Purdue, ranked 62nd in S&P+ Returning Production, brings back 13 starters from a team that lost 7 in a row to finish the 2016 season after a 3-2 start. This offseason, Purdue hired a new Head Coach, Jeff Brohm, who experienced tremendous success while at Western Kentucky especially on the offensive side of the ball. As a result, there is actually some buzz in West Lafayette headed into this season, but some of that enthusiasm might just be related to no longer having Darrell Hazell around (Hazell finished his Purdue tenure with a 9-33 record).
During his time with the Hilltoppers, Brohm’s pass heavy offenses could score with anybody in the country. Brohm brought along his staff from both sides of the ball to Purdue so it should be interesting to see if they attempt to implement their familiar schemes or if they tailor them around the inherited roster.
This schematic decision will be especially critical on the offensive side of the ball since the strengths and weaknesses of this roster do not really mesh well with a deep passing attack. While they will have a quarterback start in b2b season openers for the first time in 10 years (Curtis Painter), Purdue lost their top 4 receivers (all seniors) from a season ago and have many questions at all 5 positions along the Offensive Line. The one reliable returning Offensive Lineman, Center Kirk Barron, is now dealing with hamstring issues. If the new staff can’t construct an effective offensive line from a hodgepodge of underclassmen and transfers, there is no way Blough will have the time to run a pass heavy offense. Purdue will at least be deep and experienced at running back.
On defense, the roster actually fits perfectly with the scheme new Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt wants to run. Holt will implement a hybrid 4-3 Linebacker driven defense characterized by heavy blitzing and a fair share of zone coverage. This will hopefully help improve the Purdue run defense which has ranked outside the top 100 in recent years (WKU was number 2 in 2016 for comparison). Considering that the Purdue Linebackers are the team’s strongest unit, this defense makes a lot more sense than the mostly nickel that the Boilermakers ran in 2016. Markus Bailey leads a group of 3 other talented Senior Linebackers that will be joined by WKU transfer TJ McCollum, who Brohm brought over to add scheme familiarity and improved depth. The defense does still have a few questions in the secondary and will need to find adequate replacements for some of the talented Defensive Line departures from 2016.
Brohm also brought Tom Levine with him to coach Special Teams. Levine, one of the most innovative Special Teams minds in college football, is an enormous upgrade from last season when Purdue didn’t even have an official Special Teams Coach. Under Levine’s guidance at Western Kentucky, Kylen Towner averaged 40.3 yards per punt return, an NCAA record. Tyron Carrier also set an NCAA record for kick return touchdowns for Houston during Levine’s tenure. This unit should be much improved overall.
Expected Win Totals
CW Projected Total Wins: 3.6
CW Projected B1G Wins: 2.8
Posted Total Wins: O 2.5 -125
Home Field Advantage: 1.9
Opening Power Rating: 43.5
|Sep 2||Louisville||Purdue||PUR +19|
|Sep 8||Ohio||Purdue||PUR -2|
|Sep 16||Purdue||Missouri||MIZZ -12|
|Sep 23||Michigan||Purdue||PUR +17.5|
|Oct 7||Minnesota||Purdue||PUR +9|
|Oct 14||Purdue||Wisconsin||WISC -21|
|Oct 21||Purdue||Rutgers||RUTG +4.5|
|Oct 28||Nebraska||Purdue||PUR +3.5|
|Nov 4||Illinois||Purdue||PUR -5|
|Nov 11||Purdue||Northwestern||NW -15|
|Nov 18||Purdue||Iowa||IA -12|
|Nov 25||Indiana||Purdue||PUR +7.5|
|Legend: Off Of Bye / Overlook Watch / B2B Road Games / Neutral Site|
Fans in West Lafayette should be excited about the new staff, but shouldn’t expect any miracles overnight given the amount of holes on this roster. It was evident from the Spring Game that Purdue will need to rely on their defense for any wins they get this season. I expect an inspired defensive effort week 1 against a Louisville team that has a very deep and experienced defense; therefore, I would look hard at that under. There should be far fewer points than you would normally anticipate in a matchup of a Petrino team vs a Brohm team. Additionally, Brohm is a former Petrino protégé so Bobby may actually take his foot off the gas for once, which would ultimately help Purdue and Under backers.
Purdue did win the scheduling sweepstakes in the B1G West. They get Michigan and Indiana at home, and travel to Rutgers for their cross division road trip. This favorable schedule allows for a few opportunities to potentially exceed their 3 wins from 2016. Purdue will be favored in 2 home games this year against Illinois and Ohio. If they win both, one other upset (or a road win as a favorite against lowly Rutgers) will cash the Over 2.5 Season Wins. I put a a few pesos on the Over 2.5, but can’t recommend any type of large investment until David Blough proves he can limit his mistakes.
Purdue is 1-3 straight up in their last 4 games against the MAC.
Markus Bailey (OLB) – Believe it or not, this may be one of the best Linebacker units in the Big 10. Bailey is certainly the leader as he accumulated an impressive 97 total tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 4 Interceptions in 2016. Bailey should have another monster year keeping the Purdue Defense in the Top 40 for Stuff Rate (rushing attempts stopped at or before the line of scrimmage)
David Blough (QB) – It’s easy to say that the Quarterback position is an X-Factor, but 21 Interceptions in 2016 took Purdue out of every single game. Purdue had a total of -17 Net Turnovers in 2016; Blough must improve his decision making skills in 2017 or this team could potentially go winless.
Purdue is 4-20 ATS since 2012 as a home dog.
Purdue is 1-7 ATS after a SU win since 2014.
Both may apply on October 28th vs Nebraska.
It all goes right if…
If Brohm can bring any of the QB effect he had at previous stops, Blough will be the most improved player in the B1G. There also needs to be some semblance of a running game. Top rushers from 2016 Markell Jones and Brian Lankford-Johnson return in 2017, but only had 6 touchdowns and less than 1,000 yards combined last season. If Jones can return to his 2015 form, this unit should help carry the load early as the offense goes through growing pains in the new scheme.
It all goes wrong if…
The defensive line and secondary do not improve. Despite Purdue’s stellar Linebacker play in 2016, the defense ranked outside of the top 100 in a number of different categories including IsoPPP (Explosiveness), Adjusted Line Yards, Passing Downs, Adjusted Sack Rate, and 10 yard rushes per game. While 8 of the top 10 tacklers from 2016 return, the players on the front and back end of the defense must get better Efficiency and Explosiveness.
Louisville/Purdue Under Week 1
Purdue O 2.5 Wins (smaller)
For more, check out the full B1G Conference Preview.