I know the internet likes to joke that Purdue doesn't actually exist, but Buckeye fans over the past few years know all too well that Purdue does, in fact, have a football team. They also all too often inexplicably beat Ohio State. Know Your Enemy takes a closer look at what some are calling a sleeper for the Leaders Title.
Q: How did Purdue do last year?
A: Purdue was slightly-greater-than-meh. They finished 7-6 (4-4 in the Big Ten), beating Western Michigan in a pretty entertaining Little Caesars Bowl. They had one terrible loss (24-22 to Rice), and a few good wins (they beat Illinois back when they were ranked, and upset Ohio State). When they played the elite of the Big Ten, they were blown out,losing to Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined score of 31-98. Woof.
Q: Can you share any interesting nuggets about Purdue?
A: Sure! Here are some things you might not know about Purdue...
-Purdue has not beaten a BCS-league team in a bowl game since the 2002 Sun Bowl, where they beat Washington. They have made 2 Rose Bowls -- they lost the 2001 game back when Breesus was murdering the Big Ten, but won in 1967.
-Purdue has beaten the #1 team in the country 7 times, more than anybody else in the country except Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Even when Purdue isn't that great, you *can't* overlook them. We should have learned that by now.
-Band Dorks will be happy to tell you that Purdue's Marching Band is home to the World's Largest Drum. I think this would be a lot more impressive if a bandie actually had to carry the damn thing on their shoulders.
-Purdue has two mascots: an actual choo-choo called the Boilermaker Special (the wikipedia article makes it sound like the train is cared for by some sort of Land Grant Skull and Bones society. AWESOME), and a soulless plastic man carrying a hammer. I like the 1969 version, which kinda looks like a giant paper mache Pee Wee Herman with cheese on his head.
-While Purdue has a completely deserved reputation of being an excellent school, especially for engineers, it is one of only two Big Ten schools that isn't considered a Public Ivy (the other being Nebraska. Northwestern doesn't count, seeing as it isn't public). WARRIOR POETS SHOULD ATTEND PUBLIC IVY INSTITUTIONS.
Q: Who are some famous Purdue grads?
Purdue is probably known for producing a whopping 22 astronauts, including Neil Armstrong. I know the joke is originally about Ohio, but apparently there is something about West Lafayette that really makes people decide they don't want to be on earth anymore.
Purdue also gave the world Popcorn genius Orville Redenbacher, who has been providing our beloved Gordon Gee with fashion advice ever since.
In sports, they're probably best known for being the Cradle of Quarterbacks, producing savior of New Orleans Drew Brees (seriously, I used to live there, and Brees is 100% more popular in the 504 than Jesus Christ. I am not exaggerating), Bob Griese, Jim Everett, Kyle Orton and uh...Curtis Painter.
Q: What can we expect from Purdue on offense for next year?
A: Everything seems to hinge on what Danny Hope decides to do at QB. Purdue's famous run of injury bad luck has left them with three legitimate options at QB. Rob Henry, who missed all of 2011 with a knee injury, former Miami-transfer Robert Marve (yeah, he's STILL there), and incumbent Caleb TerBush, who sounds more like a pirate than a QB (wasn't Caleb TerBush in those old Monkey Island computer games?). Having three options is better than only one I guess, and look for Purdue to find ways to get different guys on the field, especially Henry, who has some wheels. TerBush was the most consistent of the three, but also likely has the fewest home run potential.
Antavian Edison is likely the best returning pass catching threat the Boilers return (44 catches, 584 yards). Purdue has some depth at WR actually, (OJ Ross Jr at 356 yards, Gary Bush at 310), but they don't have anybody particularly explosive. Purdue's running backs are capable pass catchers out of the backfield, so the Boilermakers will likely be spreading the ball all over the field. Akeem Shavers is the leading returning RB (519 yards, 6 total TDs). Shavers isn't a 1,200 yard kind of back, so finding consistent production from whatever QB Purdue sticks with will be critical. At this point of the year on paper, Purdue's offense reminds me of the Houston Rockets...lots of competent, okay guys, but I'm not sure there is a star there.
Q: What about on defense?
A: Purdue returns two all conference players on D. Defensive Tackle Kawann Short has 6.5 sacks and 54 tackles, and will be a force to be reckoned with this fall. Ricardo Allen is the team's top CB, (81 tackles, 3 picks), and will anchor what could be the strength of the defense. The problem is at linebacker. Will Lucas (82 tackles) returns, but his fellow LBs are pretty iffy. New defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar will try to scheme a way to get more production from their front seven.
Q: What do you think Purdue's bowl prospects are?
A: I've read a people say that with OSU and Penn State being bowl ineligible, Purdue could be a dark horse to slip into the B1G title game. Personally, I don't see it. I think there are a lot of question marks on defense and at QB to finish ahead of Wisconsin.
Purdue has a fairly manageable schedule though. They travel to Notre Dame (and they could certainly win that game), and have creampuffs Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan and Marshall before B1G play. The Boilermakers also get Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State at home. Road games at Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota aren't too imposing either. I don't see a trip to Indy, but a bowl game at 7 wins or so is certainly possible for Purdue.
If this game was AT Purdue, given recent history, you'd have to like Purdue's chances. However, its in Columbus. This is a much better Buckeye squad than last season, and while I don't expect a blowout by any means, I think its fair to think Ohio State should win this season.