How To Watch, Stream & Listen
Rutgers at Purdue
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Kick-off: Saturday, November 28 at 4:00 PM ET
Weather: 48 degrees, sunny with a 1% chance of rain, 8 mph winds
TV: FS1 with Kevin Fitzgerald (play-by-play), Sam Acho (color)
Stream: FOX Sports App
Radio: RWJBarnabas Health Rutgers Sports Network (WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, WENJ 97.3-FM, XM 384) with Chris Carlin (play-by-play), Ray Lucas, and Anthony Fucilli (sideline).
Current Spread: Purdue -11
Series History: Rutgers leads 1-0, with the only meeting a 2017 Rutgers 16-14 win.
SB Nation Purdue site: Hammer and Rails
Passing: Noah Vedral - 110-for-172, 64.0%, 1101 yards, 8 touchdowns, 8 interceptions
Rushing: Isaih Pacheco - 329 yards on 70 carries, 4.7 ypc, 2 touchdowns
Receiving: Bo Melton - 26 catches for 440 yards, 16.9 ypc, 5 touchdowns
Defense: Olakunle Fatukasi - 56 tackles, Mohamed Toure - 3 sacks, Tre Avery and Brendon White - 1 interception
Passing: Aidan O’Connell - 88-for-136, 64.7%, 916 yards, 7 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Rushing: Alexander Horvath - 320 yards on 63 carries, 5.1 ypc, 1 touchdown
Receiving: David Bell - 39 catches for 425 yards, 10.9 ypc, 6 touchdowns
Defense: Derrick Barnes - 36 tackles, George Karlaftis - 2 sacks, Cam Allen - 2 interceptions
What to watch for
This Saturday late afternoon tilt features two teams coming off one possession losses for two straight weeks. The team who can stop the pass is probably in the best position to end their losing streak.
When Rutgers has the ball
The Scarlet Knights against a more talented team in Michigan last week, battled through three overtimes on the strength of their intermediate passing game. Let me say that again because the last time Rutgers had an effective intermediate passing attack was ... 2009. What a difference a year makes as the offensive line who was steamrolled in Ann Arbor a year ago, kept a mostly clean pocket. Purdue is thinner on the defensive line than most Big Ten teams and lost their best pass rusher George Karlaftis for the next few games. So Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral probably needs to have a another great game like he did last week, the best performance from an RU signal caller since 2014. If Vedral can get hot, his receivers have shown they will be ready as Aron Cruickshank continues to lead the team in receptions, while Bo Melton and Shameen Jones were each over 100 yards last week.
Of course just because Rutgers can throw the ball, they should mix in runs as much as they can to keep the defense off balance and eat some clock. The Rutgers offensive line has not been pushing people around in the run game, but this will be their best opportunity to do so in 2020. Isaih Pacheco or Kay’Ron Adams needs to have some big plays to keep the chains moving, Purdue’s offense off the field, and allow the rest of the Rutgers offense to get in rhythm. Watch out for a bounce back game from Lorenzo Neal Jr. who has tremendous talent and is difficult to block when he’s clicking.
When Purdue has the ball
The Boilermakers boast two of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten, David Bell and Rondale Moore. They are fast, catch the ball well, and make defenders miss. They also have a pretty good counterpunch with their running back Zander Horvath who has basically all their rushing yards this year.
The controversy is at the quarterback spot where Aidan O’Connell had numbers that are far superior to what we have seen at Rutgers prior to this year, but are not necessarily great for a Jeff Brohm led offense. As a result Jack Plummer has gotten a look and impressed with an 83% completion rate, better yards per attempt, good escapability, and a higher QB rating. Plummer should get the start after O’Connell will not dress this week per Brohm’s recent update. We know how unprepared the Knights looked at times each of the past two weeks when a changeup arrived at the QB spot.
The key for Rutgers will be stopping the run with their interior defensive line and allowing second level defenders to seal the edges, making Purdue one dimensional. The Boilermakers have an offensive line built to pass block, but when committed to the run, have done plenty of damage. Moore is also dangerous as a slot back on jet sweeps. Rutgers needs to outwill Purdue at the line, can they?
The second key will as always, be if Rutgers can get some pressure on the quarterback. They have had to sell out with six man blitzes to get pressure most of the season due to lack of an interior or defensive end pass rush. If Purdue’s QBs have time, they will eventually find an open man so Rutgers needs to force them to get the ball out quick, preferably to someone other than Moore. If so, maybe RU can finally notch another interception even if it comes on a tipped ball to get a huge momentum swing. In that 2017 win, RU had 11 pass break-ups, I think they have one the past three weeks I can recall. Rutgers simply cannot cover for very long no matter what, even if Brendon White is more healthy, even if they play nickel, even if Avery Young and Tre Avery cut down on penalties. Buckle your seat belt because this even in theory is not going to be easy.
Can Rutgers win this game?
Absolutely, although Purdue’s strength is RU’s weakness and that is usually a problem in these cross-division toss-ups, hence the point spread. Of course the same was true in 2017 and Rutgers ended up stopping a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute to secure a two point margin victory, so you never know. In that game, Rutgers played three down linemen and allowed Purdue to run the ball until they neared the red zone at which point their downfield passes had less room to come open. Game planning will be important, but as both these teams know from their last two games, no lead is safe and mistakes in the final moments are magnified. Rutgers should have a huge advantage in special teams, which if they can capitalize would make chances of coming home to New Jersey victorious much more likely.
Unlike the past two weeks, I hate this matchup for Rutgers. Purdue has two quarterbacks who have both shown an ability to throw the ball and two receivers who can catch it from whomever is chucking it. Rutgers is not a great team, but what has prevented them from even being a “good” one is their inability to stop the pass. This will be the second best passing offense they see all season, so to win will require their best game in that regard.
The formula for Rutgers probably needs to be the same as it was in 2017, allow Purdue to run the ball a little bit, avoid huge home run plays, and try to move the ball on offense with runs and intermediate passes. Both coaching staffs have been under fire for halftime defensive adjustments, but maybe that’s because they lack options on that side of the ball, plain and simple. Rutgers can win a shootout in the 30’s, maybe even low 40’s, but would be better served keeping the Purdue offense on the sideline as much as possible, forcing them to execute in fewer opportunities.
Just because Rutgers is light years ahead of where they were a year ago, doesn’t mean they can’t be blown out occasionally. So no need to hit the panic button after this game for any reason. That being said, all we asked for was competitive football because that means you will win some, and lose some. Hopefully Rutgers can do enough in this game to get their second victory of the year and demonstrate all those close losses were no fluke.