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Know a ’10 Opponent: Purdue

In an effort to educate, preview, and most importantly, make fun of, the upcoming teams which dare play the Cardinals, OTP is proud to present the Know a ’10 Opponent series. Like we always caution, previewing and attempting to quantify the unquantifiable, especially two months away from the season is basically begging for failure, but we’ll fling some poo and see what sticks, shall we? I mean, after all, we predicted like 10 wins for BSU last season and we totally nailed that one, didn’t we? I can’t find the results, so let’s just go with that. So sit back, boys and girls, and know your ’10 opponents.

Purdue University Boilermakers
Let’s take a little trip, Cardinals fans, a trip down memory lane. It was 2008 and it was a lovely year. The Cards started out 3-0 after wins over Northeastern, Navy, and Akron. And then a mighty test loomed. A test that was a road date against a BCS conference team, a classification of team that Ball State had never defeated. But the winds of change were blowing, as well as a metric ton of hot air and bullshit from Bloomington. IU fans were borderline ridiculous the week leading up to the game so it was just desserts when we took their arrogance, disrespect, and hyperbole and collectively crammed it down their cramhole. 42-20. We haven’t forgotten.

This year, BSU will once again take its Cardinal show on the road as we invade Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN on September 18. Will this Ball State team be competitive? Can we hang with the Boilers? Will a miracle upset happen? Would it be an upset if it did? OPT’s thoughts: yes, yes, maybe, and a little. You’re welcome.

Talking to Boiler fans, or even BSU fans, and it seems as if Purdue is lauded as someone who has beaten our drum on more than a few occasions. And they have, to the tune of a 7-0 all-time record against BSU. The closest game was also the most recent, in 2006, with a margin of 10. Pointing to that game as a reason why we’ll be close is just as crazy as pointing to the 59-7 beatdown in 2004 as evidence that we’re due an assstomping. Neither gives any perspective whatsoever to this year’s matchup.

Ironically enough, there are a quite a few similarities between the Indiana game of 2008 and the Purdue game of 2010, besides the obvious conference affiliation. This is a Ball State team who has experienced the rowdiest of the rowdy road crowds last year at Auburn, the same way most of the team of 08 cut their teeth at Michigan and Nebraska. This is a Ball State team that is capable of great things just as they are capable of great mistakes. As we said with Indiana, if BSU shows up to play and Indiana makes mistakes then that was a game the Cardinals could win. The same can ultimately be said for this game. If both teams play to potential then it’s a likely Purdue win, as the talent gap from the MAC to the Big 10 is that severe. However, that’s the great thing about football… any given Saturday and anything can happen. Any fan from BSU expecting us to walk up and stomp a mudhole in some Boiler ass is fooling themselves, just as any Purdue fan who looks at last year’s 2-10 disaster as an indicator of the potential of the 2010 Cardinals and thinks this is anywhere close to the same team. In fact, Purdue should think that. Their fans, their students, their staff, their players, and really anyone associated with the football program. Yes… that’s it. There’s no reason to prepare or worry. Let’s go with that.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?
Purdue is a funny darn team, at least to me. In my head, I remember the Drew Brees and Curtis Painter years, the Kyle Orton years, the “Basketball on Grass” that people seemed to laude. But going back through the record books, it’s like Purdue was always just short of that next brass ring. Good team? Absolutely. Great team? Eh…. not so much. In the 2000s, Purdue has clocked in 6 winning seasons, 1 .500 season, and 3 losing seasons. Highest wins? 9 in 2003. Lowest? 4 in 2008.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Purdue head coach Danny Hope enters his second year as the engineer on the Boiler express. His head coaching background isn’t that extensive as he’s only been the Purdue coach for a season, with a 5-7 record. Before that, he was the head coach at FCS Eastern Kentucky, with a 35-22 record. Hope is a former EKU alum and has spent his entire career hopping around from assistant to assistant position. Of note… he also coached at Louisville twice! Which of course makes us hate him even more. Nothing about Hope says that he will be as successful as former coach Joe Tiller, the first proponent of the spread offense at Purdue, but Hope should be fine to continue the good but not excellent tradition of Boiler football.

