Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
Of the 13 public schools in the Big Ten (sans Northwestern), Purdue only outearned or outspent Rutgers in 2014-15. A PennLive report in June declared Purdue the poorest program in the conference.
On the field, the Boilermakers have not played at a conference-average level, per F/+, once in 11 years. They've only really come close a couple of times.
Darrell Hazell, currently 6-30 as Purdue's head coach (the worst win percentage in school history), appears to have kept his job primarily because of his large buyout.
These are not the salad days of the program. The Boilermakers have never been considered a first-class football citizen within the Big Ten, but they have had plenty of good runs. They finished with two or fewer losses 10 times in 13 years from 1926-38. They went 9-0 and finished fifth in the country in 1943. Jack Mollenkopf led them to three consecutive top-10 finishes in the 1960s. (1968 Purdue: in the book. Leroy Keyes is one of the best players you've maybe never heard of.) Jim Young produced three straight top-20 performances from 1978-80. Joe Tiller led a Rose Bowl run in 2000 and produced 10 bowl bids in 11 years from 1997-2007.
There isn't an immense history here by Big Ten standards, but you can win games at Purdue. It takes a certain level of investment, and for one reason or another, Purdue is struggling with that at the moment.
Back in a 1995 Sports Illustrated feature, Steve Spurrier, then Florida's head coach, almost perfectly described what it takes to win:
If you want to be successful, you have to do it the way everybody does it and do it a lot better—or you have to do it differently. I can't outwork anybody, and I can't coach the off-tackle play better than anybody else. So I figured I'd try to coach some different ball plays.
He was talking specifically about strategy and tactics, but it goes for program building as a whole, too. You either do the same thing everybody else is doing, only better, or you come up with something different. Purdue's most recent run of success came when Joe Tiller brought his funky, new-fangled spread offense to town. But back in my 2013 Purdue preview, I said that I was wary of the Hazell hire because it was basically an attempt to take the former path instead.
His biggest draw could be his TresselBall experience. He knows the lay of the land in the Big Ten, and he studied under a known winner in Tressel. But TresselBall works best when your recruiting rankings are superior to those of your opponents and your talent advantage allows you to avoid too many risks. The only guy to win at any high level in West Lafayette in the past three decades, Joe Tiller, brought an innovative offensive scheme to the table in the process.
Hazell had overseen a miracle run at Kent State in 2012, but he had only two years of head coaching experience, and his major draw seemed to be that he had a lot of ties to former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. Under the right circumstances, Hazell could probably succeed again.
But trying to follow the Tressel script, only with far less administrative support, resources, or recruiting advantages, probably isn't going to work. You're going to have to severely outwork everybody else, and that's hard to do, especially when your recruiting (two-year rank: 71st, worst among all power-conference programs not named Kansas and worse than non-power programs as well) is tying your hands behind your back.
It's easy to skip ahead and basically say that Purdue is doomed to be a disaster until either Hazell's contract runs out or gets close enough to its expiration that either athletic director Morgan Burke (retiring in 2017) or his successor feels comfortable with eating the remainder of his salary.
But Purdue will be playing football in 2016, and that means Hazell has another opportunity to do something he hasn't been able to do for more than a week or two at a time: build traction. After engineering slight improvement in 2014, he lost any semblance of that last year. The defense slid, and the offense, led by an all-freshman backfield, couldn't improve enough to make up the difference.
Hazell has to hope that two new coordinators and an all-sophomore backfield can build something. Anything's possible, right?
|Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 5-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 93 | Final S&P+ Rk: 86|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|3-Oct||at Michigan State||9||21-24||L||49%||19%||+22.2||-1.0|
|Points Per Game||25.1||92||36.5||112|
2. They had something going early
Ivy League check: I noted in last year's preview that, per Jeff Sagarin's 2013 rankings, Purdue would have been the fifth-best team in the Ivy that year, behind Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Princeton. In 2014, the Boilers improved to second, behind only Harvard. They remained second last year, one spot behind Harvard. If nothing else, a sign that last year's regression wasn't significant.
I also noted in last year's preview that, for the first two-thirds of the 2014 season, Purdue was showing legitimate progress. Their average percentile performance through eight games was around 58 percent, equivalent to playing at a top-55 or so level from week to week. They were a one-point loss away from being 4-4 at that point, but injuries wrecked them late in the year.
