, considering Northwestern still ranks 110th nationally in both total offense (345.1 ypg) and scoring offense (20.5 ppg).
Northwestern's defense has been something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde unit throughout the season; capable of holding the likes of Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan to two touchdowns or less. But the Wildcats also recently gave up 48 points to Iowa, and last week they got into a shootout with Notre Dame. Senior safety Ibraheim Campbell came up with a huge play late in last week's game. Trailing 40-37 with less than 90 seconds to play in regulation, Campbell forced a fumble to get the ball back to the offense and eventually force overtime. In a game that saw the NU defense give up 28 first downs and 498 yards from scrimmage, Campbell's was one of four takeaways that proved critical.
Purdue has averaged only 15 points over its last two games. Sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby was handed the keys to the starting offense in early-October with his predecessor, Danny Etling, struggling to move the chains. But after some initial success, Appleby has cooled off of late. Defenses must still respect the scrambling ability of Appleby, who is tied for the team lead with five rushing scores. However, he has completed only 52.4 percent of his throws as Purdue's passing offense continues to rank in the bottom tier of the Football Bowl Subdivision. He completed only 17-of-37 attempts against Wisconsin, and 79 of his 204 passing yards came on the team's lone touchdown of the day.
Like virtually every opponent that has faced Wisconsin this season, the Boilermakers became the latest team to be gashed by Badgers running back Melvin Gordon, the nation's leading rusher. Gordon carried 25 times for 205 yards and a touchdown, which set up plenty of play-action opportunities for Joel Stave, who finished with 219 yards and two scores on 19-of-29 accuracy. Senior safety Landon Feichter did all he could, registering a game-high 12 tackles to go along with a forced fumble, recovery, and an interception. Feichter leads Purdue with 87 tackles and five picks on the season.
Other than the season opener, the Wildcats are the first sub-.500 team that Purdue will have faced this season. However, NU has knocked off not one but two ranked opponents, including the same Wisconsin team that just ran all over the Boilermakers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northwestern 27, Purdue 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 22, 12 p.m. (ET).