Last season, Hope’s premier, the Boilers were a middle of the pack (58th) scoring offense and a bottom third (89th) team in scoring defense. Purdue also was an exceptionally balanced team statistically last year, which will create problems for defenses. The addition of Marve may slant things toward the pass a bit, but expect the Boilers to still be a team capable of smash mouth old school Big 10 ball.

Players and Stats of Note
Perhaps the most interesting character in the Purdue cast for 2010 is QB Robert Marve. The transfer from Miami will take his first snaps as a Boiler QB in the fall, and Marve is one of those players that is just as likely to torch a team into submission as he is to make some critical mistake in a clutch situation. Marve has had his fair share of problems, academically and otherwise, and after a messy transfer now finds himself with a relative fresh start. We can only hope some of those demons rear their ugly head the week of the BSU game.

Qs and As
Whenever possible, we like to ask our fellow blogrificans if they would like to shed some light on their program. Purdue blog Hammer and Rails was kind enough to do so…

OverThePylon: So give us the real deal… most Purdue fans see BSU as the 2-10 failure from last year, right? Have you all forgotten about the 12-2 season already? There was another Indiana school who overlooked the Cardinals and Ball State as some sort of little brother in the football world up until the moment we beat them at home. How worried are the Boilermaker fans that little old BSU is going to give the Boilers a run for the money?
HammerAndRails: I think a player like MiQuale Lewis worries us a bit. We got torched by a strong running Northern Illinois team last season. If anything, that might hurt Ball State’s chances. The Huskies embarrassed us at home and this team will be focused to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, our run defense has been something short of awful for several seasons. If he can dominate and control he clock it will help Ball State’s chances more than anything.

I certainly haven’t forgotten about the 12-2 season. While beating Indiana isn’t that great since they are everyone’s little brother, I was more impressed by recent performances at Nebraska and Michigan. You guys certainly scared the bejesus out of both teams, especially Michigan when you nearly ruined the dream Michigan-Ohio State game of 2006. I would certainly take more pride in either of those games than beating Indiana.

OTP: The newest face for Purdue is QB Robert Marve, the former Miami Hurricane who transferred last year. What are most Boiler fans’ expectations of Marve and the offense under his control? More of the same from years past or a significantly increased presence of the passing game? Are we looking at the next Drew Brees/Curtis Painter here?
HaR
:Marve brings us an interesting element in that he has a stronger arm than Joey Elliott and he is probably the most mobile quarterback since Drew Brees. Since my wife is a Hurricane alum I saw his entire season at Miami and I was unimpressed at the time. He allegedly has settled down a bit and matured off the field since leaving Coral Gables. That’s a good thing because it was a major issue at The U. I saw him play once in person when we flew down for a game against Virginia Tech and he was good, but not great in that game. Granted, that was nearly two years ago, but it was one of his final on the field performances.

I think honestly you’ll see more balance between the run and the pass than before. Ralph Bolden rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season and Al-Terek McBurse is a player that can break out in the running game. Coach Hope seems to want more balance based on last season. Players like Justin Siller and Marve possibly taking snaps at quarterback also make them good runners.

OTP: RB Ralph Bolden started the year on fire, with 357 yards and 4 TDs in his first 2 games. In his final 9 he managed 578 yards and only 5 TDs. That seems a bit streaky to me. What gives? Will he be the straw that stirs the Purdue drink this fall or will it be the Robert Marve show?
HaR: There are major questions about Bolden playing at all because he tore his ACL in spring practice. It was the second time he has torn that ACL in his career, and he didn’t have surgery until May 4th. They have not officially ruled him out for the year, but I would be shocked if he was ready to play little more than four months after surgery. I suppose it is possible though.

