Hello fellow humans and welcome to the greatest week on the Off Tackle Empire football preview calendar: Purdue week! It’s me,
BoilerBot89 BoilerUp89, in my first year of writing for this site during Purdue week. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we are finally done with all the shitty teams that have come before us and that now we can start previewing the team everyone really cares about: the Boilermakers!
Now, originally I had planned on spending the entire week talking about the upcoming Purdue basketball season. I know many of you will be as disappointed as I am that this plan was rejected and considered “not-relevant to a football preview week”. While I’m disappointed with the direction that management has chosen, I really want to “be a team player” and “make sacrifices for the good of the company” since we are “like a family”. More importantly I want that coupon promised by MNWildcat for writing articles this week: a half off sandwich* is nothing to scoff at.
*when buying another sandwich of equal or greater value
So, without any further ado, let’s get this week started with a short review of what happened last season and a brief discussion of the upcoming season. If this short article doesn’t contain everything you want to know about Purdue football, don’t worry! The deep dives are coming later in the week. This is merely a brief refresher.
In the year 2021 CE, Jeff Brohm coached the Purdue Boilermakers to the first 9-win season by a Big Ten team located in the state of Indiana since Joe Tiller was roaming the sidelines at Purdue back in 2003. Although Purdue got off to a slow start offensively and had losses to the
Irish French, the boat rowers, and the trash rodents, the defense hung in there and was able to single-handedly win enough games early (including at top 5 Iowa) to keep Purdue on the path to bowl eligibility with a 4-3 record seven games into the season. It was at this point that Purdue’s offense not only got things into gear but also found the nitro boost button. The Boilers first knocked off top 5 Michigan State helping keep The™ Ohio State out of the Big Ten championship game (You’re welcome, society). Then the good guys rescued the Bucket from the grubby hands of the dastardly villains in Bloomington. Finally, Purdue defended the Union’s honor at the Battle of Nashville Memorial Celebration and Jamboree by defeated the fighting mustard bottles. These three important moments were part of a 5-1 run to finish the season and turn Purdue into the one true 9Windiana.
A completely revamped defense headlined by defensive end George Karlaftis suffocated most of the early season opponents in order to grind out wins while the offense was putting out just 13 points a game. It helped that Purdue faced fellow offensively challenged teams in OSU, UConn, Iowa, and Illinois. Although the offense had a couple of early season moments, it was really only WR David Bell that was consistently playing at a high level. A quarter of the way thru the campaign things looked to be headed towards a third consecutive disappointing season.
Although nobody knew it at the time, the turning point of the season came midway thru the Illinois game when Brohm benched starting QB Jack Plummer for the second consecutive week in favor of Aidan O’Connell. O’Connell would take a few games to really get comfortable behind the porous offensive line, but he immediately improved the QB situation and helped Purdue eke past the Fighting Berts. The former walk-on would hold onto the starting QB job for the rest of the season (the backups got a handful of series as changes of pace) and spend the final 6 games of the year playing at an All-B1G level that would result in parts of the fanbase (if you are an Purdue fan and OTE regular you know which parts) becoming unreasonably optimistic for 2022.
The impact that last season had on Jeff Brohm’s job security and program momentum can not be overstated. It snapped a two year bowl drought, reestablished Purdue as the better B1G program in the state, reenergized the fanbase, rebuilt recruiting momentum, and gave Purdue their best record in almost 20 years. All while playing an incredibly difficult schedule consisting of three New Years Six bowl teams, perennial loss wisconsin, and an additional top 5 ranked team*.
*at time of game
The bad news is that superstars Bell and Karlaftis are gone to the NFL. Also leaving this offseason are defensive play caller Brad Lambert and WR coach Jamarcus Shepherd - both of whom had huge influences on last seasons performance. And while Alexander Horvath didn’t put up huge numbers at RB, he was still obviously a much better running back than anything the supposedly good rushing program wisconsin put on the field last year since he was drafted and none of the trash rodents were. Losing a “NFL RB” isn’t likely to help Purdue’s already subpar run game.
The good news is that despite those personnel losses, Purdue still returns 14 starters (7 on offense, 7 on defense) from a 9-win team including the all important QB position. And let’s remember that those 9 wins weren’t put up against a completely weak schedule. Purdue went 2-2 against teams that finished in the top 25 of the final AP poll last season with their other two losses coming to teams that ended the season just outside the top 25 at 27 (the annual wisconsin loss) and 28 (Minnesota in the rain).
While Purdue will almost certainly have to play in the rain at least once this season and will be giving up at least 690 yards on the ground to wisconsin, the rest of the schedule is manageable. In sharp contrast to last year’s tough schedule, it might be in the running for weakest schedule by a P5 team this upcoming season. No Michigan. No The™ Ohio State. No Notre Dame or any good non-conference opponent for that matter. No Michigan State (never mind that Purdue Pete
murdered allegedly murdered last year’s version). The schedule consists of Penn State, Indiana, Maryland, the B1G West, Syracuse, FAU, and Indiana State. Sure there are plenty of opportunities to lose games on the schedule and Purdue will lose at least a few of these, but that isn’t exactly a murderers’ row.
If you are an optimistic part of the Purdue hivemind there are lots of reasons for hope this season.
Purdue’s path to a B1G West division championship is imminently open even with a 7-2 conference record since Iowa plays Michigan and The™ OSU while wisconsin plays The™ OSU plus MSU. All Purdue has to do is beat the teams they beat last season and not lose to Minnesota while outgaining them by 150 yards again and they can represent the West in Indy. Once Purdue wins the B1G West, just one upset victory by an unranked Purdue team (because let’s be honest, they aren’t getting ranked with this schedule) over an AP top 5 B1G East opponent could give Purdue a Big Ten crown. It’s not like Purdue is a stranger to upsetting top 5 ranked teams while unranked.
Hey, you. You’re finally awake.
If you honestly think Purdue is winning the Big Ten this year, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Yeah, it has some wiggle to it, but all the exciting bridges do these days!
The more realistic take for the upcoming season is that Purdue should have a fun season this year and barring a complete disaster of a season will be headed back to a bowl game. It’s even true they might back into a B1G West division title, but since The™ Ohio State hasn’t beaten Michigan in 940 days and Michigan now firmly controls the East division, Purdue won’t get the opportunity to avenge last year’s loss to the Buckeyes. Michigan has been much more resilient to upsets by Purdue in recent decades so I just don’t see Purdue winning in Indianapolis this year.
Rest of Purdue Week
Later this week on Off Tackle Empire, we will seek to answer the following questions:
- What is the true reason Purdue fired Danny Hope after back to back bowl bids and didn’t upset any top 10 teams during the Darrell Hazell era?
- The Purdue football coaching staff has made some changes, but will they have an exciting new look or will their at-home haircut result in laughter from the rest of the conference?
- Will Aidan O’Connell become an NFL quarterback or start collecting Social Security checks after this season?
- Can the defense be any good without George Karlaftis on the field or Brad Lambert calling plays?
The answers to all these questions (submit those mailbag questions people!) and more will be coming up as I attempt to inform the dozens of Purdue readers on the state of the Purdue program. Perhaps, fellow Cincinnatian and misguided fan of the Hoosiers BuffKomodo will even attempt to write a hate piece for Friday. Or maybe he will just acknowledge that Purdue is so great that he couldn’t even begin to write such an article. For the non-Purdue fans reading this, I’d recommend that you stay out of Purdue Pete’s sights if you know what’s best for you. I wouldn’t cross that guy.