Have you found yourself daydreaming at work? Has that certain zest in life been lacking? Do you, or your loved ones, seem lethargic? Well I have a cure for you!
In just a few days, the drought of fan-less college sports mercifully comes to an end. A year plus of missing out on everyone’s favorite past time of making the trek to God’s country, to witness our Boilermakers conquering a foe. There is nothing better than the pomp and circumstance of the Purdue block P from the All American Marching band. It will cure what ails me.
Now Ben, you might ask, what do you think about this football season? What does your eye test say? I will say this much, my opinion on this football program is absolutely much different than with others think. No surprise there.
I know, I know, some of you out there believe that I should do the world a favor and float off into the sports writer’s ether, taking my opinions with me. Well tough crunchies! You’re stuck with me until April. Opinions are like rear ends. Everyone has one, and some rear ends are better than others. So whether or not you are still living in your parent’s basement, or have a PhD in Footballology, opinions on Purdue football have spanned the spectrum from grim to positive.
So which is it? What is the truth about this Purdue football team? Well, like any debate the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Its time to strap on your foam fingers, crack open a few brewskies, and get your tailgate ready. Here is my eye test, leading into the 2021 Purdue football season.
The 2020 season wasn’t too kind to Purdue… Or was it? It is quite the popular theory to highlight the losing record of 2-4 in a pandemic shortened campaign.
I take little credence into the 2020 season both good and bad. Football is a game of routine, a game of patterns. 2020 included a start-stop-start beginning to fall camp, a slew of Big Ten conference foibles which led players, coaches, and fans to believing that there wouldn’t be a season. At the last minute, the B1G decided to fast track a season. Mass confusion.
With a young team needing practice time, the uncertainty of the season and practice restrictions led to lessened development and struggles. Injuries came into play as key players were missing significant time. Oh yeah, and if a player caught covid, they would miss a significant portion of the already shortened season. Purdue got hit on all fronts.
With it all being said and done, Purdue wound up with a 2-4 record, one shy of the figurative “bowl eligibility” mark of a .500 winning percentage. So, that makes the November 20th loss particularly difficult to palate. That loss, of course was against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, in which your mighty Boilermakers scored the presumptive game winner in the final minute, only for it to be called back due to the worst offensive pass interference in recent NCAA football memory. Although the call garnered national jeer and derision, it still is a loss to our Boilers. That would’ve put Purdue at the theoretic bowl eligibility mark.
Much like countless other examples, this heartbreaking loss broke the Boilermakers. The wheels came off and motivation seemed to be sucked from the program. This led to, frankly, embarrassing losses to Rutgers and Nebraska respectively, in which the defense couldn’t stop anybody. That was the final taste of the 2020 season, as the pandemic ended it there.
When your season ends with two embarrassing losses, the entire offseason gets tinged. Middling opinions on the program turn to negative ones. Positive prognostications of the future turn middling at best. Things like this turn the program momentum sour in a heart beat.
It is time for the narrative to shift. This season has a difficult run as one of the hardest strength of schedules in the nation. To change that narrative, the Boilers need to impress.
Jack Plummer takes over as the starter, after a heated competition with Aidan O’Connell. This offense, should be the strongpoint of the team, as it has been the past few years. Plummer returns experience, and will look to find David Bell frequently. Bell, being one of the most talented WRs in the nation, should continue to break out into a star role. RB Zander Horvath returns, as he led the way in 2020, showing impressive runs throughout the year.
The offensive line looks to be improved, and at one point looked to be one of the strengths of the team. With some personnel changes and some injuries, the offensive line is now lacking in depth. The best 7 should be able to hang with anyone in the B1G, but a few injuries in this area could really cause problems for the Boilers. Good thing Purdue never has injury problems… ever. Ehhem.
As I said earlier, the Purdue Boilermaker defense couldn’t stop anyone last season. Rutgers and Nebraska crammed the ball down Purdue’s throats. Bob Diaco’s gameplan gave receivers extra cushion, allowing for easy completions. The gameplan also provided odd man fronts, relying on linebacker fills to stop the run, which led to difficulty stopping power and quick hitting run games. Purdue gave up an average of essentially 30 points per game last season, something that absolutely must improve. That is the bad news.
