Purdue-ND Predicto: Ruh-Roh Edition
It's Notre Dame week and it's been a while since the Boiler faithful were this concerned heading into the game. Sure, there have been many times when the Boilers have been the underdog (err, most times, really) but there definitely seems to be a general sense of dread right now, not seen since the Jim Colletto era. Frankly, back then, we never really had hope of winning, so even marginally competing was exciting.
Then the Tiller era taught us to expect to win sometimes, including some truly great moments that give Boilermakers everywhere reason to smile:
Even during Danny Hope's regime, the often dicombobulated Boilers still managed to be "up" for games versus the Irish. Saturday night will make the third straight night home game vs UND -- there hasn't been a day game vs the Irish since 2007, when the Boilers beat that awful Charlie Weis team. That also happens to be the Boilers' last victory over the hated phony Catholics from South Bend.
So what happens this time? Glad you asked...
Purdue vs. Notre Dame, an instate rivalry between two very different schools, one a private institution, the other a Land Grant University. Ask an Irish fan about the Purdue game and surely it’s just another game on their schedule, but ask a Purdue fan, and a whole different response is heard. Beating Notre Dame is something that hasn’t happened very often for the Boilermakers. In fact the current fourth year senior in college has only been around for five Purdue victories against the Fighting Irish, maybe that’s why beating Notre Dame is so special, but there is more than that. There is the constant showing of Notre Dame colors by people who have no connection to the school, there is this arrogance that comes from a lot of the fan base, or it might be the IU Basketball Fan/ Notre Dame Football combo platter fan that tugs my chain when it comes to playing Notre Dame. It’s more than that. There are the heartbreaks of the Danny Hope era still lingering with Purdue fans. The “timeout” in 2009, and last season’s miserable collapse at the end of the game, still hurt to think about when it comes to the Fighting Irish.
Watching Taylor Stublefield run down the field taunting the crowd in South Bend is a play that replays in my mind every time I think of this series. Joe Tiller had a good run against the Irish in terms of staying close. One could argue the Irish were down during those years, but that doesn’t matter to me, there is something about beating Notre Dame.
I know a lot of us are scared of what the Irish could do to Purdue on Saturday after the performance against Indiana State and rightfully so. Purdue could end up getting blown out. Vegas thinks so with the line currently 20 to 21 in favor of the Irish, depending where you look.
If Purdue has a shot in this game they need to come out swinging. The defense needs to play tough, and the offense needs to let everything out of the bag. Offensively Purdue needs to be better on third down, this season the Boilermakers are 8 of 28 on third down. The players need to step up and make the plays on third down if they are going to win this game. Establishing a balanced run game will also create better opportunities down the line.
Defensively the Boilers are losing a key leader in Landon Feichter but will need to fight through that and step up in the secondary. With a veteran like Rees under center for the Irish it will be important to contain he passing game and win the turnover battle.
Now to the guts, on paper, Notre Dame is the clear favorite, but I think Hazell is looking to make a statement against Notre Dame. After two big disappointments so far this season, why not come up big against and in state rival at home. The atmosphere in West Lafayette is going to be ruckus under the lights; I just don’t think the Boilers will have enough to get it done this time, but I think Purdue will be competitive at least.
Purdue 21 Notre Dame 31
(Over under on IU apparel spotted in Ross Ade: 250.)
What a great game to be on national television, under the rare bright lights of Ross-Ade. The surely competitive Boilermakers scoff in the face of the 20.5 point spread. With Drew Brees at quarterback, no game is out of reach. Sadly, there's no Brees and there's not much apparent fight in the 2013 squad.
If I were a betting man I'd bet the house on ND to cover. Purdue will have to play absolutely perfect in order to stand a chance. If anything happens early on then the fragile psyche will lead to a 50 point blowout, and that's actually what I expect to happen.
I hope that they surprise me in a positive way and come out with passion, fire, and drive to compete. I hope that they don't have the traditional turkey and pasta dinner at half time. I hope they don't humiliate themselves on national television. In the end though, I'm hoping against hope. Until I see some sort of desire to win out of this team I can't believe a victory is in the cards.
Notre Dame - 41 Purdue - 6
The first Danny Hope squad to face Notre Dame, a Purdue team that would finish 5-7, lost a close game to the Irish, 24-21. Joe Tiller's 9-3 team in 1997 knocked off Notre Dame in Ross-Ade, 28-17. Both credible performance - in fact, the latter was truly fun to watch - but both came against Notre Dame squads that would finish at or just above .500.
This year's version of the Fig Things is unlikely to finish so poorly. Brian Kelly's sideline tirades produced a perfect regular season in 2012; although the Wolverines have already ensured that ND will not roll into another mock championship game this season, the team that trots onto the field on Saturday is more likely to finish 12-1 than 7-6, as Tiller's opponents did 16 years ago.
