Every game gets bigger than the next, and this one is no different. Facing a 2-0 Purdue team for control of the Big Ten West, our staffers shared their predictions for this weekend’s matchup.
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Eli Karp: Northwestern 24, Purdue 19
Yes, the Purdue air attack is scary. But the Wildcats should win. The score may not reflect it (because why should it?), but NU will run all over the Boilermaker defense. The key is going to be holding the Purdue offense to three instead of seven, and that’s something Northwestern is quite good at. Quarterback Aidan O’Connell has shown himself to be a solid pocket passer, but like Spencer Petras, he isn’t very mobile. That bodes well for Mike Hankwitz’s defense. It’ll be another one-possession game, but Fitz and co. move to 4-0.
Lia Assimakopoulos: Northwestern 28, Purdue 27
This one will be by far Northwestern’s most thrilling matchup of the year. Like in its battle with Iowa, the ‘Cats will fall behind early as Purdue will capitalize on the strength of its passing game, and Aidan O’Connell will find David Bell in the back of the end zone for multiple scores. However, as it has every game thus far, Northwestern’s defense will hold strong in the second half as Peyton Ramsey edges out a narrow victory for NU to keep the top spot in the West. It won’t be a pretty win for the Wildcats, but Fitz’s squad will get the job done on the road in West Lafayette to demand respect as one of the Big Ten’s top competitors.
Colin Kruse: Northwestern 31, Purdue 24
To echo Eli, I expect the ‘Cats to establish the run game pretty effectively early on and, as I predicted last week, take an early lead. My one worry is that Aidan O’Connell has a bevy of talent at the wideout position with the likes of David Bell, Milton Wright and potentially Rondale Moore at his disposal, and a lack of pass rushing from NU’s defensive front could spell trouble for Mike Hankwitz’s unit. However, as they did against Iowa and Nebarkas, good timing, key plays and some classic heart and hustle from the secondary and linebackers will stall a Boilermaker squad in desperate need of possession and defensive stops. ‘Cats by a touchdown.
Mac Stone: Northwestern 28, Purdue 20
I hope what I’m about to say won’t be a jinx, but I don’t believe Purdue is that great of a football team. Sure, it’s 2-0 with wins over Iowa and Illinois, but the Boilers’ record doesn’t tell the whole story. Their Iowa win was impressive, but the Boilermakers let Illinois hang tough when the Illini were playing with their fourth-string quarterback. Both Rondale Moore and David Bell are elite wide receivers, but outside of them, I don’t think Purdue has enough offensive firepower to keep up with Northwestern’s impressive defense. ‘Cats by eight.
Daniel Olinger: Northwestern 21, Purdue 20
I have a lot of respect for the Boilermakers, especially after I did a deep dive on the dynamic receiving duo of David Bell and Milton Wright this week for Inside NU. Throw human torch/ weighted squat champion Rondale Moore into the mix and you have a dangerous offense (it remains to be seen if he’ll be active). And yet, Purdue only beat the middling Illinois Fightin’ Lovie’s by seven points (albeit, they entered the fourth quarter up 31-10). Northwestern is not a great team, but it’s a resilient bunch with a defense that has been lights out in the second half. Literally. Twenty-one has been the lucky number for the ‘Cats the past two weeks, so I’ll say this week’s battle plays to a similar script, with NU coming out victorious once again.
William Karmin: Northwestern 24, Purdue 17
Purdue is a good team. But to make the Big Ten Championship, Northwestern cannot lose to an above-average Boilermakers team. The x-factor here, of course, is the status of Rondale Moore. If Moore suits up today, this will really be anyone’s game. Otherwise, Northwestern should control the time of possession and escape West Lafayette with a victory. Look for Isaiah Bowser and Drake Anderson to have big days on the ground which should set up timely play action for Peyton Ramsey. Bring College Gameday back to Evanston for Wisconsin!
Didi Jin: Northwestern 31, Purdue 17
Despite what could be considered Northwestern’s toughest game of the season thus far, I predict a Wildcat win in commanding fashion. With the return of Isaiah Bowser, I think the backfield will have a field day against a defense that has been suspect against the run so far this season, especially if star defensive lineman George Karlaftis is absent. Purdue does have a potent passing offense, and I can see David Bell having another impressive receiving performance, but ultimately the Northwestern defense will force timely turnovers to remain undefeated. Give me over 100 yards on the ground from Bowser in his return.
Ben Chasen: Northwestern 27, Purdue 17
With Rondale Moore reportedly out once again for the Boilermakers, Purdue is without the weapon that gives its offense a next-level spark. Against a Northwestern defense that has proven itself to be tough, that hole will be all the more noticeable. Greg Newsome will sufficiently handle the challenge of facing David Bell, preventing him from reaching the end zone and forcing Purdue to look to its otherwise limited options for offensive production. Offensively, look for a big day from Drake Anderson as he works to emulate Jeremy Larkin’s performance from the last time the Wildcats made their way to West Lafayette.