The difference between 2014 and 2015: Purdue could only maintain that higher-level form for one month instead of two.
- First 4 games:
Record: 1-3 | Average percentile performance: 61% (~top 50)
- Last 8 games:
Record: 1-7 | Average percentile performance: 35% (~top 85)
Once again, if you were looking, you could see early flashes of competitiveness. Purdue led Marshall until the Thundering Herd scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes. The Boilermakers were tied with Bowling Green until the Falcons scored with nine seconds left. With three minutes left against Michigan State, they got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead. (They stalled out at midfield.)
Per the win expectancy figures above (which basically take all the key stats from a given game and say "You could have expected to win this game X percent of the time"), Purdue played in three relative tossups (Marshall, BGSU, Northwestern) and lost them all. That resulted in a backslide in the wins department.
Still, when Purdue looked bad, Purdue looked bad. "Allowing 51 points to Virginia Tech" bad. The defense indeed regressed, and the offense only occasionally generated any sort of momentum. And the frequency of poor play picked up as the season progressed.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||40.0%||88||Succ. Rt. +||106.5||47|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||32.6||116||Def. FP+||30.6||91|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.5||57||Redzone S&P+||102.9||63|
|Q1 Rk||84||1st Down Rk||88|
|Q2 Rk||83||2nd Down Rk||112|
|Q3 Rk||61||3rd Down Rk||51|
3. A Terry Malone offense
If Hazell somehow steers out of his current skid, it won't be because of the sudden adoption of some new, trendy offense. In replacing John Shoop -- champion of athletes' rights and direly unsuccessful offensive coordinator -- with tight ends coach Terry Malone, Hazell doubled down on Big Ten Football™. Malone was Michigan's offensive line coach when the Wolverines won the national title in 1997 and spent 13 years with the New Orleans Saints before coming to West Lafayette.
Malone has described his new offense as "a West Coast passing team with gap blocking mixed in with some zone blocking." That's fine. But a key for the Boilermakers will be better balance. They only passed well on a couple of occasions and ran well for the first month of the year.
A pass-first attack with a freshman quarterback is rarely going to succeed to any major degree. David Blough took over the offense for games four through 10, basically, and produced a passer rating better than 114 just twice.
In those two games (against BGSU and Nebraska), he was brilliant, completing 70 percent of his passes with six touchdowns to just one interception. The rest of the season: 53 percent with four TDs to seven INTs. Blough was not ready to properly guide a QB-dominated offense, and after averaging 6.5 yards per carry through the first four games and stealing the starting job from D.J. Knox, Markell Jones averaged only 4.8 yards per carry over the final eight.
Blough and Jones might develop more staying power as their experience level increases. We'll see if Malone's tweaks play a positive role.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|David Blough||6'1, 205||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8650||169||293||1574||10||8||57.7%||18||5.8%||4.7|
|Aaron Banks||6'4, 202||So.||NR||NR||1||1||4||0||100.0%||0||0.0%||4.0|
|Elijah Sindelar||6'4, 226||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8733|
|Jared Sparks||6'1, 200||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7649|
|Markell Jones||RB||5'11, 211||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8332||168||875||10||5.2||5.8||33.9%||4||2|
|D.J. Knox||RB||5'7, 206||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8098||108||409||2||3.8||4.2||26.9%||2||2|
|David Blough||QB||6'1, 205||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8650||49||209||4||4.3||5.0||30.6%||4||2|
|David Yancey||RB||5'10, 220||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8244||5||13||0||2.6||1.2||20.0%||0||0|
|Keyante Green||RB||5'9, 225||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8547|
|Richie Worship||RB||6'1, 252||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8439|
|Tario Fuller||RB||6'0, 192||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8359|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|DeAngelo Yancey||WR||6'2, 216||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8298||98||48||700||49.0%||20.9%||7.1||55.1%||36.7%||1.78|
|Markell Jones||RB||5'11, 211||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8332||48||34||239||70.8%||10.2%||5.0||64.6%||41.7%||1.01|
|Domonique Young||WR||6'3, 210||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7967||43||21||276||48.8%||9.2%||6.4||53.5%||41.9%||1.39|
|Cameron Posey||WR||6'1, 192||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8081||35||26||255||74.3%||7.5%||7.3||42.9%||45.7%||1.37|
|Gregory Phillips||WR||6'0, 196||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8005||30||13||142||43.3%||6.4%||4.7||56.7%||36.7%||1.22|
|D.J. Knox||RB||5'7, 206||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8098||29||26||189||89.7%||6.2%||6.5||51.7%||48.3%||1.13|
