Opportunity looms for Purdue in matchup at Maryland
The pillow fight is on in the Big Ten West, where every team has at least one conference loss, no team is ranked and identifying a frontrunner is risky business.
Amid this morass of mediocrity, why not Purdue? The Boilermakers visit Maryland at College Park on Saturday, where they will try to distinguish themselves in a division that’s up for grabs.
While Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) is a member of the Big Ten East, beating the Terappins would be a quality win. Maryland threw a scare into Michigan two weeks ago in a 34-27 loss and then handled Michigan State 27-13 last weekend.
Meanwhile Purdue (3-2, 1-1) helped throw the Big Ten West race into a tizzy with a 20-10 upset of then-No. 21 Minnesota. The result left six of the division’s seven teams tied for first place.
“It’s not like we’ve done anything special,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “There’s a long way to go. We’re not going to look down the road ever. That’s a no-no for us.”
Purdue last won a Big Ten title in 2000, doing it as a co-champion under Joe Tiller. The Boilermakers’ last outright title came in 1929. But this year in a balanced division, Purdue can think big, if only it dared to.
With quarterback Aidan O’Connell missing one game with an injury and nursing the ailment last week at Minnesota, Purdue has discovered a running attack.
In the last two weeks, former walk-on backs Devin Mockobee (112 vs. Minnesota) and Dylan Dunning (113 against Florida Atlantic) each have impressed. It was a welcome departure from a 35-31 loss to Penn State in the season opener when Purdue showed little rushing prowess and O’Connell threw 59 times.
While O’Connell ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing yards per game with 299.8, his Maryland counterpart Taulia Tagovailoa ranks No. 3 with 283.2 per outing.
The Terps enter in fine form. In snapping their four-game skid against the Spartans on Saturday, they outgained the visitors 489-321 as Tagovailoa completed 32 of 41 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown and emerging force Antwain Littleton II carried 19 times for 120 yards and a score.
“It’s the best we’ve played in all three phases,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “But what excites me most is that we still have so much room to grow as a team.”
This is the first meeting between the teams since Locksley’s debut season when Purdue rolled to a 40-14 victory in 2019.
Purdue hopes for the return of its best defensive player, hybrid safety/linebacker Jalen Graham, who went down with a tibia impact fracture against Penn State on Sept. 1.
–Field Level Media