With less than two months until the college football season kicks off, Rant Sports is previewing the top 100 teams heading into the fall. Today we preview the No. 60 team on the Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football preview series, the Purdue Boilermakers.
Last season, the Boilermakers finished the year with a 7-6 over all record, going 4-4 in the Big 10, ending their season with a win over Western Michigan in the 2011 Little Caesar’s Bowl.
Heading into what looks to be a down year for many teams in the Leaders division of the conference, does Purdue have what it takes to sneak their way into the Big 10 title game?
The biggest question for the Boilermakers is who will carry the load at the quarterback position. Head coach Danny Hope stated in the spring that senior Caleb TerBush would be the No. 1 quarterback heading into the fall, but history tells us that Purdue will most likely take a committee approach to the position, rotating between TerBush and fellow senior Robert Marve. Additionally, junior Rob Henry should be healthy this fall as well and gives the team a strong running option at quarterback.
This is a position that has seen a lot of change over the last couple of seasons. Though Henry was expected to start last season, he suffered an ACL tear that sidelined him for the year. Coming off a second ACL tear of his own, Marve was not ready to start the year either, and as a result, TerBush was called into action, spending most of last season as the team’s starter with Marve backing him up as the season progressed.
Both saw a lot of playing time, with TerBush completing nearly 62% of his passes for 1,905 yards and 13 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions and Marve going 56% for 633 yards, 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
If all three quarterbacks are healthy this year as expected, it will be interesting to see how they are used, with all three bringing different skill-sets to the field.
The Biolermakers are solid at the running back position with Akeem Shavers (senior) and Akeem Hunt (sophomore) leading the way. Last season, the two Akeems combined for 143 carries for 798 yards and 8 touchdowns. Last year’s lead rusher with 674 yards, Ralph Bolden, returns to the field after sustaining an ACL tear in the last game of the season. With those 3 carrying the ball, the Boilermakers’ running game should be very solid.
Last year’s leading receiver Antavian Edison will return as a playmaker for Purdue this season, and many expect sophomore Raheem Mostert, the team’s electric kickoff returner and WR, to have a breakout season as well. He is a player who needs to see a lot of touches, in the return game, passing game, and even the running game.
Purdue defensive tackle, Kawann Short, is believed by many to be the best defensive lineman in the country. Last season, he had 17 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks, and is expected to again lead the team on defense.
Linebacker Will Lucas is also a player to keep an eye on. Last year he had 10 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.
Starting cornerbacks Ricardo Allen (3 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 4 passes broken up) and Josh Johnson (4.5 tackles for loss, 2 picks, 9 passes broken up) give some much needed experience to a secondary that loses both starting safeties.
The Boilermakers open the season against Eastern Kentucky at home, but in week two, must travel to Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish. They round out their OOC schedule with Eastern Michigan and Marshall. They should be able to take a 3-1 record into conference play.
Purdue’s most difficult conference games will all be home games for the Boilermakers, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and a devastated and rebuilding Penn State.
Their division is certainly open this year, though the Badgers are clearly the favorite to win. If they could somehow upset Wisconsin, they could possibly find a way to sneak into the Big 10 title game, though it would take some help most likely. Regardless, provided they remain healthy, Purdue can and should see some improvement from last season.