|Cole Herdman||TE||6'4, 238||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7711||26||18||139||69.2%||5.5%||5.3||57.7%||50.0%||1.03|
|Anthony Mahoungou||WR||6'3, 210||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8556||15||8||93||53.3%||3.2%||6.2||46.7%||46.7%||1.06|
|Bilal Marshall||WR||6'2, 201||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8642||13||7||72||53.8%||2.8%||5.5||30.8%||30.8%||1.58|
|Dan Monteroso||WR||6'3, 192||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8233||5||2||64||40.0%||1.1%||12.8||60.0%||40.0%||3.31|
|Jarrett Burgess||WR||6'2, 216||So.||NR||NR||4||0||0||0.0%||0.9%||0.0||50.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Brycen Hopkins||TE||6'5, 251||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8029|
|Terrance Landers||WR||6'4, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8321|
|Jack Wegher||WR||5'9, 195||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8286|
4. Wanted: possession receivers
That Purdue's offensive ratings improved at all in 2015 (from 92nd in Off. S&P+ to 84th) was impressive considering the youth in the backfield. But any further improvement is going to require reliability in the receiving corps.
A West Coast offense is reliant, in part, on stretching the field horizontally and using the pass as an extension of the run game. It can work reasonably well if a quarterback has some reliable, efficient targets. It can work beautifully if those targets can occasionally take shorter passes, break a tackle, and create big gains.
Since "working reasonably well" would represent an upgrade for this offense, we'll set the bar there. Blough needs some efficient options, and while Jones is decent out of the backfield, only two players managed a 50 percent success rate on their targets: tight ends Cole Herdman and Jordan Jurasevich. Jurasevich is gone, but Herdman and senior Cameron Posey (the only wideout with a success rate better than a paltry 44 percent) could be the keys to success.
Another efficiency name to watch: Richie Worship, a Mike Alstott-shaped redshirt freshman with just enough versatility to potentially spend time as a tailback, fullback, and/or H-back.
If Herdman, Posey, Jones, Worship, and possibly other options like Domonique Young or Gregory Phillips are reliably keeping Purdue ahead of the chains (and Jones is able to maintain his September form beyond September), then Purdue has the makings of an efficient offense. And if the efficiency is there, then the all-or-nothing tendencies of a player like DeAngelo Yancey (14.6 yards per catch, 37 percent success rate) can come in handy in play-action.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Jordan Roos||RG||6'4, 301||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8650||12||30|
|Jason King||LG||6'4, 310||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8327||12||29|
|Cameron Cermin||RT||6'5, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8328||12||18|
|Martesse Patterson||LT||6'3, 340||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8386||2||2|
|Kirk Barron||C||6'2, 310||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8292||0||0|
|Bearooz Yacoobi||RT||6'5, 297||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8007||0||0|
|Matt McCann||OL||6'6, 321||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8563|
|Michael Mendez||LG||6'4, 302||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7652|
|Jalen Neal||OT||6'8, 315||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7826|
|Grant Hermanns||OT||6'7, 260||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8065|
|Tanner Hawthorne||OT||6'6, 275||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7891|
5. Depth is a concern up front
Purdue's line stats were better than that of the offense as a whole. The Boiler front did a nice job of making sure Jones and Knox were at least able to get past the line before absorbing contact, and their short-yardage blocking was deecnt. Two starters are gone, but a starting five of seniors Jordan Roos, Jason King, and Cameron Cermin and sophomores Martesse Patterson and Kirk Barron could potentially hold its own this year. The five average 6'4, 314, and have combined for 79 career starts.
The rest of the two-deep, however, will be filled almost primarily with newcomers -- freshmen, redshirt freshmen, or JUCO transfer Jalen Neal (only a couple of which were even three-star recruits). Any injury to the projected starting five could portend disaster.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||44.8%||100||Succ. Rt. +||95.1||87|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||29.2||85||Off. FP+||30.8||44|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.2||49||Redzone S&P+||96.1||83|
|Q1 Rk||119||1st Down Rk||113|
|Q2 Rk||77||2nd Down Rk||118|
|Q3 Rk||108||3rd Down Rk||101|
6. A Ross Els defense
A year ago, Ross Els was preparing for his first season as an assistant coach at Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest high school. He had just spent four seasons as linebackers coach at Nebraska after holding the same role for four seasons at Ohio (under former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich). Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska.
