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October 5, 2012

Staff Predictions: Michigan at Purdue

Jim Smith. Drew Brees. Some hard to remember receiver on a hook and lateral from some completely forgettable quarterback.

There have been some bad Michigan memories in West Lafayette in recent years, but the Wolverines have had their share of success at Purdue, as well. Expect a great effort from them Saturday knowing the road to a Big Ten title starts in the suburb of Kokomo.

Dozens of Boilermakers fans, meanwhile, will crowd in several minutes after game time to see if this year's team is as above average as head coach Danny Hope - well, hopes. The Boilers are solid up front, boast a great set of cornerbacks and have some weapons on offense capable of putting points on a Michigan defense still looking to find consistency.

This one has an early, Big Ten championship game feel to it (yes, that's what the conference has been reduced to after a lousy non-conference season), and from what we hear (but keep in mind haven't confirmed with our sources), they fielded an inordinate amount of phone calls from former players and coaches at Schembechler Hall early this week offering advice.

Here are just a couple, with last names omitted to protect their identities:

Will from Dallas to running backs coach Fred Jackson: "Coach J, I know you probably still have nightmares about 1996, but I've been keeping my eye on that Ondre Pipkins kid. If you get close to the goal line and need a yard, I think he's your guy."

Tony from Arizona to Greg Mattison: "You know, I know it's Tuesday and you're well into the season, but I've got an idea from a trip in 2008. Scrap all this stuff you've been working on for months and install this new and much better defense. I guarantee you it will catch them off guard this time …"

We hear the phone numbers to the building were changed by day's end.

Congratulations to the entire staff for not losing during the bye week. This week's winner receives a wizard hat and snake oil starter kit in remembrance of one of the past, great moments in this series.

This week's picks:

Chris Balas: Michigan caps a victory win on a Russell Bellomy pass to Roy Roundtree in the waning moments, after which Purdue's top three recruits drop the Boilermakers and schedule visits to Ann Arbor.

Michigan 24, Purdue 20

John Borton: Jimmy Smith dropped the ball in '76. Will Carr dropped the ball in '96. The Drew Henson-led Wolverines dropped the ball in the second half of the 2000 game, sleeping on a 28-10 lead. Following the bottoming out in South Bend, Denard Robinson and the Wolverines won't drop the ball in West Lafayette … at least enough to lose.

Michigan 31, Purdue 20

Michael Spath: Purdue desires legitimacy and knows the best way to get it is to beat Michigan this weekend. When one team is salivating like that, you have to be careful, but the Wolverines are also hungry, having to sit on a bitter loss to Notre Dame for two weeks now, so matching the Boilermakers intensity will not be an issue. Saturday, Denard Robinson will again be the biggest difference-maker, but in a good way for the Maize and Blue.

Michigan 27, Purdue 20

Andy Reid: "Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road." - Jack Kerouac, On The Road

If life is about the journey, not the destination, then Michigan's been on a pretty bumpy ride so far in 2012. Losses to Alabama and Notre Dame. A questionable defensive performance against Air Force. Issues on both sides of the ball, including a senior quarterback who turned in a, bluntly, terrible performance against a big rival. But life on the road - in this case, the road to a Big Ten Championship - offers the ability to avert your eyes from the rearview window. Like Kerouac says, everything is still ahead of this team.

It starts Saturday, with a win in West Lafayette. It ends in Indianapolis - or, rather, Pasadena.

Michigan 31, Purdue 21

Tim Sullivan: Michigan's game against Notre Dame was a blessing and a curse. The offensive and defensive lines seemed to play their best game of the year, while quarterback Denard Robinson unquestionably played his worst. The Boilers - themselves losers to Notre Dame in a game decided by a last-second field goal - don't have the talent of the Irish. The question is whether Robinson can avoid the mistakes he made in South Bend. If so, the offense should start to click bigtime, and the defense will be able to do more than enough to get a win.

Michigan 31, Purdue 23

Kevin Minor: After a strong start to the season, the Boilermakers were brought back to reality last week after being outgained 534-443 by Conference USA foe Marshall in a 51-41 victory. Still, Purdue possesses two true game breakers on defense in senior defensive tackle Kawann Short, who ranks second in the Big Ten with four sacks, and junior cornerback Ricardo Allen, who set the school record with his fourth-career interception return for a touchdown a week ago.

The Big Ten is wide open, and this game has suddenly become a litmus test for a 2-2 Wolverine squad that needs a win to keep its head above water. U-M has had trouble protecting the football away from Ann Arbor this year, and Purdue leads the conference with 12 takeaways.

The Boilermakers, who are averaging more than 50 points a game at home this season, will capitalize on Michigan mistakes and win a shootout.

Purdue 38, Michigan 34

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