Saturday night marks the end of the non-rivalry (as Domers have told us) between Purdue and Notre Dame football. I mean, sure, the two programs have played 69 consecutive years, but who really thinks that counts as a rivalry game? The Boilermakers are 25-55-2 against the Irish all time, so one might argue it’s good to have them off the schedule. But having such a nemesis on the docket every year means there’s always that opportunity to make even a bad season tolerable.
The last time Purdue and Notre Dame laced ‘em up on a neutral field was 30 years ago, almost to the day. It was in celebration of opening the now gone Hoosier Dome and Jim Everett led the Boilermakers to an unexpected 23-21 victory, just a year after being shellacked 52-6 (the most points ever given up by Purdue against the Golden Domers).
The series pauses after this year, reportedly to resume in 2020. Notre Dame has sort of half gotten into bed with the ACC, as you know. They’re kind of dating, they’ve hooked up a bit, ACC has bought ND some nice jewelry, but ND just doesn’t want to commit long term. They’re just, you know, figuring out who they are right now and probably aren’t in the best position to be in a serious relationship right now. Oh, sure, they’ll be happy to come by for basketball and other, less important sports, but football – the most sacred of places at Notre Dame – well, you don’t get to just touch that and plant your flag, so to speak, after a few cosmos.
Where was I?
Ah yes, the series. Reports claim that this series will resume in 2020, but you’d be excused if you’re skeptical of that. After all, Purdue and ND had handshake agreements for games between now and 2020 previously – Purdue even reflected those games on “future schedules” until a year or so ago – and that was easily erased by Jim Swarbrick as Morgan Burke stood idly by smiling. Nice work, as always, Morgan! My point? Don’t expect this series to resume for sure in 2020, so soak it in.
Look, we realize that Purdue gets more out of this relationship than ND does. Purdue has a shot at upending a school that well, all good and decent people in the world want to see upended. And that has its very own TV network that winds up putting Purdue on national television – often in prime time – even when the Boilers are awful.
Which brings us to the current state of things. What say the boys about this year’s “Shamrock Series” game, where ND gets 90% of the tickets and both teams will be wearing uniforms that look nothing like their traditional looks? Glad you asked.
I understand that there is a Notre Dame game being played this weekend in Indianapolis. This is easy for me to tell, living in the area, because there are billboards strategically placed around the city reminding us that Notre Dame is playing this weekend, and that we should go see Notre Dame, who happens to be playing in Indy. Who doesn't want to see Notre Dame? I mean, Notre Dame, after all. Also, Notre Dame.
It's bad enough that at one point, I actually forgot this was the Purdue-Notre Dame game. For one thing, no billboard actually mentions Purdue. For another ... well, you saw the first two games. There's probably a reason why it doesn't read Purdue-Notre Dame.
Brian Kelly's tenure in South Bend is likely winding down - for off-field reasons more than on-field ones - but that won't make much difference. As much as we'd like to think of this as a rivalry, it's really not been. The Irish have dominated Purdue for nearly my entire lifetime: the Boilers have just 6 wins in 30 years against ND (counting Saturday's loss), and they haven't recorded back-to-back wins against Notre Dame teams with winning records since I was born. (Well, shortly after: from 1967-69, Purdue planted the Irish three straight seasons, and beat them in '65 as well. The loss in '66 was understandable, given the quality of that Notre Dame team.)
I'd like to say that this will be similar to the last game in Indianapolis, when the Boilers edged a 7-5 Irish team 23-21 on their way to a Peach Bowl win, but I think we all know that Jim Everett is not walking through that door any time soon. (Not that it would matter if he were. In a footrace between a 51-year-old and Sheldon Day, my money is not on my contemporary.) And if you caught last week's Michigan-Notre Dame game, you saw an Irish team that played Michigan pretty even ... except on the scoreboard. Now, there are plenty of problems in Ann Arbor, but then, that kind of sounds familiar, doesn't it? And unfortunately, Michigan made short work of the "I-A" team they played in their opener. (Appalachian State actually moved up in class, for some reason. I would have thought dominating I-AA would be a better place than getting kicked around I-A.)
Football isn't transitive, so it's not like we should expect some kind of 76-0 blowout or anything like that, but at least for now, Notre Dame seems capable of putting away mid-range or lower teams pretty easily, and at this point, I think we'd all gladly take "mid-range" if it were a possibility for the 2014 Boilers. Unfortunately, the more likely possibility is "worst power-conference team," the kind of team that the new Everett Golson will carve up.
The one bit of good news for Purdue is that the return game still looks pretty decent. Purdue's punt return team is 13th in I-A, at 22 yards per return, and the kickoff return team is tied for 50th, at 22.5 yards per return. The latter group is the one more likely to get a workout in the Luke.
Purdue is unbeaten against Notre Dame on September 13 (28-17 in 1997). That'll change Saturday.
