Defense might win championships, but it likely will have no place at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday.
Marshall (2-2) will bring one of the nation's most potent offenses. It averages 41 points and 561 total yards a game. It beat Rice 54-51 in double overtime last Saturday. It also has one of the nation's worst defenses, allowing nearly 43 points a game.
Purdue (2-1), meanwhile, has the Big Ten's second-best offense, at 39.7 points.
Marshall thrives with an up-tempo attack that produces more than 90 plays a game. Quarterback Rakeem Cato leads the nation with 1,481 passing yards and is second with 10 touchdown passes against just two interceptions. He completes 71 percent of his passes.
The Thundering Herd can hurt you with the pass as well as the run. In a loss to Ohio they threw for 433 yards and ran for 59. Against Rice they ran for 344 yards.
“It's a dramatic shift in the game plan,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said, “but you can look at the film and understand why they throw so much or hand off more. We're going to have to play fast and play well because they present a lot of challenges. We're a good defensive team and we believe we're up to the challenge.”
The Boilers started preparing for Marshall's up-tempo attack during last week's bye period.
“We had an opportunity to break down the film and come up with a game plan we feel good about,” Hope said. “We had a chance to run the game plan early, so we're ahead in our preparation.
“Our offense can change the tempo and sometimes go no-huddle, so we can give our defense a great look. That's the best preparation you can have.”
As far as Purdue's offense, figure quarterback Robert Marve and his torn ACL will play this season, but not Saturday.
“I don't know what the timetable will be like for Robert,” Hope said. “I'm optimistic he'll make a comeback this season. He's only a couple of weeks from re-injuring his knee, but he's done some things in practice that are very optimistic about his return. He's been throwing the ball well, taking his drops, getting some snaps. We haven't had him in many team situations, minimizing running, but what I'm seeing now I am encouraged.”
Hope added that the Boilers need better quarterback play. Veteran Caleb TerBush has yet to hit his stride. He's only thrown for 237 yards in two games with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He was suspended for the first game and was limited in the last game because of a migraine headache.
“We can improve at the quarterback position, and that is the key,” Hope said. “We can and we will. We have an experienced quarterback who got off to a little bit of a slow start. We have the potential to be very explosive on offense.”
Tailback Ralph Bolden, who has been out since last November after tearing his ACL for the third time, is getting close to returning.
“He looks good in practice doing some things, but I still think he might be a ways award from a confidence standpoint,” Hope said. “I'm optimistic he can come back, but I don't think he's ready yet.”
Also, Notre Dame has ended its series with Michigan after the 2014 season because of its obligations after joining the ACC. Does that mean Purdue's long-time series with the Irish -- the teams have played 84 times, the first meeting coming in 1896, and played every year since 1946 -- is in jeopardy?
Not if it's up to Hope.
“I haven't talked to anyone about the series, but I would expect it to continue,” he said. “In my mind, it's a no-brainer. The schools are so close (geographically) and it's a great rivalry game… Notre Dame has won more than they've lost (the Irish lead the series 56-26-2), so I would assume it will be logical to continue. I hope it goes in that direction.”
Hope added he hasn't heard any talk about re-examining the series.