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No. 12 Notre Dame faces Purdue in a matchup of undefeated teams in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday. Few teams have gotten the juices flowing more than the Fighting Irish through the first two weeks of the 2021 college football season. In Week 1, Brian Kelly's squad needed overtime to beat Florida State, which promptly lost to FCS Jacksonville State one week later. In Week 2, Notre Dame needed a last-second touchdown pass to beat MAC squad Toledo.
Purdue's path to 2-0 has been far more comfortable. The Boilermakers beat Oregon State in the season opener at home before crushing UConn's interim staff 49-0 on its home turf. Purdue is off to its first 2-0 start since 2007.
The Boilermakers and Fighting Irish have played 84 times, but not since 2014. Notre Dame has won nine of the last 10 matchups, including a 30-14 victory over Purdue in South Bend, Indiana in 2014. The in-state rivals play for the Shillelagh Trophy each year. However, Purdue has not won the trophy in South Bend since 2004.
Notre Dame vs. Purdue: Need to know
Coan zone: While the start to 2021 has been inconsistent at Notre Dame, Wisconsin transfer QB Jack Coan has been surprisingly strong. His 69% completion rate through two games is consistent with his numbers at Wisconsin, but Coan jumped from 181.5 yards per game in 2019 to more than 300 yards through a pair of games. Quarterback was seen as a potential weakness on this team, but it's the least of Notre Dame's problems.
Purdue's passing game: The Boilermakers are quietly putting together a highly-efficient passing offense on the back of quarterback Jack Plummer and NFL-caliber receiver David Bell. Bell has 14 catches for 255 yards and three touchdowns through his first two games, along with nearly 2,000 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns in just 20 career games. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm is known for his offensive innovation, and his 2021 squad is built to capitalize.
Running woes: Notre Dame's rush defense has secretly been awful. Despite playing just Toledo and Florida State, the Fighting Irish rank No. 104 nationally at more than 194 rushing yards allowed per game on 4.91 yards per carry. For perspective, Notre Dame ranks just behind UNLV and Vanderbilt in the metric. Purdue hasn't rushed the ball especially well, but Notre Dame needs to find a way to keep the Boilermaker's run game in check while still dedicating enough defenders to coverage.
How to watch Notre Dame vs. Purdue live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 18 | Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Notre Dame Stadium -- South Bend, Indiana
TV: NBC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Notre Dame vs. Purdue prediction, picks
Notre Dame still holds a lofty spot in the rankings, but the Fighting Irish have gone to the wire each of the last two weeks. It remains to be seen whether Purdue is a good enough team to finally make the Fighting Irish pay, but Bell and Plummer have showed encouraging signs. After Notre Dame won its first two games by a combined nine points, take the points. Prediction: Purdue (+7.5)
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