The Husker’s upcoming matchup with Purdue will be defined by one stat. No, it’s not that the Boilermakers have one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten. Hudson Card leads a pass heavy offense that may struggle in cold, snowy weather, but that won’t decide the game either. The most important factor for the Huskers greatly improving their bowl chances is that Purdue has never won a football game the week of a Taylor Swift album release. Since Taylor Swift’s self-titled debut album, 115 teams have played at least five football games the week of a Taylor Swift album release. Purdue is joined by only Akron and Colorado as teams to never win during the week of an album release. 1989 is back on Friday, which means that the 90s might be closer than Nebraska fans think.
Purdue’s passing offense is one of the best in the Big Ten (232 YPG). It’s also one of the most varied with Hudson Card spreading the ball across three different receivers. A week ago, I would have found this situation worrisome, but the Nebraska secondary is going to get an assist from Mother Nature on Saturday. Cold and snowy weather could help to limit this passing attack and force Purdue to run the ball.
Nebraska, on the other hand, has one of the worst passing attacks in the conference. Through 7 games, the Huskers have the fewest total passing yards since the Frank Solich era. Despite the previous struggles, I’m excited for the Husker’s passing game for the rest of the season. All the pass catchers on the current depth chart have at least two years of eligibility left after this season. Many of these players were highly talented recruits forced into action for various reasons. The passing game will probably still be frustrating, but I expect that it has a few more explosive plays like the Malachi Coleman touchdown in it this season.
Among healthy players, Nebraska’s backup QB, Jeff Sims, is still its third leading rusher in number of carries. As Nebraska nears November in the Big Ten, getting Emmet Johnson up to speed as a viable running back will help the Huskers make a bowl push. Adrian Martinez himself said he expected that a sustainable offense needs about 6-8 rushes per game. This is the rate that I called for in my 2021 article about his rushing usage. While I love the variations a dual-threat QB can pose, I hope to see a greater emphasis on running back carries throughout the rest of the season.
None of Purdue’s leading three carriers have been much of a home run threat season, but their top two running backs also are reliable at picking up positive yardage. Devin Mockobee is the league’s 6th leading rusher. Matt Rhule inspired the Husker’s defense to put up a stout effort in the second half against Northwestern. If the Huskers can repeat this effort, the weather might do enough to keep Purdue in single-digits scoring.
If the Huskers want to get Back to December, a win this week will go a long way. But Purdue is known for having a marvelous time ruining everything. Under previous coaches, this had all the makings of a letdown game after some false hope the week before. Things are starting to feel different and I’m a believer, but I don’t know why. The clips of Rhule’s fiery speeches seem to be giving players confidence that’s also spreading throughout the fan base of better things to come.