Freshman Mishaps Aside
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Open as a Touchdown Favorite Over Purdue

October 24, 2021

This day a week ago, Purdue was ranked in the top 25 and riding high off a decisive win on the road over then-No. 2 Iowa. Today, the Boilermakers (4-3, 2-2) opened as a 7-point road underdog against Nebraska (3-5, 1-4) at Circa Sports. The total for the game opened at 57.5.

To be fair, Purdue, No. 25 seven days ago, probably would’ve been an underdog last week, too. The line cares not for poll rankings or how rare it is for an unranked team to beat the No. 2 team by 17 points. (It’s quite rare.)

All of which is to say, the line, like many various power-rating measures, often sees things differently than the black-and-white nature of results might suggest. In addition to the win over Iowa, Purdue has a quality win over Oregon State, currently 5-2 and receiving votes in the latest AP poll. The Boilermakers also beat Illinois by four and lost to Minnesota by seven, two common opponents with the Huskers.

On Saturday, Purdue did what most teams playing Wisconsin have done this season––struggled to move the ball. Purdue rushed for 30 yards on 18 carries without counting sacks and the yardage lost. There were a lot of those, however. The Badgers got to quarterback Aidan O’Connell four times and Jack Plummer twice for a total of 43 yards lost. O’Connell was also intercepted three times.

Wisconsin only asked Graham Mertz to put the ball in the air eight times (5-for-8, 52 yards), keeping it on the ground for 49 carries and 313 yards. It was the first time this season Purdue’s defense allowed an opponent more than 4.2 yards per carry. It entered the game allowing 3.4.

Nebraska was idle on Saturday for the first time this season. Scott Frost said Nebraska was doing a “deep dive” last week in preparation for the Boilermakers.

“I think it’s an advantage to have two weeks to get ready for a team,” he said.

Since 2018, the Huskers are 2-5 against the spread with a rest advantage, which it will have against Purdue on Saturday, and 3-4 straight up. Nebraska is 7-8 against the spread as a home favorite, 10-5 straight up, under Frost.

Since Jeff Brohm’s arrival in 2017, Purdue is 2-6 against the spread and 3-5 straight up with a rest disadvantage. The Boilermakers are also 7-2 against the spread as an away underdog, but 3-6 straight up during that span.

Brohm’s Boilermakers took the first two meetings against Frost and the Huskers, winning 42-28 in Lincoln in 2018 and 31-27 in West Lafayette in 2019. The Huskers took last year’s game 37-27 on the road.

Nebraska needs three wins over its final four games to reach bowl eligibility. Saturday could be the last game in which the Huskers’ are favored in 2021, though it will probably be a close call against Wisconsin and Iowa. Ohio State, Nebraska’s Nov. 6 opponent, will be a double-digit favorite, but the latest Football Power Index ratings would have Nebraska (21st in FPI) as about a 1-point underdog at Wisconsin (28th) on Nov. 20 and as nearly a 1.5-point favorite over Iowa (20th) in the regular-season finale. FPI would have Nebraska as a 7.5-point favorite over Purdue this week, factoring in 2.5 points for home field advantage.

The Huskers and Boilermakers kick off at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

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Tags: Purdue
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