There are many more farms in the Midwest than Arizona. But that didn’t stop odds-makers from installing the desert-and-cactus students as field-goal favorites over Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl on Wednesday.
With exception of an almost-inexplicable FG-fest with Houston early in the season, every game the Arizona Wildcats have played in has been high-scoring. The ‘Cats lost their final 2 regular-season games against mid-tier Pac-12 rivals, but they were still scoring points.
Purdue scrapped and clawed to get a bowl berth, rising from the dead to finish 6-6 after impressive wins over Iowa and Indiana. Elijah Sinclair has had as excellent a November as any passer in the FBS in all but a pair of statistical categories. But visions of the squad’s mid-season loss to Rutgers kept bookies from giving the Boilermakers a nod in this point spread.
Who: Arizona Wildcats vs Purdue Boilermakers
When: Wednesday, December 27th, 8:30 PM
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Lines: AZ (-3) vs Purdue (+3) / O/U Total: (66)
Obviously, the Boilermakers must be prepared to win a track meet. But could the Wildcats have sprung a leak tactically? QB Khalil Mack ran wild for most of the first 10 games but was stoned in the final 2, unable to go anywhere on keepers against Oregon or hated Arizona State.
The Ducks and Sun Devils correctly surmised that Mack is an average passer, and Arizona’s running game relies on distribution of the ball. So take away the throw and the QB-keeper and make Wildcat tailbacks, none of whom have 900+ yards this season, win it on their own.
Even if the underdogs’ defense finds a way by sitting DEs and linebackers on the edge, Purdue must show that it can put up some type of similar numbers as the Pac-12 schools against Arizona’ meager defense. The problem is that the the Boilermaker ‘O has struggled to pull away against weak opposition.
In mid-autumn Purdue was paired against 3 poor defenses in a row – Rutgers, Nebraska, and Illinois – and went 1-2 while not scoring 30+ points once. Sinclair’s lack of consistent touch on short throws and his complete lack of running ability are glaring weaknesses in an otherwise complete skill-set.
Arizona RBs should be able to produce enough to keep Mack in business through the air or keeping on carries. We’re expecting the Wildcats to cover and a likely under (66) result.