Finally, the college football season is almost upon us. Let’s take a moment and extend our sympathies to my wife, who will effectively be a widow for the next three months of Saturdays. I’ve got my tickets in hand, my jersey cleaned and ready, and my optimism at full throttle. Last year was pretty disappointing for Purdue fans, although there were encouraging signs. A questionable timeout at the end of the Notre Dame game might have been the difference between a bowl game and staying home. A respectable Oregon team barely managed a win at home, and eventual Big Ten champion The Ohio State got a big shock in West Lafayette.
The Boilers haven’t received much love from the national media (gee, doesn’t that sound familiar?), but that’s okay. If everyone stays healthy, and no one else ends up academically ineligible, Purdue could wind up being in the hunt for the Big Ten title at the end of the season. Of course, many of the games it takes to get there will be close, so the end result could vary quite a bit. Of course, I’ll be taking a look at each game week-by-week for Beonard’s Losers, but in the meantime, here’s my poorly-researched, quickly-written view of Purdue’s season.
At Notre Dame: The Irish are on their fourth coach (fifth if you count George O’Leary) this decade, and Brian Kelly has his work cut out for him. Notre Dame has a new quarterback who is recovering from a knee injury, and a new coach to learn. Notre Dame has some votes in the pre-season polls, but that’s more name recognition than anything else. South Bend is not normally a friendly location for the Boilers, but they should be able to get a win.
Western Illinois: Directional Illinois isn’t necessarily a guaranteed win, as Northern showed last year. Fortunately, Western is a less worthy opponent. There’s no excuse for losing this game.
Ball State: BSU isn’t quite the pushover they were back in 2004 when Kyle Orton and company hung approximately one trillion points on them. In fact, there was a time not that long ago when I considered the Cardinals the best team in the state. That time has passed, and I wouldn’t expect to see Ball State do much better than they did last season. This should be another confidence-builder.
Toledo: The Rockets have been a favorite early-season opponent the past few years, and generally help the Boilers get off to a confident, if overrated, start. Toledo will be a good final test before conference play starts, but shouldn’t be too challenging. There’s a reason I consider Purdue to be the MAC champions, and after this game they should be 4-0.
At Northwestern: It doesn’t seem to matter how good Purdue is, Evanston is always a tough place to play. Since this game is in the first half of the season, the weather shouldn’t be too horrible, but it’s going to take more than a nice fall day to turn this into a win. If senior quarterback Dan Persa can keep the offense going, Purdue will have a hard time winning this one.
Minnesota: Tim Brewster is the first of several coaches that Purdue may see the last of in 2010. In three years under Brewster, the Gophers have never gone .500 or better in the Big Ten and their best finish is a tie for 6th. Adam Weber needs a strong season, but without Eric Decker, I don’t think we’ll see anything better than “fair” from him. If the Purdue secondary can play at all, the Boilers should win this game.
At Ohio State: Some of the key pieces are back from last year’s matchup, notably Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who gave Terrelle Prior nightmares. It’s tempting to pick Purdue to get the upset again, but it’s worth noting that this game is being played in Columbus, not West Lafayette. Not to mention the fact that the Buckeyes are pissed about last year’s game and will be out for revenge. This won’t be a guaranteed loss for the Boilers, but it’s likely.
At Illinois: Boy, this team is hard to gauge. Ron Zook has a talent for recruiting good teams that under-perform. He’s the second coach that may be packing his bags at the end of the season; it’s just hard to imagine that Illinois would be content with another disappointing year. The Illini schedule is very front-loaded, so it remains to be seen how the team will handle facing Penn State and Ohio State on consecutive weekends. Frankly, I think it’s more likely that Purdue will lose this game than that Illinois will win it.
Wisconsin: Last year’s 37-0 shellacking in Madison can’t sit well with the Boilers. Purdue will be worked up for this game, but I’m not sure it’ll be enough. The Badgers should be good this year and all of the emotion in the world won’t fix that. This year’s matchup will be closer, but Purdue loses this one, too.
Michigan: Purdue has only beaten Michigan 14 times in the history of the sport, and never three times in a row. Yet that’s what’s at stake this November. If the NCAA hasn’t done him in already, a loss in this game pretty much guarantees that the Wolverines bring the RichRod era to an end. Michigan seems to be improving, but they won’t have enough to win this one, unless the two-game losing streak saps Purdue’s will to live.
At Michigan State: Purdue had the lead through three quarters last year, and, if they’d held on, would have become bowl-eligible. It seems like (and I’m too lazy to check) Purdue and Michigan State have been very well-matched the past few years, and this year should be no different. I’m not sure the Boilers will be seasoned enough to take away a win from East Lansing, but it should be a fun game to watch.
Indiana: Indiana has lost the last 2 matchups, and hasn’t won in Ross-Ade Stadium since 1996. They’ve got a good quarterback, and a few other pieces, but I don’t see much of a team. Bill Lynch is a pretty lousy football coach, and he may be done after failing again to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket.
So that’s my look at this season. We’ll see how horribly wrong I end up being. If the above predictions hold true, Purdue finishes 7-5 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten, 6-1 at home, and 7-1 in the state of Indiana. This would be a big improvement from the past few seasons, and might help bump up the flagging ticket sales. Boiler up!