The Boys Are Back In Town -- The EKU Predicto
When you write a sports site about a team that makes people’s heads hurt, sometimes coming up with content that people won’t be terrified to read feels daunting.
So as you’ve no doubt noticed here at BS, we’re simply going with the snark-approach where we’ll do our best to provide salient opinion, but the most entertaining part of the site over the next few months may be watching us slowly go insane. Last year, by the end, Aneesh was simply sending in his favorite movie quotes and Dave was writing poetry in the Predicto space.
Try to enjoy football season – even if your team makes you lose your decorum sometimes:
The truth is, of course, if you read BS it’s because you simply can’t quit being a Boilermaker. We’re there with you and we’ll do our best to guide you through this season.
Pictured above and here are the Purdue Turf team. You can follow them on Twitter and you should – these guys work hard, love what they do and I just am fascinated by this kind of stuff. What it does, though, is remind me of what a lazy sack o’ crap I was in college. I see all these activities that I wish I had either A) known about or B) been less lazy and participated in. For example, I drove Go-Karts regularly starting from the age of about 13, including around dirt tracks. Why didn’t I come to a Cary Quad Kart Club callout? Because I probably wanted to eat chicken fingers in the cafeteria and then play video games. I’m a moron.
Speaking of morons, the BS crew is back to do the Predicto. Let’s get to it and see how they think the boys in black and gold will fare against the fighting Danny Hopes of Eastern Kentucky.
The best argument for attending a Purdue football game - well, second-best, behind supporting the players, coaches and staff who do their best every game - is that you're almost certain to witness history this season. The Darrell Hazell era has already produced the fewest wins in a three-season span since 1940-42 (although Elmer Burnham gets credit for going 9-0-0 with the 1943 squad, the last unbeaten team in Purdue history; naturally the Big Nine did not send its conference champ anywhere); if you prefer avoiding wartime seasons, then it's the worst stretch since 1921-23, the last of a five-year span where the Boilers never won more than 2 games in a season.
Or you can look at it the other way. Prior to Hazell's arrival, there were exactly 2 seasons in Purdue history where the Boilers lost 9 or more games: 1990 (2-9 under Akers) and 1993 (1-10 under Colletto). Hazell has 3 already, and is all but certain to add a fourth. With 10 losses, Hazell would move into fourth place on the all-time Purdue losses list, behind Tiller (62), Colletto and Stu Holcomb (42 each).
Amazingly, the Boilers haven't gone winless since 1907, and there's really not much of a chance that will happen this season, despite the dire outlook - credit goes to former AD Morgan Burke for helping to plan a pillowy non-conference schedule that surely has a win in it somewhere. My friends over at Football Outsiders show that the Good Guys have less than a 1% chance to go 0-12 this season.
HOWEVA. If you look at their 2016 Almanac, it's pretty clear who the worst team in the conference is. They give better-than-even odds that Purdue will win fewer than 2 games in Big Tenteen play (don't worry, an 0-9 wouldn't be the first in conference history; Minnesota and Indiana each put one up in the early '80s, when the Big Ten tried a round-robin schedule for the first time since adding MSU). Rutgers and Illinois have slightly better chances to get to 2-7, which is certainly damning with faint praise, but better 2 than 1 or 0, right? And with the Illinois game in Champaign, and Rutgers not on the schedule, 0-9 doesn't seem like such a crazy thought.
My fellow Purdue grad who goes to volleyball matches with me asked me what record I predicted for 2016. I looked at the schedule and said 2-10, then I looked at each individual game to pick the two wins, and I chose Eastern Kentucky and ... uh ... well. While we have Charlie Weis to thank for the fact that the Boilers are nowhere close to being the worst power-conference program in the country, where they are is in a spot where no game is an easy win, not even against a I-AA team coming off a 6-5 season.
The Boilers will start slowly, unsurprisingly so given the offseason changes and the nature of a season opener. The Colonels will keep it close for 2-3 quarters, but Purdue's defense will eventually provide enough help for a shaky offense that the Boilers put the game away, winning 41-14. The post-victory excitement will be shortlived, as the Good Guys will be celebrating only one more time this season en route to a 2-10 record, and no, the second win won't be at Indiana. Purdue hasn't lost four straight to IU since 1944-47, and if you want to exclude WWII, well, it's never happened. (They had an 0-4-2 sequence spanning WWI, but the losses weren't consecutive, and also WWI.) So, history. woo.
