WHO: Arizona (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
WHAT: The 16th Foster Farms Bowl
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX
WHERE: Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California
THE SKINNY: If you like offense, this game is for you — even if the defenses will have a say in the eventual winner.
Arizona enters the game on a bit of a resurgence under Rich Rodriguez this season, bouncing back from a 3-9 campaign a year ago to chase an eighth win for the first time since 2014. That’s despite the fact that the team’s best player, quarterback Khalil Tate, spent most of the first month of the season on the sidelines.
Since taking over, however, Tate has been a revelation and one of the best players running the ball in the country. He has 12 touchdowns on the ground so far in 2017 and has remarkably run for 1,353 yards to rank 15th in the FBS — again, as a quarterback. Though he is an electric runner, his passing shouldn’t be overlooked either as he’s thrown for nine scores in eight games and is remarkably efficient when choosing to put the ball in the air as well.
Likewise, Purdue has mounted one of the bigger turnarounds in college football from 2016 to 2017 under new head coach Jeff Brohm. While his trademark has been a pass-happy offensive attack, it’s the Boilermakers defense that has also taken significant strides and may be the deciding factor in this one. They are a blitz-happy and aggressive unit that isn’t afraid to take chances and that shows up when you look at the number of turnovers they force and the fact that they’re in the top third in terms of yards per play allowed.
Offensively, Elijah Sindelar seems to have settled in after taking over full-time for David Blough and was a key part of the stretch run to even make it to bowl eligibility — posting an eight-to-one TD/INT ratio in the team’s final four games. The question is, what kind of wrinkles might Brohm and his staff come up with after so much time between the regular season and the trip out to the Bay Area?
Though the records and brand names may not be the most enticing to neutrals, the Foster Farms Bowl has the potential to be one of the more entertaining games on the post-holiday slate. It’s worth tuning in for a healthy Tate running around the field but the Boilermakers will certainly make the dynamic quarterback earn a victory in this one.
THE PICK: Arizona 38, Purdue 34