Purdue improved from one win to three last season and is hoping for a bigger step forward in 2015. The Boilermakers will get an early preview of how they stack up Sunday when they visit Conference USA power Marshall.
The Thundering Herd narrowly missed a spot in a New Year’s Day Bowl last season when a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky served as the team’s lone setback in an otherwise stellar campaign. While Purdue had trouble scoring down the stretch in 2014, Marshall put up an average of 45.6 points but will be replacing record-setting quarterback Rakeem Cato with Michael Birdsong. The Boilermakers will turn their offense over to junior Austin Appleby, who started seven games last season but marks Purdue’s fifth different starting quarterback in as many season openers. “Nothing changes now,” Appleby told reporters after officially being named the starter last week. “It’s just kind of business is usual. I’m glad it’s official, and now I can focus on getting this team ready to be 1-0.”
TV: 3 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened Marshall -7.5. The total opened at 63 but is down to 61.5.
INJURY REPORT: Purdue – Danny Anthrop (Probable, knee), LB Ja’Whan Bentley (Questionable, back), LB Jimmy Herman (Questionable, hamstring), LB Danny Ezechukwu (Questionable, knee), DE Gelen Robinson (Eligible Sept. 19). Marshall – N/A.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the low-80s under partly cloudy skies. There is a small 22 percent chance of rain.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Marshall only returns 11 starters, and they must replace quarterback Rakeem Cato who threw for 3,903 yards and 40 touchdown passes in 2014. Marshall’s offense averaged 45.6 points per game in 2014, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll repeat that in 2015. Purdue is in their third season under head coach Darrell Hazell, and the Boilermakers return 15 overall starters. Purdue improved on both sides of the ball in 2014, so they should make another forward move in 2015.” Covers Expert Steve Merril.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “The spread has bounced around between the key number and 7.5 since the regular bettors began getting involved this week. The very early, sharper action came in on Purdue, but we’re not seeing that as much the last couple of days. The biggest draw for both the smarts and squares is the under as we’ve dropped the total three points since Monday. We’re largely one-sided regarding the total so we’ll be rooting for a shootout.” John Lester, BookMaker.eu.
ABOUT PURDUE (2014: 3-9 SU, 6-5-1 ATS, 6-6 O/U): One reason coach Darrell Hazell expects Appleby to have more success in 2015 is consistency along the offensive line, where all five starters return. “I can’t tell you how big that is for us,” Hazell told reporters of the offensive line. “It’s been a blessing. We talk about not being able to evaluate quarterbacks or running backs because we were always breaking down up front. That hasn’t been the case.” The line should also benefit freshman running back Markell Jones, a top recruit who is expected to see plenty of time in the backfield.
ABOUT MARSHALL (13-1 SU, 9-5 ATS, 8-6 O/U): Birdsong is surrounded by talent at the offensive skill positions, including running back Devon Johnson and senior wide receiver Davonte Allen. Johnson pounded his way to 1,767 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground in 2014 and added a pair of receiving scores as a key component of the offense. “I know our guys are ready to go play somebody else, so it’s time to start our preparation and we’ve got to do a great job starting (Sunday),” Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday told reporters after closing training camp.
* Thundering Herd are 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games.
* Over is 5-0 in Thundering Herd last five vs. Big Ten.
* Over is 4-1 in Thundering Herd last five non-conference games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Covers users are split own the middle on this matchup.