One more note. Attendance was actually up last season; the reported average was 37,508, up over 2000 from 2014's 35,269. Those are the two lowest averages since 1953, which was basically the beginning of actual attendance tracking. (Prior to that, Purdue simply reported attendance to the nearest thousand.) Expect that number to drop again; if Mike Bobinski can turn that around, it'll be praise that's richly deserved.
Aneesh the Swamy:
(Before we start, everyone should listen to EDSBS' preview of Purdue football, which starts 15 minutes into the podcast with Spencer Hall's introduction consisting of 10 seconds of uninterrupted laughter after he says "Purdue".)
The 2016 Purdue Boilermakers. This is, without a doubt, the worst type of season we get to experience.
By that, I mean that there's no real winning this year. Darrell Hazell's tenure has been an abject failure, summarized very nicely by BS's resident statsman Dave. Hazell is as close to a lame duck head coach as you can get, which means there are two ways this can go:
1) Purdue wins between 0 and 3 wins, us fans are miserable watching our Boilers get demolished wee after week, and Hazell is let go on January 2, 2017 (when his buyout dips to $4.45M).
2) Purdue "overachieves", wins/limps 4-7 games on the back of a(n) historically easy schedule, and Hazell gets a 1 or 2 year extension.
If you're rooting for #1, you're the worst, right? Who openly wants their team to lose? Who wants to waste their lovely fall Saturdays watching an awful team? Who wants to think twice about wearing a Purdue t-shirt, because those football jokes from strangers are getting mighty old?
But...who doesn't want their floundering team to make a change? We're all in agreement that, even though Darrell Hazell the human is (by all accounts) a tremendous public representative for Purdue, it's time for both sides to go in a different direction. Getting through a season where you're cheering your team on while still hoping for a change of direction in the offseason is a conflicted sports fan existence to tiptoe.
The flip side is #2, where this amazingly shallow roster (look at the second line of the depth chart...it's pretty bleak across the board) somehow sniffs a bowl game. We have to give this leadership group another year, right? And at that point, Purdue is stuck in perpetual limbo waiting for an excuse to make a leadership change. Even with this easy schedule, I can't imagine this Purdue team breaks the 7 win barrier (they haven't won 7 games in the Hazell era!), so there's no chance this team contends for anything. 5 or 6 wins would be the definition of a bittersweet season, because it begats more indecision.
The only way this turns out to be a tolerable season is that 4 win mark, where this team looks perfectly fine but the athletic department can afford to buy Hazell out and bring in a clearly better coach to move this program forward. Hazell gets his money, Purdue's 2016 isn't a tire-fire, and a promising coach gives some semblance of hope to Purdue football.
Yeah, I don't believe that beautiful future either.
Purdue eeks out a 31-28 win vs EKU this weekend, on the way to a mediocre 3-9 season. Sigh.
"I don't know why anyone is still a Purdue fan. I don't condone abandoning your team...but this might be one where I forgive you." --Spencer Hall
"Purdue sent someone to the moon, and won't put up f---ing lights." --Ryan Nanni
New coach, raised expectations, excitement, and energy...EKU's football program has what many Purdue fans wish our Boilers had right about now.
A few weeks ago, before reading up what EKU had, I thought of the fitting poetry of Hazell's Boilers losing to an FCS foe- it would make sense, no? We've seen unprecedented failure during this era for Purdue football...and when it hasn't been unprecedented, it's been historic, at the very least. Dave eloquently pointed some of the stats and 'records' that Hazell's Boilers have set. It's lousy that Purdue has been referred to as a punchline of college football ineptitude on the national stage in multiple publications...it sucks that I swing from apathy to complete anger when I think of my Boilers on the football field.
The players say they're starved...Hazell echoed that during the BT media days when talking about the fanbase. Hitting the talking points isn't a problem for Hazell and his troops...details on the football field are another story. Penalties, poor execution, giving up the big play when one more stop is needed, a revolving door at the QB position, poor depth and development and finally, lackluster recruiting have defined the past few years.
