Thursday, November 30, 2006

Purdue Does Their Part

Purdue did their part in contributing to the Big Ten's effort in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this week downing #25 Virginia 61-59 in Mackey Arena last night. The Boilers were down 57-53 with less than two minutes remaining, but quickly took a two point lead with consecutive 3's from Chris Lutz and David Teague. Virginia then tied the game at 59 on 2 free throws setting the stage for Tarrance Crump's game winner, knocking down an 8 foot runner with less than a second remaining. Here's a great amateur video of the game winner taken from the stands.

''He's our best ball handler, the quickest player we have,'' Painter said. ''He does the best job breaking people down. ... If he goes fast, he causes teams to get in a bind on ball screens. They hedged and he saw a seam and made the shot.''

Last season's struggles seem like a distant memory with Purdue knocking off 3 solid opponents already this season. Purdue beat Oklahoma and DePaul in Maui, and the ranked Cavaliers in Mackey. That's more quality wins right there than they've had the last 3 years combined. Despite Purdue's win, the Big Ten fell to the ACC in the Challenge for the 8th year in a row. 8th year in a row! Overall, the ACC won 8 games to the Big Ten's 3. This trend will be reversed in the years to come with the influx of talent coming into the Big Ten next year. Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State all have top 10 caliber recruiting classes coming in for 2007.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hawaii Recap

Purdue lost a meaningless game last night at Aloha Stadium to the Warriors of Hawaii 42-35. Stats here and pics here. Early on it appeared as though Purdue would get blown off the island after falling behind 17-0 to end the first half. Purdue stormed back in the second half behind stellar play from Curtis Painter and turnovers forced by the defense. Purdue scored a touchdown on each of their first 5 possessions of the second half and took a 35-27 lead. In the end Purdue couldn't hang on as they couldn't stop Colt Brennan and the explosive Hawaii passing offense when it had to.

Purdue paid a heavy price for making the trip losing starting left tackle Mike Otto and starting right tackle Sean Sester to injury. Hopefully they can recover in time for the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 29.

The game looked a lot like a typical Purdue bowl game. Come out flat and get behind big in the first half, catch fire and take the lead in the second half, then run out of gas in the final minutes. The only things missing to make this a bowl game atmosphere were knowledgeable college football fans (sorry island savages) and a quality opponent (sorry Warriors). The above picture tells you all you need to know about how much this differed from a normal college football game.

The way the Hawaiian announcer, who had a lot of trouble with the English language, kept talking about earning respect you'd think they were playing Ohio State. Someone needs to inform the Hawaii faithful that Purdue didn't sniff the top 25 all season. Aloha Stadium is a helluva home field advantage with shirtless island savages banging drums and screaming nonsense, one can only wonder what would happen if they were forced to leave the islands and come to Ross-Ade. All in all, it was a great comeback effort by the Boilers in overcoming the early deficit and hostile environment.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Purdue Hawaii Prediction

Purdue travels to the island of Oahu this weekend to take on the Warriors of Hawaii in Aloha Stadium. Hawaii has put up some gaudy numbers on offense this year behind the performance of their star quarterback Colt Brennan. Brennan has thrown for better than 4,000 yards and 48 touchdowns in thrashing just about every defense in the WAC. Can they inflict the same damage on a defense from the Big Ten, albeit a weak one?

Much has been made of this being an unnecessary road trip for the Boilermakers at the end of a very grueling 13 game season. This will be the 13th game in as many weeks for Purdue, and one that requires 13 hours of travel. Purdue doesn't have much to play for this weekend, as their bowl destination is already known. Purdue has already punched their tickets for the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. Also, there is no financial motive to play this game as Tiller said that the Purdue Athletic Dept could actually end up losing money as a result of this trip.

It's been well documented that Tiller has tried to get this game cancelled on numerous occasions and who can blame him. Who wants to risk injury for a game that doesn't count for much of anything? Perhaps the only thing that Purdue has to play for is a chance at 10 wins, something that no other Tiller coached Purdue team can claim. "We've talked a lot about an opportunity to win a game against a quality opponent on the road," Tiller said, "try to win the ninth game of the year. We've challenged them with that." Hopefully that will be enough motivation for the Boilers.

