The Purdue Boilermakers will begin the month of November with their backs up against the wall as they host the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Kickoff is set for noon EST on Saturday, November 2 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.
The Week 10 college football odds list Nebraska as a 2-point favorite on the road. The over/under for the contest is set at 55 points.
Purdue began the season with such high hopes after going to two straight bowl games. But the season quickly turned into a nightmare after a 1-4 start that saw the Boilermakers lose to the likes of Nevada and TCU in addition to losing quarterback Elijah Sindelar to a season-ending injury. Purdue got a glimmer of hope after beating Maryland a few weeks ago, only to lose back-to-back games to Iowa and Illinois.
At the moment, the Boilermakers are 2-6 overall, meaning they have to win their four remaining games to reach a bowl game. Purdue’s schedule is manageable down the stretch outside of a road game against Wisconsin. Of course, the Boilermakers could be eliminated from bowl contention this week if they don’t beat Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, have problems of their own and need to find wins in November to become bowl eligible. After a promising 3-1 start, Nebraska has lost three of their last four games. In fairness, two of those losses came against Ohio State and Minnesota, two of the nation’s remaining unbeaten teams. But a home loss to Indiana last week was a huge letdown, even with starting quarterback Adrian Martinez still sidelined.
Nebraska fans could stomach falling short of a bowl last year in Scott Frost’s first season, but they’ll be a little less forgiving if the Cornhuskers fall short again. At 4-4, Nebraska only needs two wins in their final four games to secure a bowl bid. However, that won’t be easy with games left against top-20 opponents Wisconsin and Iowa. If Nebraska can’t beat Purdue this week, their bowl chances will take a massive hit.
The good news for the Cornhuskers is that they’ve won four of their six meetings with Purdue since joining the Big Ten. That includes wins in two of their previous three trips to West Lafayette. However, Jeff Brohm and the Boilermakers beat Nebraska 42-28 in last year’s meeting.
Both teams are facing issues at the quarterback position heading into this game, making it tough to project who will actually play. However, I’ve lost all faith in Purdue at this point, even in a must-win game for them. The 2-point spread on the road isn’t that big of a deal, so I’ll lean toward Nebraska as the road favorite.
The biggest question for the Cornhuskers remains the status of starting quarterback Adrian Martinez, who hasn’t played in close to a month because of a knee injury. Martinez is officially first on the depth chart this week. He was also available in an emergency last week against Indiana. Of course, complicating things further is that Frost said that Vedral and third-stringer Luke McCaffrey are also “nicked up” ahead of Saturday’s game.
If there was any kind of assurance that Martinez would play, this would be an easy lean toward Nebraska. Even at 75%, Martinez is one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in the Big Ten. To his credit, Vedral has held his own in his two starts despite not throwing a touchdown pass. McCaffrey also looked good in his brief stint last week. Plus, both are good athletes who are running threats, so the Cornhuskers are still in decent shape if Martinez sits again.
Perhaps more importantly, the Purdue defense isn’t exactly reliable. Every team except Maryland has scored at least 24 points against the Boilermakers. Last week, Illinois only attempted seven passes and still had their way running the ball against Purdue. In other games, it’s been the Purdue pass defense that’s been burned, so there are multiple ways the Nebraska offense has a chance to get going this week.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Jake Plummer is barely holding onto his job after taking over following the injury to Sindelar. He was benched last week against Illinois amidst continued struggles. After Brohm initially said the job was open, the head coach changed his mind and said he was sticking with the Plummer. Outside of the win over Maryland and a few promising moments against Iowa, it’s been a rough freshman season for Plummer, who still doesn’t have top receiver Rondale Moore because of injury. He’s also not getting much support from a running game that’s averaging 2.4 yards per carry this season.
In short, nothing has gone according to plan for Purdue this season. The Boilermakers are spiraling toward a 2-10 season and I’m not sure if they can do anything to turn things around. Nebraska, if nothing else, has reason to be optimistic, especially if they can get Martinez back. Even if the Cornhuskers have to stick with their backup quarterbacks, I still think they’re good enough to beat a helpless Purdue team on the road.