Saturday night’s matchup between Notre Dame and Purdue will mark the 8181st meeting between the two storied football programs. Last year, the Fighting Irish smacked the Boilermakers in South Bend 38-2, but it won’t be that easy this time around.

When Notre Dame has the ball:

Unfortunately, the injury bug has bitten the Irish.  Superstar Mike Floyd will be sorely missed and it’s still unknown - as colleague Brian Clarke noted in his blog - what the status of Armando Allen Jr. is. Allen has clearly stepped up his game this year and has been running with a full head of steam. If he can’t play, Weis said we can count on seeing Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray on the field; two backs that have seen limited time this year.  

Clausen is another star whose status is uncertain. Weis is almost positive he’ll play, but how affective will he be with his injured foot? Look for a lot of short dump-offs to the running backs to get Clausen into a groove. And don’t sleep on Kyle Rudolph. There isn’t a linebacker in the country that can cover the agile tight end. He and Golden Tate will be the go-to-guys for the offense now that Floyd is gone. 

Also, look for more wildcat formations from the Irish offense. They found success with it against Michigan State and I wouldn’t be surprised if they implemented more of it this week, especially to give Clausen some time to rest. 

When Purdue has the ball:

This game is clearly hanging on the shoulders of defensive coordinator Corwin Brown.   The offense has been carrying the Irish all season, while the defense has been miserable (aside from the Nevada game). Purdue’s offense under new head coach Randy Hope is nothing to sleep on either.

The Boilermaker’s success begins with their quarterback, Joey Elliot. He has a live arm and has the ability to escape the pocket, as he proved with two rushing touchdowns last week. He also has an extremely talented running back to hand the ball off to in Ralph Bolden. If the Irish decide they want to tackle like they did against Michigan State, Bolden could easily rush for 200 yards.   

Before the season, I thought the Irish defense would be getting to opposing quarterbacks a lot more frequently. They have the speed and the power to do it, but just haven’t found the success for whatever reason. I think with Purdue’s offense, they could take more chances and bring a ton of pressure. They should be able to get away with a lot of man and press coverage, which would allow more blitzes.

It would be mind-boggling if Brown takes a conservative approach in this game. Purdue just doesn’t have the weapons on the outside to scare the Notre Dame secondary.

To sum it all up:

As I previously mentioned, this game is squarely on the defense. They’ve been torched in the last two games and with an ailing offense, Corwin Brown must find a way to fire up his squad.

The Irish offense should still be able to score, but with so many uncertainties, there is some doubt. The only way Purdue has a shot at winning this game is if it turns into a shootout. That’s something the Irish wouldn’t have minded a week ago, but with all the misfortunes, I think they’ll be looking to slow down the tempo.   

The bottom line; this is not a matchup the Irish should lose.  Nor are they going too.

Final Score: Notre Dame 30, Purdue 20.