There are two keys to the game for Purdue. One of them is Anthony Spencer. Spencer leads the nation in tackles for loss and is a disruptor on the defensive side of the ball unlike any Hawaii has seen this year. If Spencer can get to Brennan it will disrupt the timing and rhythm of the Hawaii offense, a key to their success. The second key for Purdue is its rushing offense. Kory Sheets and Jaycen Taylor have hit their stride in recent weeks and make for a great 1-2 punch running the ball. For Purdue to win, the offense needs to play ball control and keep the Hawaii offense on the sideline.

This game won't be nearly as high scoring as most think. Spencer will make a living in the Hawaii backfield bolstering his case for an All-American selection. Like recent weeks, the Purdue offense will do just enough to get the win.

PURDUE 31
HAWAII 27

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Purdue's Bowl Opponent

Which team from the ACC would Purdue prefer to meet in the Champs Sports Bowl? The four likely candidates for an invite are Wake Forest, Boston College, Maryland, and Virginia Tech. Here is how each team including Purdue is ranked by SI.com:

#18 Boston College Eagles
#19 Virginia Tech Hokies
#20 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#26 Maryland Terrapins
#36 Purdue Boilermakers

From these rankings it would appear that Purdue will be an underdog no matter the opponent. My early assessment would be that Wake Forest and Maryland are the most favorable match ups. Let's take a look at each team one by one.

BOSTON COLLEGE
The Eagles are a solid 9-2 so far this season after demolishing Maryland last weekend 38-16. The Eagles are probably the most balanced of the 4 ACC teams with Matt Ryan throwing the ball and Whitworth and Callender running the ball. The Eagles have had some impressive wins this year in defeating Clemson, Virginia Tech, & Maryland. If it weren't for laying an egg versus a horrible North Carolina State team, the Eagles would be positioning themselves for a higher bowl. Boston College is solid on both sides of the ball, but are somewhat schizophrenic losing to North Carolina State one week and beating Clemson the next. Boston College would be a tough match up for Purdue, but one that is definitely winnable. Eagles by 3.

VIRGINIA TECH
The Hokies were left for dead after getting waxed 22-3 by Boston College earlier this season. Since then they have come on strong and are currently on a 5 game win streak. They have beaten Clemson, Miami, and Wake Forest during that streak. The Hokies are led by their star tailback Brandon Ore, who would be a handful for the Boilermaker defense and has already ran for more than 1,000 yards this season. The Hokies passing game is rather anemic this season with Sean Glennon completing less than 55% of his passes. The Hokie D is well-known for their "lunch-pail" approach to the game and has played well this season, most notably shutting down Clemson's CJ Spiller and James Davis in a Thursday night prime time beat down of the Tigers. If the Boilers and Hokies met in Orlando, it would play out very similarly to Purdue's loss to Penn State earlier this season. Virginia Tech is very similar to the Nittany Lions and would present the same challenges that Purdue faced at Ross-Ade earlier this season. Hokies by 17.

WAKE FOREST
Jim Grobe has done an amazing job with the Deacons this season. Taking a perennial doormat to the doorstep of the ACC Championship is nothing short of amazing. What makes it even more amazing is the fact that they lost their starting QB and RB at the beginning of the season. The way the Demon Deacons demolished the Seminoles at Doak-Campbell Stadium 30-0 was a huge statement. The difficulty of Wake's schedule has been rather light, but still managed big wins at Florida State and against Boston College. Wake Forest has gotten to 9-2 this season without doing anything spectacular on offense and without any bondafide superstars. Despite their impressive record, Wake Forest presents the most favorable match up for Purdue and would have a hard time slowing down the Boilermaker offense. Purdue beat a ranked Wake Forest team in 2003 and would do the same in the Champs Sports Bowl. Boilers win by 14.

MARYLAND
The Terps are back in the postseason after consecutive 5-6 seasons. It wasn't long ago that Maryland put together three straight 10 win seasons, and they hope to reach that plateau again this season. Maryland is led by their senior Quarterback Sam Hollenbach who has had a solid senior season under the tutelage of head coach Ralph Friedgen. Darrius Heyward-Bey is their impact player on offense, but hasn't crossed the 600 yard mark in receiving yards. Maryland is very similar to Wake Forest in that they have put together a lot of wins this season without doing anything spectacular. Maryland isn't particularly stout on D giving up almost 400 yards a game and should have trouble stopping Curtis Painter & Co. This is another favorable match up for Purdue and one that could go either way. Boilers win by 10.