They will face a team that seems more likely to be headed to the reverse of that record, if such a thing were possible. As disappointing as a 1-11 season would be, it isn't out of the question for a Purdue team that seems to be in full-on building mode. (Not quite rebuilding mode; it isn't as if Hope built even a Bill Mallory-level program of competence.) The Boilers seem ill equipped to deal with a gambling Notre Dame defense that will look to generate constant pressure. Michigan was able to burn the Irish again and again by going around and over the up-front pressure the front seven generated, but they had plenty of weapons with which to do so. Purdue has Akeem Hunt.
It won't be very difficult for the ND defense to answer two questions: where is Hunt, and does he have the ball yet? Expect Rob Henry to spend a good part of his day fleeing pressure from LBs blasting through holes generated by the mammoth DTs that will be playing on Sunday next season, and expect Cody Webster to take some serious strides toward the Ray Guy Award.
Jim Colletto was the last Purdue coach to face a strong ND team in his first season with the Boilers; the 10-3 Irish pounded Purdue, 45-20. (That game was also in Ross-Ade - the last Purdue coach to play the Irish on the road in his rookie campaign was Leon Burtnett in 1982; that, too, was a loss, 28-14.) The last Purdue team to score fewer than 10 points against ND in such a scenario was the 1973 team under Alex Agase, losing 20-7 in Ross-Ade to Ara Parseghian's eventual national champions. That was a solid performance; I fear this one will not be.
(I've been surprisingly accurate guessing the opponents' score so far this season. Hopefully I'll get this one wrong.)
Notre Dame 14 17 14 6 - 51
Purdue 0 3 0 7 - 10
I already put it out there publicly over a month ago that I felt Purdue was going to beat Notre Dame this year. I felt it in my bones. I told people, including Notre Dame "fans" and actual alums, too. So if you want to criticize me for that, you're well within your rights. How did I get there? By looking at the fact that Purdue -- even under Danny Hope -- was always "up" for UND and OSU, for whatever reason. And by looking at the fact that last year's ill-prepared, mismanaged team should have actually won the game at South Bend. I figured UND had gotten worse in 2013 as compared to 2012 and that Purdue, simply by virtue of having Coach Hazell, had gotten a bit better. It felt like the stars were aligning, given the recent history of Purdue head coaches in their first games against the Irish. And then it was going to be a night game. It all felt right, like it would happen under the lights.
However, I'm entitled to change my opinion and, really, while I've been starry-eyed when looking at Darrell Hazell since he was hired, I've also been a realist around these parts for a while, too. And I know what I've seen. I would stick to my prediction if I had seen glimpses of an offense that moved the ball and had an occasional big play. But we've seen nothing of the sort. There is very little to make me think Purdue can do much against a talented ND team. Sure, ND's defense didn't look strong against Michigan, but Michigan is better than Purdue and Devin Gardner played a very good game, making defenders pay for stacking the line and blitzing. I don't expect Rob Henry to effectively do that.... and I'm fairly sure Brian Kelly has shown the players the tape they need to see. Pressure Henry and good things happen for you.
All that said, I've seen enough of these seemingly mismatched games to know that Purdue somehow often rights the ship enough to compete in these games. It's tough to feel confident even in that make-believe world of "this game is different" since Purdue hasn't won a home game under the lights since I was a wide-eyed freshman in 1994. But hey, what the hel.. I'll say the stops are pulled out, Purdue gets some breaks (which means turnovers and continued excellent special teams play) and the boys come to play, if for nothing else than for pride and not getting steamrolled on national TV.
Notre Dame 27 Purdue 21
The feeling I have leading up to this one is nothing but negative.
In spite of big losses in key positions, Notre Dame is still very good, very well coached and talented at all positions. Atop that, they're licking their wounds from the loss in Ann Arbor last week, so they'll be motivated to get back on track...Purdue will play the role of patsy or cupcake this week; as a guy that will be in the stands, I'm hoping for mercy, but expecting none.
I've seen very bad Purdue v. UND games, but this one is setting up to be one of the worst we've seen in a while. Notre Dame beat Purdue down pretty thoroughly in 2011, but I think this one will be bloodier...I guess it's a good thing that much of the game will be after the kids are in bed as to keep them from being scarred by the carnage.
The last time the Irish acted like a wrecking ball to an all-but-defenseless Purdue team in Ross-Ade, might have been 2005, but I think this one will feel more like 1992...and while it pains me to say this, the 20+ point spread is not enough to take into account how bad this one will be. J asked me if, if Purdue were to win, would it be the biggest upset I remember? I think so..if not, the win over UM as Colletto was heading out of West LaLa would give this game a run.
Purdue looks unable to move the ball v. FCS opponents...and at the same time, Notre Dame's offense is fast and moved the ball pretty easily at times...v. UM.
One way or another, I think we'll see Appleby play on Saturday...sadly, the context won't be what I'd like it to be.
Hopefully everyone stays healthy...but this one's gonna hurt.
Notre Dame 42 Purdue 3