Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Little Caesars Bowl
Purdue CB Ricardo Allen vs. Western Michigan WR Jordan White.
Purdue has a problem. Their best defender by a mile and a half is defensive tackle Kawann Short, whose 17.5 tackles-for-loss led all Big Ten defensive tackles -- yes, ahead of All-Americans Jerel Worthy and Devon Still -- and made him the only Boilermaker on either side of the ball named to either the Coaches' or media's All-Big Ten first team. His 6.5 sacks weren't bad at all, either. But Western Michigan's quick, controlled passing game doesn't really care about trying to run up the middle (the Broncos were 8th in the FBS in passing but 87th in rushing), neutralizing much of Short's impact there, and getting to quarterback Alex Carder before he delivers the ball would be a challenge for any defensive tackle. No matter how good Short is, this doesn't look like the best matchup for him.
Which means the most pivotal defender for the Boilers will be corner Ricardo Allen, Purdue's best one-on-one pass defender and a second-team coaches' all-conference selection. Allen will almost certainly draw the assignment of covering receiver Jordan White, who we're confident will provide Allen with quite the challenge; White's only an All-American who led the nation in both receptions and yards and finished second in receiving touchdowns. And if Allen can't slow down White, the rest of the Boiler secondary is in real trouble; fellow Bronco seniors Robert Arnheim and Chleb Ravenell are tricky veterans who combined for 118 catches and 1,431 yards themselves.
But here's the good news: if Allen can slow down White, the entire WMU operation might slow to a crawl. Not counting a rout of FCS Nicholls State in which he barely played, White was only held below 100 yards receiving twice all season--once again Eastern Michigan, and once against Northern Illinois. In those games WMU scored a total of 32 points (nearly 4 points below their single-game average), posted their two lowest yardage totals of the season, and went 0-2. And if that Carder-to-White connection is disrupted, players like Short mean that the Boilers have far more capacity elsewhere for big plays vs. the Broncos than the Eagles or Huskies.
The task ahead for Allen is a tall one. But the rewards for his success should be substantial.You can check out our extensive Little Caesars Bowl Pregame preview here.