Northern Illinois (3-0) at Purdue (1-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500) -- West Lafayette, Indiana. Television: ESPN 2. Home Record: NIU 1-0, Purdue 1-1. Away Record: NIU 2-0, Purdue 0-2. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, Purdue 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, Purdue 0-1. Series Record: Northern Illinois leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Darrell Hazell will be out for revenge as his Purdue Boilermakers host the Northern Illinois Huskies in a non-conference battle at Ross-Ade Stadium.
The Boilermakers dropped to 1-3 under Hazell last week after their lopsided, 41-10 loss to Wisconsin in their Big Ten opener. Purdue's lone victory came over FCS foe Indiana State at home and its other two setbacks came courtesy of Cincinnati (42-7) and Notre Dame (31-24). Hazell guided Kent State to the best turnaround of any FBS program last season. In his last game on the sidelines for KSU, his Golden Flashes were defeated in double-overtime by Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship, which ruined their bid of being a mid-major BCS Bowl buster.
NIU overcame a 20-0 deficit last week to down FCS foe Eastern Illinois, 43-39, in a thriller to improve to 3-0 on the season and notch its 22nd consecutive home victory. The Huskies opened up the year with a pair of road win at Iowa (30-27) and Idaho (45-35). Rod Carey lost his first career game as a head coach last season when NIU was defeated, 31-10, by Florida State in the Orange Bowl. He is one of just four remaining first-year head coaches with a perfect record in 2013. The Huskies entered the year seeking their third straight MAC Championship.
Hazell is going to suffer another loss at the hands of NIU if Purdue's offense continues to struggle. The Boilermakers are the least productive squad in the Big Ten and rank 121st in the nation with their average of 246 yards of total offense per game. They are also last in their conference in scoring (15.3 ppg), rushing (70.5 ypg) and total first downs (56). Senior quarterback Rob Henry had a strong showing versus Notre Dame as he completed 25-of-40 pass attempts for 256 yards and three touchdowns. He took a step backwards last week, going 18-of-36 for 135 yards with an interception against the Badgers.
Junior tailback Akeem Hunt is Purdue's key offensive player. Opposing defenses have been able to contain Hunt, but he still leads the team in both rushing (156 yards, 3.1 ypc) and receiving (131 yards, 7.7 ypc). Justin Sinz is second on the team with 11 catches.
Purdue struggled on both sides of the ball last week as Wisconsin held a 546-180 edge in total yards of offense. The Badgers gained 8.1 yards per carry en route to 388 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Senior defensive back Ricardo Allen provided one of Purdue's few successful plays as he registered his second interception of the season to bring his career total to nine.
The Boilermakers have a seemingly impossible task this week as they attempt to halt NIU's Jordan Lynch, who ranks ninth among FBS players in total yards of offense per game (355.3). The dual-threat senior led the way as he passed for 235 yards and a touchdown and added 189 on the ground against a feisty EIU squad. Lynch showed how big of a factor he can be during NIU's run to a BCS bowl last season. He was named a Second-Team All-American and MAC Player of the Year after he completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He also set the NCAA record for a quarterback with 11 consecutive 100-yard rushing performances en route to 1,815 yards and 19 rushing scores.
Tommylee Lewis (nine catches for 82 yards) and Da'Ron Brown (seven catches for 99 yards) continued to shine in the passing game last week against the Panthers, who allowed NIU to finish with 602 offensive yards on 82 plays. Cameron Stingily was a key contributor as he compiled a career-high 134 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
NIU has been suspect on the defensive side of the ball under Carey, allowing 33.7 ppg through three contests. Both Iowa and Idaho were in the bottom 10 among FBS programs in total offense in 2012 and EIU was playing up a division, but the Huskies have given up a shockingly high average of 491 yards of total offense per contest. Michael Santacaterina established a new career high for tackles with 15 last week to pace NIU. Senior safety Jimmie Ward has tallied 30 total stops and two interceptions already as he looks to be on track for his third consecutive selection to an All-MAC team.
Although NIU has been able to keep its perfect record intact, it has not been pretty. The same Idaho offense that posted 35 points on the Huskies has scored only 16 total points in its other three games. Purdue could finally get into a rhythm offensively, but it will not be able to match the Lynch-led Huskies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 35, Purdue 30
09/25 10:32:50 ET