During Els' time at NU, he served under Bo Pelini, whose defenses tended to craft an aggressive identity around whatever they were actually good at. When Pelini had Ndamukong Suh, he crafted basically a dime defense, allowing the line to generate havoc by itself and over-manning the rest of the D. When he had a phenomenal secondary, he left it to do its thing while trying to get creative with the pressure up front.
Adaptability is a great trait to have, and it's great to be able to play to your strengths. But it requires actually having strengths. In the primary opponent-adjusted categories above, Purdue ranked better than 72nd in only two of them: FP+ (the field position generated for the offense, in which special teams plays a significant role -- namely, kick returner Frankie Williams) and Passing Downs Success Rate+. The Boilermakers were abysmal against the run and only slightly less bad against the pass. They closed drives well with a nice passing downs pass rush, but that strength was negated by the inability to create passing downs.
That said, there's a decent amount of havoc potential up front. If a line led by Jake Replogle and Gelen Robinson is able to make some plays up front, Els will probably be able to take advantage of it in the way he deploys the back seven.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jake Replogle||DT||6'5, 294||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8209||12||47.0||6.9%||14.0||2.0||0||2||0||0|
|Gelen Robinson||RUSH||6'1, 265||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8599||10||24.5||3.6%||9.0||1.5||0||0||1||0|
|Evan Panfil||DE||6'5, 268||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8216||12||22.5||3.3%||6.5||4.0||0||0||1||0|
|Antoine Miles||RUSH||6'3, 248||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8389||12||20.5||3.0%||6.0||4.0||0||0||2||0|
|Shayne Henley||DE||6'3, 250||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7844||12||8.0||1.2%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Eddy Wilson||NG||6'4, 306||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8225||9||7.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Michael Rouse III||DE||5||6.5||1.0%||3.5||1.0||0||0||1||0|
|Will Colmery||DT||6'5, 278||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8200|
|Keiwan Jones||DT||6'2, 282||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8006|
|Fred Brown||DT||6'1, 290||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793|
|Austin Larkin||RUSH||6'3, 252||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8406|
|Rob Simmons||DE||6'6, 215||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8294|
7. The line could be a relative strength
Five of the linemen above were listed in last year's preview: Jake Replogle, Gelen Robinson, Evan Panfil, Antoine Miles, and Will Colmery (who is out indefinitely with a tumor). All five are listed between 12 and 19 pounds heavier than they were last year. Replogle is actually the size of a typical tackle at 294 now, and ends Panfil, Robinson, Miles, and Shayne Henley now average 258 pounds.
Purdue's line isn't necessarily bigger than normal now, but it's at least normal. That can't hurt when it comes to being less of a pushover up front. Purdue ranked 113th in Rushing S&P+ and 110th in power success rate allowed. That's not going to work out very well for you in the Big Ten (or any other conference).
