Big Ten Preview – Purdue
Offense – Returning Starters – 6; Key Departures –OT, Dennis Kelly. OT, Nick Mondek
Danny Hope made a complete 180 from Joe Tiller’s success at Purdue and turned Drew Brees/Kyle Orton/Curtis Painters’ “Greatest Show in West Lafeyette” into a spread running attack. So far, it hasn’t worked like his predecessor and that has landed him squarely in the hot seat. With a veteran QB group including starter Caleb TerBush and backup Robert Marve, Purdue hopes to provide enough offense and power in the ground game to save Hoke his job. Purdue has raised expectations because of its quarterback experience and also because of the return of tailback Ralph Bolden. Bolden rushed for 674 yards and six touchdowns last season but is capable of much more with a full workload. Antavian Edison is the leading receiver from last season with 561 yards and should lead an experienced group to keep defenses honest.
Key – Both TerBush and Marve are great athletes, and I think Purdue needs to be decisive but utilize both. Give one or the other the job and don’t look back, but make use of the backup because you don’t have enough athletes to beat the big boys in the Midwest. The receivers have experience but aren’t much to speak of, why not line Marve up in the slot?
Defense – Returning Starters – 7; Key Departures – LB, Gerald Gooden. LB, Joe Holland
The defense doesn’t have great depth, but the starting 11 will be extremely strong and aggressive to the football. The unit is led by the inside duo of Bruce Gaston and future first rounder Kawann Short. If you frequent my stylings you know how much I value defensive line play, especially a big tackle that can penetrate – cue music because here comes Short. Kawann Short can disrupt an opponent’s ground game by simply not cooperating, or by penetrating three yards into the backfield and throwing would-be blockers or the back himself out of the way. Highlight Ryan Russell, who could be the next in a long line of great pass rushers at Purdue. The diminutive Ricardo Allen leads the secondary as both a solid tackler and a solid cover corner. Purdue shouldn’t worry much about stopping the run, their defensive line is too good to be eaten alive on the ground (except maybe against Monte Ball), but Allen and his unit need to step up against the pass for a unit that allowed almost 400 yards a game in 2011.
Key – Purdue has a very rough first half schedule. The key to the defense and the season is taking care of business against their Eastern Michigans and then standing tough and battling thethree-game stretch of Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State. That needs to start with their most talented and aggressive unit, the defensive line.
And 1 – With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible in the Leaders division, Purdue has become a popular pick to unseat returning champion the Wisconsin Badgers. I think this season for Purdue hinges on one game, and it’s not a Big Ten Conference matchup. If Purdue can go up to South Bend and upset Notre Dame it should give them the momentum to have a chance at the beginning of their brutal Big Ten schedule. Notre Dame is returning from Dublin, Ireland that week and is ripe for a physical team, so the Boilermakers can set the tone there.
Prediction – 7-5 (3-5)
Wisconsin – 8-23-12