Purdue Headed To Orlando

It was announced yesterday that Purdue will play in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Florida on December 29th. The game will be played in the Citrus Bowl, the same venue where Purdue lost to Georgia 34-27 in the 2004 Capital One Bowl.
Purdue will face a yet-to-be-determined team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The four most likely opponents are Wake Forest, Boston College, Maryland and Virginia Tech. All 4 teams stand at 5-2 in the ACC.

"Purdue has a chance to be a nine-win team and boasts one of the most exciting offenses in all of college football," Florida Citrus Sports executive director Steve Hogan said in a release. "The Boilermakers have one of the more passionate fan bases and will follow their team to Orlando to see what should be a top bowl match up against a very good ACC opponent."

Kickoff for the Champs Sports Bowl is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EST at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, and the game will be televised by ESPN.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Champs Sports or Alamo?

With Purdue's win over Indiana on Saturday, the bowl picture is starting to take shape. Thankfully for many Purdue fans, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas no longer has a tie-in to the Big Ten. Here are the following non-BCS bowls with ties to the Big Ten listed in order of selection.

Capital One -- Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2
Outback -- Big Ten #3 vs. SEC #3
Champs Sports -- Big Ten #4 vs. ACC #4
Alamo -- Big Ten #5 vs. Big 12 #4
Insight -- Big Ten #6 vs. Big 12 #6
Motor City -- Big Ten #7 vs. MAC

There was a scenario many thought possible where a Michigan Ohio State rematch in the BCS Championship game would allow Wisconsin to go to the Rose Bowl. However, BCS rules state that no more than two teams from a conference can play in BCS bowl games. So if Michigan and Ohio State play in the BCS Championship game, no other Big Ten team could play in another BCS game including the Rose Bowl.

At this point it seems as though Purdue's likely destination is either the Alamo Bowl or Champs Sports Bowl. The Alamo Bowl is played closer to January 1st and has a higher payout, but the Champs Sports Bowl actually selects their team first. Penn State is likely headed to the Outback Bowl, a place where Purdue would most likely get waxed by a better SEC team. It's probably a good thing that the Boilers aren't headed there this year. They aren't ready to compete with the likes of an Arkansas, Tennessee, or LSU. Before this weekend, it looked like Iowa was Purdue's main competition to get a bid to the next best bowl in the lineup. Minnesota did Purdue a favor and knocked off the Hawkeyes, sending them to the land of 6-6. Its hard to imagine the Champs Sports Bowl people selecting a 6-6 team over an 8-4 team, yet they did select Champs Sports as their corporate sponsor so anything is possible. Purdue's likely opponent in Orlando is Wake Forest. I like that match up much better.

Boilers Dispose of Hoosiers

In a wacky, sloppy game filled with fumbles and interceptions galore, the Boilers outlasted the Indiana Hoosiers 28-19. Game stats here and pics here. At one point in the second quarter the two rivals turned the ball over 5 times on 7 plays -- two of them coming on the same play. That play was a wild sequence of events that started with Jaycen Taylor running the ball 30 yards into IU territory only to fumble the ball. It was then scooped up by IU's Tracy Porter and it looked as though IU would score as he raced towards the endzone, but Jake Standeford caught him and punched the ball through the back of the endzone. Purdue gets the ball back at their 20, 1st and 10. That is the kind of game it was. It seemed at times that no one wanted to win. "From a turnover point of view," Tiller said, "it was down to the last man standing."

The score was 7-3 Boilers at the half after all those turnovers. In the second half, both offenses came to life a little bit. Painter finished the day 18-of-32 for 260 yards with a touchdown, along with 4 interceptions. Two of those interceptions were tipped off of his receivers hands, and a third occurred when Selwyn Lymon didn't come back to the ball. In short, the Purdue offense had trouble getting in rhythm at times but scored when it had to. Most notably when Indiana scored to close the gap to 21-19. Taking over at its own 14, Purdue marched 76 yards on nine plays, capped by Dorien Bryant's 15-yard touchdown run on a reverse.