Likely Ball State will see a couple of different looks. Al-Terek McBurse was the star of last year’s recruiting class. He was a four-star out of Florida and he got a few carries in the backfield with no significant yardage. He showed what is capable of by taking the second half kickoff back for a touchdown against Indiana. He’ll probably get most of the carries. Keith Carlos shifted from wide receiver to running back when Bolden went down, which was his JuCo position. Dan Dierking, a senior now, will likely get some carries. The wild card is Siller. After missing last season due to an academic suspension, this former quarterback has returned. He torched Michigan in 2008 with his running ability and we currently have him as a wide receiver. He started 2008 as a running back before moving back to quarterback when Elliott and Curtis Painter got hurt. That means we might see him in the Wildcat for a few plays.

OTP: WR Keith Smith strikes me as a big play receiver who is capable of taking over games. We unfortunately had that happen to us last year with BG’s Freddie Barnes. Tell our readers a bit about his style. Streaky speed guy on the outside? Possession guy across the middle? What’s he best at?
HaR: Smith is mostly a possession guy in the slot. He is the biggest slot receiver we have ever had though. I think he is a lot like Dustin Keller, our first round tight end in 2008. Keller was a matchup nightmare that could not be tackled one on one (and indeed had a highlight reel play in the 2006 game with Ball State). Keith is basically a big, strong guy with good hands that runs great routes. We want to get him the ball in space as much as possible because he can break tackles for big plays. That’s not bad for a guy that was originally a quarterback when recruited, then he became a safety. He even flashed that QB prowess a bit last year by throwing a touchdown pass on a trick play at Oregon in the final two minutes. We missed the two-point conversion to tie, but it was a hell of a play.

And yes, that means there is the possibility of us having three former quarterbacks on the field at the same time with Marve, Siller, and Smith. I am dreaming of the fun we can have with that.

OTP: The Boilers come into the BSU game after the season opener against Notre Dame and a week 2 FCS opponent. Am I crazy for thinking the Boilers may be a bit prone to overlook a team that was 2-10 last season and long thought to be the lowest of the low in Indiana college football? Taking that into account, are fans happy with just a win or do they need a very big drubbing of the Cardinals to feel ok about the Boilers going forward?
HaR: I think it depends on how things break in the Notre Dame game. Western Illinois was awful at 1-10 last year, so anything less than a blowout would have us concerned. I think we can take an Irish team that doesn’t have a real identity yet. That should be a very good game and test to see how far we have come.

I do think most fans expect to beat Ball state. I am a little concerned because of the experience that Ball State has returning. That experience can help the Cards improve in a hurry. You also have a pair of 1-AA teams before us, so you should come in at a confident 2-0. From our two MAC games (you and Toledo the following week) I think we have reason to fear Ball State more.

How Worried Are We?

Most Card fans will tell you that the Purdue game would be the 2nd toughest challenge on the schedule this fall as it’s on the road, a BCS opponent, and an in-state rival with talent and ability at key skill positions. Is it a game that’s destined for a blowout? I don’t think so, but remember what I said earlier about any given Saturday? If BSU comes out and plays mistake-free football while creating a few Boiler gaffes, then we may have a very special Saturday. If the reverse becomes reality and BSU miscues and mistakes are the flavor of the day then it’s going to be a very long day in West Lafayette. Hence, Code Red for this particular game, akin to marrying a Swedish supermodel and then cheating on her with everyone that even remotely looks at you or your golf bag. The odds of that going well are about one in 100 million. Dollars. HEY-O!

The Tacks-o-Brass
This is one of those challenging games where the Cardinal colored glasses have the potential to make a comeback. I would love to sit here and proudly proclaim that this is a toss up game, that the Cards will be competitive, that it is our game to lose, but I simply cannot do that in good faith. This game ultimately comes down to the Boilers. Play to potential and it’s a W. Make mistakes and it could easily by an L. Come on mistakes!

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