Big Ten Football Previews – Part VI
Editor's Note: This is the sixth in a series of my annual summer Big Ten football previews. Check back often to see who’s next...
Team: Purdue Boilermakers
Tidbits … This is Coach Joe Tiller's last hurrah with the old gold and black. When he came aboard, Purdue was mired in a stretch of 12 straight losing seasons. Go bowling in 2008 and that will make 11 of 12 with bowl berths for Purdue. Curtis Painter could become the Big Ten's all time leading passer this season.
2007 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 4-4 (T-6th), Alamo / 8-5, 3-5 (T-7th), Motor City
2006 Prediction / actual: 8-5, 4-4 (T-6th), Insight / 8-6, 5-3 (T-4th), Champs
2005 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 4-4 (T-5th), Outback / 5-6, 3-5 (8th)
2004 Prediction / actual: 7-4, 5-3 (4th), Outback / 7-5, 4-4 (T-5th), Sun
2003 Prediction / actual: 10-2, 6-2 (T-2nd) / 9-4, 6-2 (T-2nd)
2002 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 5-3 (T-4th) / 7-6, 4-4 (T-5th)
2001 Prediction / actual: 9-2, 6-2 (T-1st) / 6-6, 4-4 (T-4th
*Note, bowl shown only from 2004 on as I did not predict the bowl berths prior to that season.
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 6 defense, 1 kicker
Key Returnees: QB Curtis Painter, WR Greg Orton, RB Kory Sheets, RB Jaycen Taylor, DT Alex Magee, LB Anthony Heygood, S Brandon King
Key Losses: WR Dorien Bryant, TE Dustin Keller, G Jordan Grimes, C Robbie Powell, DE Cliff Avril, LB Stanford Keglar
Looking Back ... 2007 got off to a rip-roarin' start in West Lafayette but once the big boys came calling, the Ls start to pile up. Purdue was torrid in September but that was against but one team that ended up with a winning D1 record (Central Michigan). Curtis Painter improved by leaps and bounds between his sophomore and junior campaigns and got himself into the preseason Heisman conversations heading into 2008. Despite only two wins in its last seven regular season games, Purdue backed into a bowl and got a second win over a CMU team that was much better the second time around. Will that momentum carry into 2008, particularly with Joe Tiller on the way out? Time will tell...
Outlook - Offense ... While some of the top performers of a very potent offensive attack return, Curtis Painter and company have some things to prove. A year ago, only one win came against a team with a winning record at the D1 level - that was CMU, twice. The good news is, Kyle Orton and his 125 grabs over the past two seasons returns. The one-two punch of Taylor and Sheets is back. The bad news? There isn't anyone else with appreciable experience at the wide out position. The offensive line is in decent shape but has to replace two mainstays. It should be a record breaking season for Painter, but it is going to take some big wins for Painter to be mentioned in the same breath as Drew Brees and maybe even Kyle Orton. The OOC slate is much more difficult and a third game versus CMU in the last 13 might prove to be the toughest yet. Purdue will need to be firing on all cylinders if it hopes to send Tiller out a big winner...
Outlook - Defense ... There is little doubt that the offense will pull its weight this fall in West Lafayette. But what about the defense? There are some play-makers but depth is a big question at defensive end and linebacker and will the myriad players coming back from serious injury hold up over the long season? If it become a battle to outscore, Purdue will not have the season it hopes for. The good news is that six starters return and a few guys, like Torri Williams, offer hope that a return to form could mean big things for this defense. Look for the Boilers to be tough up the gut, with four solid defensive tackles in the rotation. If Purdue's secondary can stay healthy and the linebacking corps can find help for Keglar, the defense has the potential to be good if not quite good. The defense will spell the difference between middle of the pack and upper tier finish...
Outlook - Special Teams ... Chris Summers is the lone returning special teamer and comes off of a very solid sophomore campaign. Purdue is faced with replacing its punter but the most critical replacement is of Dorien Bryant. Bryant could flat out fly and was a tremendous weapon over his career. Replacing him will be almost as critical to Purdue's success as the development of the defense...
9/6 - NORTHERN COLORADO
9/13 - OREGON
9/20 - CENTRAL MICHIGAN
9/27 - at Notre Dame
10/4 - PENN STATE
10/11 - at Ohio State
10/18 - at Northwestern
10/25 - MINNESOTA
11/1 - MICHIGAN
11/8 - at Michigan State
11/15 - at Iowa
11/22 - INDIANA
9/13 - Oregon, 9/27 - at Notre Dame, 10/4 - Penn State, 10/11 - at Ohio State, 11/8 - at Michigan State, 11/22 - Indiana
Prediction ... Okay, I've been pretty consistent with my predictions when it comes to Purdue so let's see what happens this go around. The non conference slate is MUCH tougher than a season ago and the trip to Columbus will be no picnic. Purdue does get Penn State and Michigan at home and misses Wisconsin, but there are very few "sure things" on the table. It will be critical to get off to a good start with early wins to build momentum - though come to think of it, that didn't help much last year. It will be another winning season in W.L. but there will be plenty of "we could, shoulda, woulda done better" talk yet again...
OOC: 3-1 (Road loss to Notre Dame, though Oregon and CMU are no picnic)
B10: 4-4 (wins over Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana)
Overall: 7-5, 6th in the conference, Insight Bowl