I think Coach Tiller said it best. "I don't think we played our best football in winning the football game," Tiller said.

Indiana was playing for bowl eligibility and came up one win short. They finish the season 5-7 and will be home for the holidays for the 13th straight year. Purdue finishes the Big Ten season at 8-4 (5-3) and tied for 4th with Penn State. Purdue has one game remaining on its schedule as the Boilers must travel to Hawaii to take on the Rainbow Warriors, a game that has little effect on Purdue's bowl prospects. Tiller has said that he expects to know his team's bowl destination before they leave for Hawaii this week. It looks as though the Boilers are headed to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando or the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Game of the Century Prediction

"The Game" is considered by many to be the biggest rivalry game in all of college football, or even in college sports in general. It is one of the most anticipated match ups every season, but this year it has reached a whole new level. Both teams enter Saturday's contest undefeated and looking for a berth in the BCS Championship game. Ohio State is the favorite playing at home in the Horseshoe. Michigan is the talented underdog with an amazing defense.

Legendary ex-Michigan coach Bo Schembechler passed away this week giving Michigan something else to play for. Some would say it will give Michigan added motivation and they will come out that much hungrier for a win. It reminds me of 2000, when an inspired Penn State team playing for paralyzed teammate Adam Telifaro ruined Purdue's bid for an outright Big Ten title. If Michigan needs help getting motivated for this game they are in serious trouble. This game is huge and both teams know it.

Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Mario Manningham are some of the most talented players in the Big Ten and the nation. Troy Smith, Antonio Pittman, and Anthony Gonzalez have the intangibles and play on another level. It's those same intangibles that led the Buckeyes to that comeback victory last season in the Big House. Ohio State is 7 points better than Michigan, throw in 3 points for home field and Ohio State wins by 10.

OHIO STATE 24

MICHIGAN 14

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bucket Game Prediction

The Purdue Boilermakers and the Indiana Hoosiers play this Saturday for the Old Oaken Bucket. It is the 82nd meeting between these two in-state rivals. The Boilers hold a 66-35-6 advantage in the series, that is a lot more P's than I's. Under Coach Tiller, Purdue has only lost once to Indiana in 9 seasons. That loss came in 2001 when Purdue lost 13-10 in Bloomington under monsoon-like conditions.

Indiana is a much improved team, having won 3 Big Ten contests this year. When they upset Iowa earlier this season, it was hailed as a "toppling of a Big Ten behemoth" by the Indy Star. IU received much national attention as an upstart program from talking heads such as Lou Holtz & Mark May. Terry Hoeppner even called his program a "shooting rocket" in a post-game interview. A couple weeks later, IU comes back down to earth after a blowout loss to the high-powered passing offense of Minnesota. Its also now very apparent that Iowa was a tad overrated this year. Even though the Big Ten teams Indiana has beaten this year are at the bottom of the conference standings, the fact that they've beaten anyone is a big step forward for Terry Hoeppner and their program.

I would give the Hoosiers a chance in this game if it were played at Memorial Stadium, but it is not. The game is at Ross-Ade stadium and the Boilers are two touchdown favorites. If Indiana gets burned by the passing offense of Minnesota, just imagine what Curtis Painter and his receiving corps are capable of. I predict a Bucket Beatdown just as Kyle Orton gave the Hoosiers in 2004. Curtis Painter and the Boilermaker offense is too much for the IU secondary.

PURDUE 47
INDIANA 10

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Boilers Return to Bowl

Purdue proved Vegas wrong (2 point dogs to Illini) for the second week in a row, defeating Illinois 42-31. The Boilers continue to improve on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. During one sequence in the game, the Purdue D forced Illinois into 3 turnovers on 4 defense snaps. Dorien Bryant led the offense with 9 catches for 120 yards and two scores.

Purdue now sits at 7-4 overall (4-3 Big Ten), after two straight road victories. They've beaten the teams they're supposed to beat, and lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to. With the amount of youth on this team, I would take a 8-4 record in a heartbeat.

If Purdue can manage to get past the lowly Hoosiers this weekend, that would put them at 4th in the league and most likely give them a berth into the Alamo Bowl. I would say that's a helluva step forward for this program after last season's debacle.