Each year, Purdue faces three non-conference opponents before diving into the madhouse that is the Big Ten. This weekend, in its home opener, the Boilers take on Vanderbilt University, a team they haven’t faced since 1942. With the teams’ sparse history, it seems prudent to examine how these two franchises stack up on paper.
If we go purely by the teams’ Week One stats, Purdue (0-1) is the stronger team on offense. Purdue put up 519 total yards against Nevada to Vanderbilt’s 225, and Elijah Sindelar’s 151.4 passer rating blows the Commodores (0-1) quarterback Riley Neal’s 84.6 out of the water.
What’s important to remember, however, is that the Commodores were facing championship-caliber University of Georgia, which rarely ends well for anybody unless their head coach is Nick Saban.
Vanderbilt is a strong team; last season, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn led the Southeastern Conference in rushing yards per attempt with 7.9, and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb’s 87 receptions were enough to put him atop the conference. Both players are returning to the field this season, and Vaughn led the team in rushing against the Bulldogs last week, putting up 74 yards on 15 carries.
Purdue’s defense looks equipped to handle Vaughn and Lipscomb. Last season, the Boilermakers allowed 4.4 rushing yards per attempt and 9.8 yards per completed pass. Both stats landed them in the top 100 D-I teams for their respective categories.
The Boilermakers have an offense that needs no introduction, with receiving and rushing corps that have already kicked into gear. With 24 first downs, a 100% fourth-down efficiency and four passing touchdowns against Nevada, Purdue’s high-production offense has returned to the field in strength.
Both teams will be hungry for a win to kick-start their seasons, but Purdue is still stinging from Nevada’s heartbreaking last-second field goal. If the team goes gun-shy to avoid a dramatic finish, it runs the risk of getting caught in Vanderbilt’s momentum.
Purdue is favored by a touchdown, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, and it looks like the teams are evenly-matched enough to keep the game within one possession. If Purdue brings its A-game, gets a home-field boost and can clamp down on mistakes, it stands a solid chance of earning its first win of the season.