Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bowl Appetit

Motor City Bowl
Purdue -7.5 Central Michigan

Nothing says congratulations on a good season like a trip to Detroit on December 26th. For the Boilermakers, this season ended like so many before it. After starting out red hot in non-conference action, Purdue ended Big 10 play with a 3-5 record. Since their co-Big 10 Championship/Rose Bowl season in 2000, the Boilers have only managed a collective 29-27 record in Big 10 play. That would have been cause for celebration before Joe Tiller arrived as Purdue was a collective 13-40-3 in Big 10 play in the 7 seasons immediately preceding his arrival from Wyoming. Still, one may be inclined to believe that the program has stagnated in the last half decade. Can Tiller fire the Boilers up to play a Central Michigan team they have already played and disposed of once, in a low-level bowl game the day after Christmas?

Central Michigan is probably more than content to be playing in their second consecutive Motor City Bowl. The Chips concluded their 10-win season and MAC Championship last year with a thrashing of Middle Tennessee State in this very same bowl game. The Chips won their second consecutive MAC Championship this season, but are not nearly as good as last year's incarnation. They are still very prolific on offense, sporting a poor man's Tim Tebow, Dan LeFevour, at quarterback. LeFevour not only threw for 3360 and 23 touchdowns, he also rushed for 1008 yards and 17 scores. As a team the Chips averaged 448 yards of offense (22nd in the nation). They were also one of only 14 teams to average 5 yards or better per rush (5.00) and they were tied for 8th in sacks allowed per game, permitting only 13 in 13 games. Unfortunately, the defense was able to undo a good portion of the offenses' good work. They allowed 450 yards per game (106th in the nation). They were especially susceptible to the pass, surrendering 285 yards per game (111th in the nation) while allowing opponents to compile a quarterback rating of 143.90 (105th in the nation), complete 65.4% of their passes (111th in the nation), and average 7.6 yards per pass (94th in the nation).

And what do you know, if there's one thing Purdue has been able to do under Joe Tiller, its throw the ole pigskin around. The Boilers averaged 287 yards per game through the air (17th in the nation). Their quarterback rating (127.90--56th in the nation) and yards per pass attempt (6.4--86th in the nation) were relatively pedestrian. However, against non-BCS teams, those numbers shoot up to 320 yards per game, 163.78 quarterback rating, and 7.8 yards per pass. Defensively, Purdue is a middle of the road team, allowing 385 yards per game (60th in the nation). They did hold opposing quarterbacks to a cumulative rating of only 112.03 (23rd in the nation), but that number is inflated by their performance against Toledo, Eastern Illinois, and offensively impotent Iowa. LeFevour and the Chips were able to move the ball in the first meeting, as they gained 465 yards and scored 22 points.

In the first game, a Purdue win by the count of 45-22, the Boilermakers turned the ball over 5 times (to the Chippewas' 3). Despite allowing 465 yards, they gained 583 themselves while averaging 7.6 yards per play. It seems the only way this game will be close is if Purdue comes out disinterested. The Chips defense is just too bad to keep this one close, no matter how well their offense performs. Also, be on the lookout for Purdue to consistently start with great field position following a Central Michigan score. the Boilers rank 7th in the nation with an average kickoff return of 25.22 yards. Wide receiver Dorien Bryant has taken two kickoffs to the house, and fellow receiver Desmond Tardy has run one back.

The Pick: Purdue will cover the 7.5 point spread.

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