The good news, is that Mr. Diaco is no longer with the program, lasting just one season. Replacing him is trio of Co-Defensive Coordinators including former Charlotte Head Coach Brad Lambert, Former Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English, and well known/proven assistant/fan favorite under Joe Tiller, and recent Texas transplant, Mark Hagen.
Reports from scrimmages and camps is that this new look defense is an attack first, risk taking squad. They are hawking the ball, and looking for turnovers. This is perfect for the makeup of this roster. If Purdue can get one or two turnovers a game, the benefit will be exponential for the offense. Boilers have made a pattern of losing one score games, lately, and hasn’t turned the ball over. Giving the high powered offense more opportunity to score will greatly affect that curve.
So where do we start here? Special teams has been a struggle for Purdue for a few years, but Special Teams Coordinator Marty Biagi in his second season looks to be strengthening his crew for the 2021 season.
Reports out of camp claim that Purdue is looking to utilize more starters on special teams. That is both a good and bad thing.
The good: More talent on special teams is never a bad thing.
The bad: Increased risk of injuries and fatigue for starters. As blocking angles change on returns, so do the opportunities for massive hits. Different angles of cuts, and unique football scenarios can lead to injuries, which could wreak havoc for an already short depth chart.
I am looking forward to Aussie punter Jack Ansell, who provides that gritty Australian-style punting which opens a new dynamic into the fold. Look for him to make an immediate impact in the punt game.
The Bottom Line:
Is Coach Jeff Brohm on the hot seat? He is currently at 14-19 coaching record, with a massive contract that makes him one of the highest paid coaches in the NCAA.
I said earlier that I don’t take much into consideration for the 2020 season. There are too many variables which turned last season into a fiasco, unrelated to football performance. ‘
Even if you take 2020 out of the equation, however, Brohm is still under water record wise. Yes, it is true that he is losing a high total of 1 score games. Coinflip games. The problem is is that he is losing them. For perspective, Brohm’s predecessor rarely played in 1 score games, as the Boilers were rarely competitive under Hazell.
Right now the smell of the Rutgers and Nebraska losses is still hanging over the program. What fixes that stench? Winning games.
While I doubt that Brohm will reach an overall .500 record this season (would need 9 victories and bowl win), the trend needs to start moving that way. The 2021 season has a top 10 strength of schedule. Boilers will play at minimum 2 national title contenders in Notre Dame and Ohio State. Yeah, that is pretty difficult. If you add in the rest of the B1G gamut, plus a P5 non-conference opponent in Oregon State, Purdue only has one ‘gimme’ game in UConn. The rest are tough competition.
This season needs to flirt with a bowl, or else Brohm is in trouble for ’22. I don’t think that he is on the hot seat yet, but if Purdue doesn’t get to a bowl, and/or is within a reasonable shot of making a bowl, then the 2022 season is a make or break scenario. Improvement must be shown.
I fully believe in Coach Jeff Brohm. He is not building his program playing a bunch of wuss teams in the non conference, like other programs have done. Brohm has not shied away from playing competition, and eventually he is going to have to come out on top.
Oh, and before the internet commenters start trolling me, I am aware that Eastern Michigan and Nevada aren’t exactly powerhouses. They are, however, not gimme games either… as we so painfully already know. The traditional, “lay an egg against some over matched non-con team” (looking at you, UConn) absolutely needs to stop. If Boilers drop one to the Huskies, then this whole thing is out the window.
Either way, look for this team to surprise. Whether or not Purdue surprises us by being good or by being… really… not good… Purdue is going to be some drama either way this season!
A Look Ahead:
Here we are, folks! Its time! I will be on campus and walking through the brick façade of Ross Ade on Saturday evening. I will do my best to keep my emotions under control. I have been waiting for Saturday for a long time. The first Block P will undoubtedly be an emotional moment for me, as three generations of my family will enter, enjoying a prime Saturday of football bliss. If you happen to see me, come by and say hi!
Purdue hosts the Oregon State Beavers for a primetime game under the lights, on a 7pm tip. Boilermakers are an early 7pt favorite, however, I think the electricity of the fans could beef that number up a bit.
Boiler up! Hammer Down! Its go time, baby!
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