University of Missouri

What to watch for, keys to victory, prediction for Mizzou football vs. Purdue

Missouri hopes running back Damarea Crockett will be at full speed Saturday against Purdue.
Missouri hopes running back Damarea Crockett will be at full speed Saturday against Purdue. AP

Purdue at Missouri

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium in Columbia

TV: SEC Network

Radio: KMBZ (98.1 FM)

Line: Missouri by 7  1/2

The lowdown: It’s certainly early in the season … but never too early to talk bowl implications. In that vein, after last week’s loss to South Carolina, the Tigers should be desperate for a victory with the rest of the daunted Southeastern Conference schedule looming. Jeff Brohm took over the Purdue program after a successful stint at Western Kentucky. Purdue’s offense picked up where his Western Kentucky offense left off. The Boilermakers are generating 451 yards per game. And that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Including his past stop at Western Kentucky, Brohm’s teams have topped 40 points in 67.4 percent of their games.

Missouri keys to success: Quarterback Drew Lock has been masterful against non-conference opponents over his career, producing a 22-to-3 touchdown to interception ratio in nine games. In a potential shootout, the Tigers will need Lock to replicate those figures while protecting the football. After the team’s red zone struggles last weekend, Lock pinpointed getting the tight ends more involved Saturday.

Purdue keys to success: Brohm appears intent on using a two-quarterback system, which puts the onus on both players — in this case David Blough and Elijah Sindelar — to find a way to stay in a rhythm. So far, so good. They each have accounted for at least three touchdowns in two weeks. But the trip to Columbia will represent Purdue’s first true road game of the season, further emphasizing the difficulty of maintaining the flow.

Purdue players to watch: The Boilermakers are spoiled with a pair of playmaking tight ends in junior Cole Herdman and sophomore Brycen Hopkins. The duo combined for 13 catches, 265 yards and three touchdowns through the first two weeks. When they catch passes, it usually equates to big plays. Herdman leads all Power Five conference tight ends with his 24.3 yards per reception. Hopkins isn’t far behind at 17.0 yards per catch.

Key matchup: Missouri running back Damarea Crockett vs. Purdue’s defensive front. Lock faced a defense intent on taking away the passing game against South Carolina last weekend. If Purdue replicates that scheme, the Tigers will need a big afternoon from their rushing attack. They should receive a boost there with Crockett healthy after playing only sparingly in the second half against the Gamecocks because of a tailbone injury.

Prediction: Missouri 38, Purdue 34. The Purdue offense will be a load for a Missouri defense that encountered some staff changes this week, with the notable firing of defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross. But the Boilermakers haven’t yet proved they can stop anyone. Missouri should get a couple of more key stops and let the passing game take care of the rest.