Stadium: Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500)
Coach: Danny Hope (first year at Purdue, 1-5)
2008 record: 4-8
Base Offense: Ace (3 wide recivers)
Base Defense: 4-3
Lettermen: Returning - 49; Lost 19
Returning Starters: Offense - 5; Defense - 7; Specialists - 2
Returning Stars: WR Keith Smith; DE Ryan Kerrigan
Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon
Charles Ellis, designer of the Golden Gate Bridge
Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
John Wooden, Basketball Hall of Famer as player and coach
Bob Griese, Pro Football Hall of Fame Quarterback; sportscaster
Orville Redenbacher, entrepreneur of popcorn fame
Jim Gaffigan, comedian and actor
Optimism abounded early on for Purdue and new coach Danny Hope who followed veteran Joe Tiller as his handpicked replacement. After dismantling Toledo 52-31 they made the long trip to Oregon, and had a great chance to win before going down narrowly 38-36. Even a home loss to Notre Dame, 24-21, left the fans feeling like this was an improved squad. But the last couple of weeks have been discouraging, as they allowed Northwetern to come from behind and defeat them at Homecoming, and then went to Minnesota and got wacked 35-20.
Purdue has a potent offense, averaging 410 yards a game, led by senior quarterback Joey Elliott who leads the Big Ten with 1575 yards passing. His favorite target is Keith Smith, who is big, fast and experienced (42 catches, 585 yards, 4 tds) but Elliott spreads it around and also likes WR Aaron Valentin a lot (5 tds). Basketball on grass is alive and well in West Lafayette. Meanwhile they have run the ball effectively, too, with youngster Ralph Bolden (599 yards, 4 tds) leading the way. He exploded on the scene with 234 yards against Toledo but is getting the ball less the past few weeks and his numbers are good, but not great, in Big Ten play.
With a veteran line and good playmakers Purdue moves the ball effeciently and can score points, although at 28.5 per game they haven't scored as many as you would think from looking at their yardage totals. The problem? Turnovers - 20 of them - which leads the NCAA! Simply put they have shot themselves in the foot over and over again.
Unfortunately for Purdue, the talent on the defensive side of the ball is not as good as their offensive counterparts. They do have a fine defensive lineman in senior Ryan Kerrigan who can put pressure on the quarterbacck (7 1/2 TFLs and 4 sacks). And they have a very talented LB in Jason Werner (50 tackles, 3 sacks, 11 TFLs, 1 INT), who is finally healthy after back struggles and can fill the hole, pressure the backfield or fall back in coverage. The rest of the defense is adequate at best, and have allowed opponents 380 yards per game and 30.5 points per contest. Of course they have been victims of all those turnovers but the truth is, late in close games, the defesne has not been able to seal the deal.
Boilermaker special teams are okay but not anything to write home about, although kicker Carson Wiggs has a very strong leg.
This is going to be a pretty short forecast. Purdue is a strange team. They have plenty of potential and could easily have a winning record, but seem to make critical mistakes that bite them at the worst times. One wonders if they are discouraged after losing five in a row, including a pretty good beatdown last Saturday in Minnesota.
On the other hand Ohio State might be wise to be cautious. Certainly they have to be a little beaten up after playing the most physical team on their schedule, and the defense lived on the field last week (over 42 minutes)! They have to be sore. If they look and see that Purdue is 1-5 the tendancy might be to take it easy, but that could result in disaster. In fact if the Boilers can hold onto the ball they could very well cook up an upset. But the Buckeyes have been very good at forcing mistakes, and one has to think the Silver Bullet defense will rise to the occasion again.
Early on I look for Purdue to move the ball through the air, and mix in a few draws that find a little running room. There may be a couple good drives engineered by Joey Elliott. But as the game wears on, the OSU defense will start to get to him resulting in sacks and/or turnovers.
On offense nobody knows what to expect of Pryor and company. I think the o-line will play better than last week, allowing Saine and Pryor to get some healthy yardage. TP is bound to throw the ball better, and the fact that he is going against a weaker defense has to help. Once again the Buckeye line will wear down Purdue and it will pay dividends in the second half.
This one may be close for 30 minutes, but in the end Ohio State has too many horses.
Father vs. Son Prediction Battle:
Dave: OSU 34-17
Drew: OSU 33-14