Claire Kuwana: Northwestern 24, Purdue 21
I think that this will be a really close game, and the only way the ‘Cats will come out on top is if they are able to contain the dangerous Purdue offense. The wide receiver corps makes the Boilermakers arguably the toughest threat the Wildcats have seen so far, but if NU can improve its pass rush and the secondary continues to perform, they should be able to hold them and continue on a path for the West crown.
Liam Warin: Northwestern 24, Purdue 20
While Purdue is 2-0 with a bigger margin of victory against Iowa than the ‘Cats managed, I see Northwestern adding another comeback win and notching another against the Boilermakers. Northwestern will win this game by pounding the ball against a suspicious Purdue run defense and with the same clutch second half plays from Peyton Ramsey that won both the Nebraska and Iowa games.
Sydney Supple: Northwestern 28, Purdue 24
Purdue will test Northwestern’s defense in its toughest challenge yet, and it will all come down to how much the secondary can check Purdue’s top receivers Rondale Moore (if healthy) and David Bell. Purdue gets two touchdowns and a field goal in the first half, but Northwestern continues its second-half dominance, allowing Purdue one score after the break. Peyton Ramsey will be solid and throw for one to two touchdowns, but I anticipate NU will turn to running backs Isaiah Bowser and Drake Anderson down the stretch. This game will be a challenge for Northwestern, but the team has shown it has the mentality to do what it takes to win, so I expect that mindset to carry them to a 4-0 record.
Jacob Brown: Purdue: 24, Northwestern 21
Purdue’s offense is going to put up some points, even without its stars. The Northwestern defense will play well but give up a few big plays that targeted non-Greg Newsome cornerbacks. In a touching homage to the 2018 season, the offensive play calling is too conservative for the ‘Cats to really get rolling despite solid play from the quarterback. Charlie Kubhander misses a long one as the the clock runs out, and NU comes up a bit short.
Matthew Albert: Northwestern 31, Purdue 17
Sorry to all my fans for missing the first three picks of the season, but fear not, Inside NU’s most accurate predictor of 2018 is back and more accurate than ever. I hope the Wildcats establish the run and allow Peyton Ramsey to shine with no George Karlaftis. Without Moore, this Purdue team is extremely similar to last year’s squad that struggled to beat a poor Northwestern team, and with the Wildcats improving significantly, this one won’t be especially close. Newsome shuts down David Bell, and Brandon Joseph remains the best redshirt first-year cornerback in college football. The Wildcats win and prove themselves as the West favorites. #GoCats
Jack Izzo: Northwestern 30, Purdue 27
I really wanted to give this one to the Boilermakers, because it feels like the less faith I have in the ‘Cats the better they do. This game is going to be the biggest stress test (until next week) for the bend-don’t-break strategy that has thus far worked to perfection. But here’s why Northwestern wins: (1) Aidan O’Connell isn’t mobile (2) It’s unclear whether receiver Rondale Moore will be back to tag team with David Bell and run laps around the NU secondary (3) Defensive end George Karlaftis generates an insane amount of quarterback pressure for Purdue but might be out and (4) by playing at Indiana, Ramsey is familiar with his former arch rival. It’s hard to think this won’t be tight, but I think the ‘Cats defense will manage to hold Purdue just enough to grab the W.
Sarah Effress: Northwestern 35, Purdue 28
I’m feeling a high-scoring affair. Maybe it has something to do with Purdue’s extremely talented receiving corps or Northwestern suddenly becoming a second-half team, this matchup is going to epitomize the phrase Cardiac ‘Cats. Normally the fact that Purdue is coming off what served as a bye would worry me a bit, but the ‘Cats victory over a well-rested Nebraska team has me thinking otherwise. With Purdue’s George Karlaftis questionable this week, the offensive line should keep Ramsey clean in the pocket, and the secondary should limit Rondale Moore (if he plays) and David Bell. I’d be lying if I didn’t have my doubts, but I’d say the ‘Cats round this one out 4-0.
Josh Miller: Northwestern 23, Purdue 17
This game, like the rest of Northwestern’s season, comes down to the turnover battle. Northwestern is second in the Big Ten only to Indiana in turnover differential per game, which has proven to be the key to pulling out wins in tight contests. The momentum against Nebraska shifted in NU’s favor once the defense started forcing turnovers in the second half. If Peyton Ramsey can avoid mistakes like the second interception he threw last weekend and Brandon Joseph continues to be a force on the defensive side of the ball, the ‘Cats should pull out a close one on the road.
3-0: Eli Karp, Lia Assimakopoulos, Dan Olinger, Mac Stone, Ben Chasen, William Karmin, Liam Warin, Didi Jin, Sarah Effress
2-0: Sydney Supple, Andrew Katz
2-1: Colin Kruse
1-0: Noah Jones, Michael Barthelemy
1-1: Noah Coffman, Jacob Brown, Josh Miller