Repeat of 9/24/1988:
Purdue 7 Notre Dame 52
Da Railroad Tie:
Wouldn't it be great to turn on the TV Saturday morning and think to yourself: "I wonder if Purdue will pull out the win today? They certainly have a chance!" Sadly, optimism is often out-paced by reality, and Saturday you should prepare yourself for the most brutal of realities.
Notre Dame is a good team this year; not on the level of an Oregon, Alabama, or Florida State mind you, but probably in that next level. That should be more than enough to put away the Boilers this weekend, especially if the Boilermakers help them along their way, like they did against Central Michigan with a lost fumble and two interceptions. ND's front seven on defense is scary good, and although Purdue's offensive line looked competent against Western Michigan, I'm not sure that's a fair comparison. I'm guessing we'll see some conservative packages focused on not making mistakes (runs up the gut, short passes to the TEs, etc...), which will invariably lead to a lot of "3 and out"s. I'm also guessing that Danny Etling starts (as of the time I'm writing this, no decision has been announced), and I'll round out my three guesses by stating that we'll have a new QB in the second half.
I hate to sound pessimistic, but this team has lost all benefit of the doubt. Of course the season isn't over, and I'll stubbornly clutch onto my prediction of four wins this season until reality manages to pry it from my fingers, but this weekend is not the time when things will get back on track.
When the new coaching staff took over, there were rumors that they were surprised at the dearth of talent and depth on the team. That definitely showed last year. This year, I'm not sure I see that same problem. To be honest, there are two or three guys on either side of the ball who start or who play significant minutes that probably wouldn't at any other Big 10 school, and when those guys are relied upon too heavily, it really hurts Purdue in a big way. But I'm also seeing a lot of talented young guys who are still trying to put it all together, and who are making critical mistakes as they learn. I'm not sure what the solution is other than time; time for the underclassmen to develop, and time for recruiting to pick up.
Regardless, the immediate problem is Notre Dame. Purdue typically plays ND tough, but the Irish seem acutely aware of that fact this week, so I don't think Purdue will be able to catch them off guard. I think Notre Dame jumps all over Purdue to start, then cruises to an easy victory.
Notre Dame 45 Purdue 10
Aneesh the Swamy:
As I’m sure you’ve heard, the spread for Saturday night’s game in Indy (sadly a ND stronghold) is 28.5 points. Purdue’s play last week was so uninspiring that I have to think about whether we’ll be able to cover. The answer: yeaaaaah no. Sorry.
This week will be the last game of the Purdue/ND series until it resumes in 2020. The series is the fourth longest non-conference matchup in the country (h/t: The Sports Bank), tied with USC/ND and UNM/NMST, and behind ND/Navy, Army/Navy, & Cincy/Miami (OH). Though that’s a pretty depressing thought for those who love the in-state rivalry, it’s probably good for Purdue’s win/loss results (we have three wins in the last 11 years, sooooo…deuces, ND).
Rather than focus on the x’s and o’s of this week’s matchup (I’ll leave the ND analysis to my handsome comrades), I wanted to bring your attention to the national opinion of Purdue’s current football incarnation. In 2008, Purdue entered the season with legitimate not-Little-Caesar’s-related bowl game aspirations and Curtis Painter as a darkhorse Heisman candidate. That might be truly hilarious in retrospect, but only classified nationally as ‘slightly optimistic’ at the time (see Adam Rittenberg’s ESPN reaction). Since that year’s heartbreaking home loss vs Oregon, the program’s reputation among national outlets has slipped from “forgettable decent Midwestern program” to “complete and utter laughingstock” (otherwise known as “Hoosier” levels of embarrassment). There’s a paragraph in SB Nation’s “The Numerical” series this week arguing for an English Premier League-like college football relegation system, where teams can be promoted/demoted between the Big Ten and MAC. Our 2014 Purdue Boilermakers are used as the main argument in favor of this system…I can’t come up with any counterpoint. And I’m now sad. And you should be too.
In my preseason prediction, I suspected Purdue opened the season like this (1-1 going into ND, hopefully 2-2 after the first four weeks), but the status quo still feels overwhelmingly demoralizing. If Hazell was brought on to inject excitement and, at the very least, watchability into the program, he’s failing miserably.
Now, to the field:
Though I’ll be at odds with certain handsome co-tenants here at BS, I wholeheartedly disagree with this quarterback “controversy” generated by Hazell’s refusal to name a starter deep into the practice week. I’d like this damn program to finally pick one guy and stick with him for, you know, more than 1.5 games. If Appleby showed enough this summer to be the immediate starter, he should have been awarded the job off the bat. He didn’t, Etling looked like the safe option, and Hazell should stick with him until deeper into the non-conference slate. That’s how to groom a young starting quarterback who’s lacking in confidence after a disaster of a 2013 season.
