Notre Dame enters its game with in-state rival Purdue coming off a very poor performance versus Michigan. The Irish turned the ball over, took costly penalties, and struggled defensively against the Wolverines. The Irish need to play much better than they did in Ann Arbor in order to be successful and getting back on the right track starts with exploiting their athletic advantages over the Boilermakers. The following are the key matchups the Irish must control to be successful when the travel to West Lafayette:
T.J. Jones versus Ricardo Allen: T.J. Jones continued his good form to start the season with nine receptions against Michigan despite hurting his shoulder midway through the game. Jones has established himself as the go to receiver for Tommy Rees especially in key situations such as third downs. Jones will find himself as he always will this season matched up against the opposition’s best corner, and for the Boilermakers that’s Ricardo Allen. Allen is a senior and native of Florida who holds the Purdue record for interceptions returned for touchdowns and was voted second team all-Big Ten by the conferences coaches last season. Despite his small stature at 5’9’’ Allen is a corner that dominates with his physicality that helps him excel at throwing off timing routes. Allen has seven tackles and an interception so far this season and will likely be very motivated to battle a highly touted receiver such as Jones.
Nick Martin versus Bruce Gaston: Junior Nick Martin is a new starter on the offensive line who will be preparing to make his third start at center when the Irish face the Boilermakers. Martin has looked solid in his first two starts but will need his best effort when he faces Bruce Gaston. Gaston another second team all-Big Ten selection last season is a load at 310 pounds. Gaston leads the Boilermakers in tackles with 12, tackles for loss with 3.5, and sacks with two so far this season. If the Irish plan to get their downhill running attack going it is imperative Martin control the line of scrimmage against Gaston or the Irish could fall into the trap of a lack of balance on offense as they did versus Michigan.
Bennett Jackson versus Shane Mikesky: Irish corner Bennett Jackson is coming off a sub-par game versus Michigan. Jackson made a terrible mistake attempting to strip the ball from Jeremy Gallon resulting in him missing the tackle and Gallon scoring a 61 yard touchdown and looked slow and overmatched in general versus Wolverine receivers. Jackson will need to be a lot better against the Boilermakers and will need to start leading by example when he attempts to shut down Shane Mikesky. Mikesky is experiencing his first season as regular contributor for the Boilermakers and currently leads the team in receptions by a wide receiver. In a Purdue offense that struggles to get the ball to playmakers on the outside if Jackson can shut down the Boilermakers sophomore receiver it could be mean serious problems for the Purdue offense.
Carlo Calabrese versus Akeem Hunt: Another fifth-year senior linebacker that will need a big game for the Irish is Carlo Calabrese. Calabrese has started both games for the Irish this season and has established himself as one of the premier run-stoppers the team has. Calabrese has 14 tackles good for second on the team and is tied for the lead in tackles for loss with two. Calabrese’s next test will be Boilermakers running back Akeem Hunt. Hunt leads Purdue this season with 103 rush yards and also has a kickoff return touchdown. Hunt has good speed and will be looked to early as the Boilermakers try to establish the run. If Calabrese can slow down Hunt and the run game Purdue will struggle as a one-dimensional offense.