NCAAF Week 1: #16 Louisville @ Purdue, Preview & Prediction

Lamar Jackson and the No. 16 Louisville Cardinals head to Indiana to kick off their season against the Purdue Boilermakers.

Saturday, September 2 2017, 7:30 PM ET – No. 16 Louisville and Big 10 rival Purdue meet at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to open up their season. If all goes according to plan, the Cardinals will likely head back home to Louisville with a victory in hand.

Team Outlook

 Louisville Cardinals – The Cardinals had an excellent season in 2016, finishing the year 9-4, with a 7-1 record in conference play. However, Louisville closed out last season with a 29-9 loss to the LSU Tigers in the Citrus Bowl.  

Louisville enters 2017 with one of the FBS’ best quarterbacks under center in Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who is back for the 2017 season. Jackson was dominant last season, throwing for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns, while also leading the team in rushing, gaining 1,571 rush yards and scoring 21 touchdowns on the ground as well.  

The Cardinals will have new starters at running back and wide receiver this season, as all of last year’s starters have moved on, with many making the jump to the pros. The Cardinals also have some key defensive starters returning for the 2017 season, including Chucky Williams, James Hearns, and Stacy Thomas.

Lamar Jackson is the Cardinals’ offense. If he continues to play at the same level he did last year, there is no doubt that Louisville will have an extremely successful season. However, if he experiences regression or gets hurt, this season will turn ugly very quickly for the Cardinals. 

Purdue Boilermakers – The Boilermakers genuinely struggled in 2016, closing out the season with a dismal 3-9 record and an absolutely putrid 1-8 record in conference play. This train-wreck of a season resulted in the mid-season termination of head coach Darrell Hazell, who will be replaced by new head coach Jeff Brohm this season.

Last season’s starting quarterback David Blough is back, as is starting running back Markell Jones. The receiving corps will look quite different though, as last year’s starters DeAngelo Yancey and Bilal Marshall have both graduated.  

Standout linebacker Markus Bailey is back for the Boilermakers. Bailey led the team in tackles last season with 97, and intercepted four passes as well. Also back for Purdue is talented defensive end Gelen Robinson, who had 61 tackles and five sacks last season.    

Unfortunately, things are not looking good at all for the Boilermakers. They were dreadful last year, and most of last year’s players are still with the team. Unfortunately, Jeff Brohm’s first season as Purdue’s head coach does not look like it will be a good one.  

Keys to the Game

Lamar Jackson – Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is one of college football’s most electrifying players, if not the most electrifying. Jackson is a beast and a total game changer. Whenever he is on the field, it is impossible to keep him from reaching the endzone. As long as he keeps playing like he did last season, this game will be nothing but a walk in the park for the Cardinals.  

Boilermakers’ defense – If Purdue wants to have even the slightest of chances to win this game, their defense is going to have to show up and make their presence known. The only way Purdue could pull off an upset like this is if their defense is able to completely contain Lamar Jackson. Their cornerbacks will need to be lights out and their pass rush and run defense cannot allow Lamar Jackson to get past the line of scrimmage. Purdue’s offense is not going to get the job done, so if the Boilermakers want to prevent a blowout, their defense is going to have to step up its game.  

Cardinals’ defense – The Cardinals’ defense simply needs to keep the game from getting out of hand, and that should not be a problem, as Louisville is playing against Purdue. Purdue’s quarterback David Blough is an interception throwing machine, as opposing defenders caught his passes 21 times last season. Furthermore, the Boilermakers do not have much of a run game and their best receiver has graduated, so the Cardinals’ defense should not run into any trouble.  

Matchup to Watch

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson vs. Purdue linebacker Markus Bailey and defensive end Gelen Robinson – Lamar Jackson controls the game whenever the ball is in his hands. He is a threat both through the air and on the ground, as he can run just as well as he throws. The Boilermakers’ only hope of limiting the damage Jackson causes are talented defenders Markus Bailey and Gelen Robinson. Bailey is a standout tackler and a ball hawk. Robinson is also a very good tackler and is very good at getting to the quarterback. If these two can apply good pressure and make Lamar Jackson’s life a little more difficult, then maybe this game will not be a total blowout.  

Prediction: Louisville 51-21 Purdue

This game will be a total blowout. It is impossible to foresee any other result. Lamar Jackson is simply impossible to keep out of the endzone, and a terrible Purdue team that managed to win just three games last season will not present him with any challenges. Jackson will make Saturday night miserable for all Purdue players, coaches, and fans. The Boilermakers lack talent on offense, and the couple of decent defensive players they have will be no match for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and his electric offense. I have absolutely no doubt that the Cardinals will return home to Louisville with a monstrous victory under their belt.

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Justin Boguslavsky

Columbia University student, NFL and NCAAF writer, die hard Philly sports fan #FlyEaglesFly

Hot takes are my specialty