Northwestern has won four straight games, including three in a row in overtime, to take over sole possession of second place in the Big Ten West heading into its game Saturday against visiting Purdue. The Wildcats are the first team in FBS history to win three consecutive overtime games, making them bowl-eligible for a third straight year.
Purdue ended a three-game losing streak with a 29-10 victory against Illinois on Saturday, but lost quarterback David Blough for the season with a dislocated ankle. Blough led the Big Ten last season with 3,352 passing yards and 25 TDs, lost the starting job this season and then regained it in the third week before a shoulder injury limited him again. He became the first quarterback for the Boilermakers to start and finish a game this season in a 25-24 loss to Nebraska on Oct. 28. Elijah Sindelar replaced Blough on Saturday and he’ll remain the starter against a Northwestern defense that ranks last in the Big Ten against the pass at 265.7 yards surrendered per game.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: Northwestern -4.
ABOUT PURDUE (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten): Sindelar has more interceptions (eight) than touchdown passes (seven) in his two years with the Boilermakers and has completed just 53.6 percent of his passes in that span, so Purdue will likely relieve some pressure by utilizing its ground game. D.J. Knox, Richie Worship and Markell Jones have been the primary ball carriers lately and they combined for 165 rushing yards on 31 carries and scored two touchdowns against Illinois. When the Boilermakers need to pass, Worship has increasingly shown to be a reliable option, catching seven of his nine passes in the past three games.
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (6-3, 4-2): Justin Jackson needs 202 rushing yards for his fourth straight 1,000-yard season, but it won’t come easy against a Purdue run defense that has allowed a combined 120 yards rushing in the past two games, its fewest in back-to-back games since 2005. Jackson has surpassed 100 yards rushing in his three previous games against the Boilermakers, totaling 147 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman, 116 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore and 127 yards and two touchdowns last season. Jackson is coming off a season-high 31 carries for 154 yards and a touchdown in 31-24 victory against Nebraska last week.
1. Ron Dayne of Wisconsin (1996-99) is the only Big Ten player to rush for at least 1,000 yards in four straight seasons.
2. Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher leads leads all FBS freshman with 80 tackles, which also ranks second in the conference and 11th in the nation.
3. Purdue has held three opponents under 100 yards rushing this season for the first time since 2012.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 28, Purdue 14