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Big Ten opponent preview: Purdue

For the 1st time since 1900, the IU-Purdue series will see consecutive games played in West Lafayette

Syndication: Journal-Courier
Purdue wide receiver David Bell (3) runs a drill during practice, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021 at Mollenkopf Athletic Center in West Lafayette.
Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Editor’s note: With the season fast approaching, we want to take some time to familiarize ourselves with each of Indiana’s Big Ten opponents this fall. Over the next couple of weeks, that’s exactly what we’ll do thanks to the insights from our SB Nation partners.)

Up next: Purdue.

Purdue — Travis Miller (Hammer and Rails)

Key departures

  • Rondale Moore - WR
  • Lorenzo Neal - DT
  • Derrick Barnes - LB
  • Grant Hermanns - LT

Key returnees

  • David Bell - WR
  • George Karlaftis - DE
  • Jack Plummer - QB
  • DaMarcus Mitchell - LB

Potentially impactful freshmen and transfers

  • Tyler Witt - OG (Western Kentucky)
  • Joe Anderson - DL (South Carolina)
  • OC Brothers - LB (Auburn)
  • Damarjhe Lewis - DE (Indiana)

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Purdue. Can you get us up to speed on how last season went and how things are trending entering the fall?

It was a great start with wins over Iowa and Illinois, but an ankle injury to George Karlaftis against Illinois, then COVID issues with him, derailed everything. The loss of him (he played sparingly in the last 4 games) meant we had zero pass rush and we struggled to get stops when needed. The offense stalled with multiple chances late against Northwestern in a 7-point loss. Purdue was absolutely robbed of a win at Minnesota on a horrendous call. Against Rutgers, Purdue was awful defensively in the second half and could not get a stop. Against Nebraska, a terrible start and a dumb, late penalty led to a fourth straight loss.

That said, Purdue was not far off in all four losses. Northwestern was a tight game. It beat Minnesota, even if the scoreboard didn’t say so. Purdue was just awful in spurts against Rutgers and Nebraska and was still in it in the fourth quarter. I don’t think it takes a huge overhaul to win 7-8 games. All it needs is a little more running game and at least some form of a pass rush and it should be competitive most weeks. The only games I see where a Purdue win would be absolutely shocking would be at Notre Dame and at Ohio State (unless we can bring the Ross-Ade kryptonite and Rondale Moore to Columbus).

What’s Purdue’s biggest strength?

The passing game. We led the Big Ten in passing last year and David Bell is one of the best receivers in the country. Purdue will be able to move the ball in the air, and with more of a running game, the offense will be lethal.

What’s Purdue’s biggest weakness?

Can the defense get stops? Purdue lost its last two games last year because the defense was terrible. It is being completely restructured with a new coordinator and a bunch of transfers. If it works, Purdue can win 8 games. If not, it may struggle to win four.

How does the Purdue fan base feel about Jeff Brohm and his staff?

It’s Year 5 for Brohm and the last two guys did not make it to Year 5. It’s time to see progress. 2019 was derailed by injuries and 2020 was weird for everyone (really, Purdue wasn’t terribly far from 5-1 or even 6-0). There needs to be a bowl this year or we will be waiting for the buyout to go down.

Who is Purdue’s MVP this season and why?

Bell, because he is awesome. He is a potential All-American.

Predict Purdue’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss

Gonna go 7-5, with an “Everything goes perfect” ceiling of 9-3 and a “complete disaster” floor of 3-9. The best win will be at Iowa, where Brohm is a surprising 3-1 against Ferentz and we always have a receiver go nuts (seriously, look at what Bell has done to their secondary). The surprise loss can be in game one against Oregon State. That is maybe the most critical game of Brohm’s tenure.

What else should we know about Purdue this year?

Don’t count out Zander Horvath as a solid back. He was really good in spurts last year and the running game was fine aside from Northwestern and Nebraska (a grand total of 9 yards in each). He is probably the biggest key for making the offense multi-dimensional.