I was much more enthusiastic at this time last year. Many people are quick to explain away Purdue’s lousy 2010 season with the inexplicable rash of injuries, and there’s no doubt that the ever-growing list of disabled players was a significant factor. Unlike some, though, I haven’t absolved Danny Hope of blame. There have been too many questionable decisions and failures of fundamentals to think that this season will be as rosy as Hope seems to think. While there are some very talented players on the roster (Ricardo Allen may be the most exciting member of the Purdue secondary since Stu Schweigert), but there are a lot of questions hanging over this team.
Perhaps the largest is one of offensive identity. Despite the loss of Rob Henry to an ACL injury, Hope insists on running a two-quarterback scheme. I just don’t see that big of a difference between Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve that would justify this. Pick the best one and go with him until someone else is better. We’ll see how it plays out, but I have serious concerns and hope that Hope will settle this sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, let’s look at the schedule and see how badly I do. Admittedly, I’m surprised that I came up with six wins here. I figured 4-5 would be more likely.
Vs Middle Tennessee State: MTSU is 0-2 against the Big Ten, including a loss to a comically bad Minnesota squad last year. Still, they did make a bowl game last year, something that Purdue can’t claim. There’s no reason that Purdue should lose this game, but there is a recent pattern of losing at least home game against a team that should have been an easy victory. Purdue should win this one by double digits, but the game will be closer than the scoreboard indicates.
At Rice: A long road trip to hot conditions have some fans scared. Rice is no Texas juggernaut, and if Purdue shows up to play, this should be a win. The big concern is that the team isn’t well-hydrated and everyone falls over from cramps sometime in the 3rd quarter. The large Purdue contingent in Houston should give the Boilers a boost.
Vs Southeast Missouri State: If Purdue loses this game, I’m calling Morgan Burke.
Vs Notre Dame: It pains me to say this, but the Domers may be pretty good this year. Last year in South Bend, the Boilers looked incredibly lackluster, perhaps due in part to the fact that Robert Marve was still getting used to playing football again. Purdue hasn’t lost the Shillelagh four straight years since the mid-’90s, but I don’t have much hope for this game.
Vs Minnesota: Gopher fans have to be pleased with the fact that Tim Brewster is gone. Jerry Kill has beaten Purdue before (as the head coach of Northern Illinois in 2009), but he doesn’t have much to work with. Purdue’s defense might get tested a bit, but this game should be a win.
At Penn State: The first Leaders division game is a doozy. Penn State looks to be competing for the division title (especially if aOSU ends up with a post-season ban from the NCAA), whereas Purdue isn’t. Last year’s Lion squad was a bit of a disappointment, but I like them to be an 8-9 win team this season. It’s not out of the question, but I can’t see Purdue winning this one.
Vs Illinois: You can never tell what the Illini will do. Ron Zook is eternally on the hot seat, only to have his team do well enough to keep him around one more year. Last year, Purdue absolutely crapped the bed in Chambana, and I’d hope the coaching staff will remind them of that. Even in down years, Purdue tends to do well against the Illini at home and especially on homecoming. This will not be an easy win, but I expect it will be a win.
At Michigan: Brady Hoke was a smart hire for the Wolverines, but he still has to clean up from the RichRod era. If Michigan’s not bowl-eligible by the time this game rolls around, this might seal the deal. No matter what may be happening in Ann Arbor, the fact that Purdue has only won there one time in forty years does not bode well for the Boilers.
At Wisconsin: Wisconsin has outscored Purdue 71-13 in the past two years and Bret Bielma has not developed a reputation for mercy. The Badgers will contend for the Big Ten title and potentially be in the national title picture. Coming away from this game without being embarrassed will be about all Purdue fans can ask for.
Vs Ohio State: Last year’s game in Columbus was an atrocity. It was to be expected after the upset Purdue pulled in 2009. Will this year’s game in Ross-Ade be a repeat of said upset? There’s at least a chance, as it remains to be seen how the Buckeyes respond to their off-season drama. No matter what the rest of the country hopes, this won’t be a terrible team. Although Purdue has a chance to win, they probably won’t.
Vs Iowa: According to Jim Delaney, the Hawkeye’s are Purdue’s Most Hated Rival. Without Ricky Stanzi, Iowa is less of a threat. This team won’t be a failure, but assuming Purdue hasn’t all of the skill players again, the Boilers should win this game.
At Indiana: I hate saying anything good about IU, but the fact is they have the Bucket right now. Hoosier fans have good reasons to feel positive. Although they won’t have a great team this year, they seem to be headed in the right direction. They haven’t won the Bucket in two consecutive years since ’93-’94. Purdue will want this game, but here in September, I’m not convinced that Purdue will have enough at the end of November to win in Bloomington. It will be a close game, and either team can win, but I think IU gets this one. I sure hope I’m wrong.
Overall record: 6-6
Conference record: 3-5
Leaders division record: 1-4