Once Hazell settled on Etling, the plan should have been to place complete (and possibly fake) trust in the incumbent and build from there. The fact that Hazell is already vacillating between Etling and Appleby suggests that our head coach didn’t have a contingency plan coming into the season. This is the first big-picture disagreement I've had with Hazell, and it comes after two wins in 14 games, only one versus an FBS school, and seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.
Offseason headlines only get you so far. Hazell sounds as shaken as our quarterbacks look in a collapsing pocket, and that doesn't bode well for our football program’s “rebuild.” This isn't meant to be a call for Hazell’s job, or any other #hotsportstake…but more as a cathartic sigh after a seemingly infinite stretch of directionless football/basketball seasons. Danny Hope might have led us to this laughingstock status, but after two years on the job Darrell Hazell hasn't done anything to get us out.
Notre Dame 55 Purdue 17
I can’t help feeling it’s going to be a bloodbath for Purdue. If you want to get your hopes up for some reason – like to at least watch a quarter or something – I could remind you that no matter what the generation, who the players are or who the coach is, Purdue teams very frequently get up for this game. Sure, there have been plenty of lopsided scores, but even some historically bad Purdue teams have given the Domers a legitimate scare. Last season comes immediately to mind, as Purdue actually had their best opportunity to beat any FBS school against these Irish. In fact, it was truly a game you could argue they should have had, only to fall in the fourth quarter.
The year before, in 2012, the Boilers had tied the score at 17 with two minutes to go after trailing by 10, only to see a FG in the waning seconds end it. And of course, in ’09, Purdue also came from behind after trailing by 10 to take a 21-17 lead with three minutes to go, only to see Pickles Clausen pull one out of derriere and crush the Boilers’ dreams. (Then again, if those Danny Hope-led teams won those games, he might still be here.)
My point is that Purdue is almost always ready to play against Notre Dame. It’s hard not to be amped for this if you’re a Purdue player or, honestly, even a Purdue fan/alum. Winning isn’t expected, particularly this year, but if it happens, it puts a smile on your face for a long, long time.
But Purdue is going with their white jerseys/pants combo, a surefire losing look (though complimented by the black lid) and the reality is that Purdue is overmatched in this game. Notre Dame is far from a perfect team, but they are beyond solid on both sides of the ball. They are also well-coached and, unfortunately, focused. When a program like Purdue sneaks up on Notre Dame, it can be because the Irish simply aren’t as up for a matchup. I don’t think that’s the case this weekend. For one thing, it’s the Shamrock Series, where perhaps even more attention is on this attention-loving program. For another, Brian Kelly is the kind of coach, I think, who probably reminds his guys every day of this week that a horrible, 1-11 Purdue football team very nearly took his guys down last year. If you get reminded of that every day, you begin to really want to make a point. I suspect Notre Dame will make many points. And it will hurt. And I will be there with Boilerdowd to document it all for you. At least until we get drunk or in a fight or just leave and walk into traffic outside Lucas Oil.
Always remember, they are ND.
Notre Dame 45 Purdue 14
I wish I could tell you that I feel good about this one for some reason...I wish I could say that I feel like in Appleby's first start, he'll channel Jim Everett in his first start and rain hellfire upon the unsuspecting Irish. I don't...
I don't feel good about this one, even a little bit.
While I'm looking forward to the BS Summit as my pal J will return to the Midwest for this contest, the company might be the only positive I take from the evening.
Not only is UND really talented and much deeper than Purdue, Coach Kelly has said it OVER and OVER this week, that he's not underestimating Purdue. Let's be nice- if he's estimating at all, he's probably overestimating our Boilers.
The defense struggled v. WMU and was nary a speed bump against the all-powerful CMU run game. Golson has been laser-like in his accuracy; completing over 66% of his passes this season...and his year away didn't produce any rust or discomfort; he's looked like he's been in complete command of the offense in the first two games.
Four of UND's RBs average over 4 yards/carry...that's not good for Purdue's beleaguered rush defense. Maybe Watson will continue his productivity and get to Golson a few times...that'll be the only way Purdue has a chance to keep this one close.
Williams will be available again, which will help...but the main place they need him to make noise is probably on the punt return game...v. UM, UND didn't have much of a reason to punt at all.
I think this one will hurt; and I'll feel the pain (at least for much of the game) in person while surrounded by a bunch of Irish Catholic lemmings that believe they must root for the UND because of their background and upbringing. Converting them away from the voodoo Catholic rituals that surround Purdue's opponent will not be possible on this Saturday- they'll be in euphoria as Purdue slips, sputters and falls hard on its collective face.
One more thing- Purdue has played UND 85 times...that's a lot. But, in spite of the BS about tradition that UND yells about on their personal megaphone (read as NBC), they've decided this will be the last game between the two schools for a while. I'm OK with it...but will be damned happy about the series being over if Purdue pulls off a miracle.
UND 44 Purdue 6