Purdue won the first meeting between these two teams, 24-14 on September 24, 2016 and this will be their first visit to Reno, Nevada.
After an 0-3 start, Purdue went 6-3 in their last nine games last season but Auburn crushed them 63-14 in the Music City Bowl on December 28. David Blough, Purdue’s starting quarterback for most of the last four seasons is now in the NFL, so it is time for Elijah Sindelar to take over under center.
Sindelar dealt with some tough injuries in the last two years but he is finally healthy and he brings plenty of experience as he has completed 56.0 percent of his passes for 2,547 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 19 career games, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt, including 2,099 passing yards with 18 touchdowns and just seven interceptions over 12 games in 2017.
Purdue needs a healthy Sindelar and significant contributions from explosive wideout Rondale Moore, who led the nation with 114 receptions and had 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. Moore had seven games with at least 100 receiving yards and six with at least 10 catches.
Nevada opened last season just 3-3 but they won four of their next six games to become bowl eligible. Then they beat Arkansas State 16-13 in overtime in the Arizona Bowl on December 29. Cristian Solano, last year’s backup quarterback, was expected to be the team’s starting signal-caller this season but a hand injury halfway through training camp will keep him out of this game, forcing Nevada to turn to redshirt freshman Carson Strong, who beat three other players to earn the job, including Malik Henry (famous for his appearances on Netflix’s Last Chance U).
Strong will be under center until Solano returns and he will have a very solid ground game, led by Toa Taua (872 rushing yards, six touchdowns, 4.9 yards per carry), Kelton Moore (433 rushing yards, four touchdowns, 4.8 yards per carry) and Devonte Lee (193 rushing yards, seven touchdowns, 4.3 yards per carry). Wideout Kaleb Fossum, who led Nevada with 70 receptions last year is also back. Overall this team has a decent offense but there are question marks on defense because of the inexperience of their secondary.
Nevada can keep this game close if their defense pressures Sindelar to take away the passing game and test the Purdue running backs but Purdue is the better team and their air attack and efficiency on the road will help them get a close win to start the season.