Coming off a bye week and in search of his first Big Ten Conference home win, second-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell has been working hard on trying to improve his porous defense before Northwestern visits Saturday. On the other side, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald is just wondering which Northwestern team will show up Saturday. The Wildcats have beaten Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Penn State this season but have lost to Northern Illinois, Michigan and Iowa.
The Boilermakers haven't won at Ross-Ade Stadium since beating Indiana in 2012 - the season before Hazell arrived - and have dropped seven straight and 11 of their last 12 home conference matchups. Hazell got his first Big Ten win Oct. 4 with a 38-27 triumph over Illinois, but the Boilermakers haven't won since and are surrendering 38.3 points per game during their four-game slide. The up-and-down season continued for Northwestern last week when it rallied late to knock off then-No. 16 Notre Dame. That snapped a four-game losing streak and was their second win against a top-20 team this season.
TV: Noon ET, ESPNU. LINE: Northwestern -2
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (4-6, 2-4): The Wildcats rallied from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit last week against Notre Dame to force overtime and then won on a 41-yard field goal by Jack Mitchell. Freshman Justin Jackson surpassed 100 rushing yards for the fourth time this season - his 149 yards were the most allowed by the Fighting Irish this season - as the Wildcats rolled up a season-high 547 yards. Fitzgerald hopes the success can carry over to Big Ten play because Northwestern has averaged just 16.5 points and 4.1 yards per play in conference matchups – both ranked 13th ahead of only Penn State.
ABOUT PURDUE (3-7, 1-5): While Hazell's offense, led by quarterback Austin Appleby (8 TD, 6 INT) and running back Akeem Hunt (718 yards, 5 TD), has improved by an average of about 11 points and 65 yards per game this season over last, he can't seem to find the formula on defense. In Big Ten games only, the defense is yielding 34 points (11th) and 450.5 yards (12th) and is last in third-down conversions (48.3 percent) and sack percentage (3 percent). The lone bright spot in recent weeks has been safety Landon Feichter, who has four takeaways in the last six quarters.
1. Purdue has won 10 of the last 14 games between the schools and leads the all-time series that dates to 1895, 50-27-1. They teams have not played since 2010.
2. Hunt has 4,378 all-purpose yards, fifth in Purdue history.
3. Only 10 of Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian's 126 completions this season have been for more than 20 yards – by far the lowest percentage in the conference.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 24, Purdue 16