The key to improvement, however, might be whether this increased size has taken away from collective quickness. Purdue's only defensive asset last year was speed up front -- the Boilers were 49th in Adj. Sack Rate and 46th in stuff rate. Replogle and Robinson combined for 19.5 non-sack tackles for loss, and Panfil and Miles combined for a decent eight sacks. If they maintain solid production while getting bowled over a bit less, then an experienced linebacking corps with up to four interesting pieces could thrive, and this becomes a pretty solid front.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Danny Ezechukwu||WILL||6'2, 251||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8170||12||59.5||8.8%||2.0||1.0||1||2||1||1|
|Andy James Garcia||SAM||6'0, 231||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8165||12||48.5||7.1%||4.0||1.0||0||3||0||0|
|Ja'Whaun Bentley||MIKE||6'2, 250||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8478||5||37.5||5.5%||7.5||0.0||0||2||0||0|
|Jimmy Herman||MIKE||6'4, 230||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8335||8||31.0||4.6%||6.0||0.5||0||0||1||0|
|Garrett Hudson||MIKE||6'3, 240||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8147||11||23.5||3.5%||3.0||0.5||0||0||0||1|
|Markus Bailey||SAM||6'1, 230||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8460||3||8.5||1.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Evan Pulliam||WILL||6'2, 225||Sr.||NR||NR||11||4.0||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Dezwan Polk-Campbell||LB||6'3, 220||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7957||5||3.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Wyatt Cook||LB||6'2, 240||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8499|
|Sawyer Dawson||LB||6'1, 233||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8442|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Leroy Clark||SS||5'10, 197||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8431||12||71.0||10.5%||1||0||2||9||0||0|
|Robert Gregory||FS||6'1, 231||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8880||12||40.0||5.9%||0||0||1||0||0||1|
|Brandon Roberts||FS||5'11, 198||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8205||11||31.0||4.6%||1||0||1||0||0||0|
|Da'Wan Hunte||CB||5'9, 188||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8131||12||14.0||2.1%||2.5||2||0||0||1||0|
|Tim Cason||SS||5'11, 195||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8488||6||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Myles Norwood||CB||6'0, 174||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8337||10||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Austin Logan||NB||6'0, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8429|
|Evyn Cooper||CB||6'2, 195||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8398|
|Mike Little||CB||6'0, 175||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8382|
|Andy Chelf||NB||6'0, 190||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8011|
|Kamal Hardy||CB||6'0, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8389|
|CJ Parker||S||6'2, 205||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7859|
|Brandon Shuman||CB||5'11, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8315|
|Navon Mosley||S||6'0, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8315|
|Josh Hayes||CB||6'0, 184||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8264|
|Simeon Smiley||CB||6'0, 195||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8184|
8. Got enough DBs?
If Purdue is able to create some havoc up front, the onus of improvement switches from the front of the defense to the back. That could be problematic. The pass defense was decent early in the year before completely falling apart late, and now two of three disruptive defensive backs are gone. Safety Leroy Clark is solid, and corner Da'Wan Hunte was pretty good near the line of scrimmage. But departed Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams combined for 20 passes defensed; all returnees combined for 13, 11 from Clark.
Hazell brought in two JUCOs and four true freshmen to try to flesh out the two-deep a bit, but the fact that Hunte is the only CB who made more than two tackles last year is an obvious concern.
|Joe Schopper||6'0, 193||So.||58||40.2||2||19||18||63.8%|
|Special Teams S&P+||123|
|Field Goal Efficiency||127|
|Punt Return Success Rate||118|
|Kick Return Success Rate||41|
|Punt Success Rate||96|
|Kickoff Success Rate||99|
9. A total special teams reset (and that's okay)
Frankie Williams was a steady, if not particularly explosive kick return.
There. I just listed Purdue's special teams strengths in 2015. Part of winning with a TresselBall approach is doing the little things well and mastering the art of field position. Purdue didn't even come close to doing that, grading out 123rd in Special Teams S&P+.
Joe Schopper could have been worse as a freshman punter last year, and maybe he turns into a decent weapon. Regardless, he's the only contributor returning. That might not be a bad thing.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|Projected wins: 4.5|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-15.4% (91)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||71 / 67|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-5 / -6.2|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+0.5|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||66% (68%, 65%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||3.4 (-1.4)|
10. Beat Cincinnati
A quick glance at the win probabilities above quickly bring two things to light:
- There aren't many likely wins on this year's schedule.
- The most likely wins come early.
Purdue has a 39 percent chance or better of winning in four games: the first three, and the late-season visit from Northwestern.
Any hope for a fourth-year surprise from Hazell and company will require fantastic play in September. Win as you're supposed to against EKU (not a guaranteed out) and Nevada and win a tossup game against Cincinnati, and you're 3-0 and at least fending off hot-seat demons for a little while. Maybe confidence blooms from there, leading to an upset of Maryland or Illinois or Iowa, and maybe you're still holding onto bowl hopes into November. The scenario isn't completely off the table, at least.
With the way Purdue has played in September these last couple of years, 3-0 definitely isn't out of the question. It's just that decent Septembers have been submarined by a total lack of depth, leading to poor Octobers and Novembers.
The offense is more experienced this time around, and the defensive line could be a legitimate strength. But Purdue is starting from far back of most of the rest of the conference, and improvement is probably only going to do so much good.