So do I still think the might Colonels from EKU can steal a victory at Ross-Ade this Labor Day weekend? Sure I do. But I don't think they will. EKU has the inherent problems of talent, size and speed deficits that most FCS teams have to manage when they play an upper division foe. On top of that, they are trying to figure out their new identity under a new coach. I think Coach Elder will have EKU emotionally and mentally ready to play their best game...and I think they might even have an early lead. The problem in these games is the grind tends to wear on the FCS team in these cases...In spite of Purdue's tissue-thin depth in the trenches, I still think the black and gold twos should be able to beat on the maroon and silver twos. Enjoy that while it lasts.
But as we look further ahead, I think Purdue's lack of depth will come into play...and it will be apparent. There are legit talents on this Purdue squad...but not a ton of them. But the worst thing about this roster is the cliff-like talent and experience drop off in those key positions. With the exception of the WR corps, there just aren't many guys that look like they're ready to play in the BT on the two deeps for my Boilers...but I guarantee a lot of these guys will have to play.
Hazell stuck with his last coordinators too long...had a mass exodus on his coaching staff in the off-season, and doesn't seem to believe what he used to pedal to the media and the Purdue fanbase. The broken record of an experienced, talented roster that prioritizes winning more than the previous teams falls on deaf ears for me this season. The platitudes no longer work with me.
I can't find more than three wins on this schedule when I look at it...I really hope I'm wrong...my final season prediction: 2-10
Hopefully, I'm wrong by week three with my meager prediction.
When Purdue has struggled against early-season opponents in recent years, it usually bodes very badly for the season. I suppose that’s not brilliant analysis but what it does for me is cast a worrisome pall over Saturday’s opener. As we noted in the Handsome Hour, how different would 2015 have gone if Purdue could have held on to win their opener, on the road at a legitimate FBS school? We’ll never know, but it sure would have felt like progress. The obvious downside of playing FCS schools is that you really can’t beat them by enough to make it feel like a true indicator of whether you’ve improved or not. There’s absolutely no excuse for this game to be close. And it shouldn’t be hard to do.
Run Markell Jones repeatedly and if you get a four TD lead, you sit Markell down and rest him for the rest of the game. If EKU eventually stacks the box with eight to stop Markell, then David Blough should be able to scorch their secondary and make them pay for this. That’s it, that’s the formula. Purdue is bigger, stronger and deeper than EKU – they won’t be able to say that again this season.
Also as noted on the HH (you should really go listen), this schedule is pillowy-soft. However, those talking about a 3-0 start are either amnesiacs who don’t remember the rest of the Hazell era or are just the most optimistic people ever. To expect Purdue to be better-prepared and coached than Tuberville’s UC team ignores all the evidence we have at our disposal. Nevada, like Cinci, was also a bowl team last year. Could the Boilers win those at home? In fact, as a Big Ten school, shouldn’t they win those at home? Of course they should. But shellackings from MAC schools in recent years prove those rules don’t really apply in West Lafayette anymore.
As I’ve said before, there are tons of winnable games on the schedule, as there are no juggernauts and few true contenders in Purdue’s path. If Coach Hazell wants to make big progress, this is the season it has to happen.
I don’t believe it will.
Season prediction: 3-9
Well, it's the fall again. Which mean once again we trudge forward towards our grim task of watching Purdue play football. The last three years have deplenished me of my excitement about this program. My passion for Purdue football mostly manifests itself in moments of unapologetic anger, before receding back to its resting state of apathy.
Despite all that, I know I'll park my dumb ass in front of the TV Saturday to watch Purdue take on the EKU Colonels. This is year four of the Darrell Hazell Disaster (feel free to co-op that for your next West Lafayette-themed band name), and the only thing we have to hang our hats on is that he probably would have been fired already had Purdue not had to hire a new AD this summer. At least, we can hope that to be the case. Watching Hazell try to figure out how to coach at a High Major level has been akin to watching a baby gazelle try to learn to walk, legs shaking and unsure of itself (if that particular exercise didn't end in the gazelle eventually figuring it out, but with a cheetah appearing out of nowhere and devouring it).
If Hazell turns the program around this year and wins 6+ games, then no one will be happier than me. But that scenario seems so unlikely it feels stupid to even bring it up. Which means, odds are, I'm condemning myself to watching yet another Purdue team struggle and possibly fail to reach the four win mark. Lovely.
Good news I suppose is that one of those few precious wins will probably come this Saturday against EKU. Purdue should win this game, given that this will be one of the few (if only) times this season where Purdue has an advantage at every position on paper. If Purdue puts the game in Markell Jones' hands, limits turnovers and big plays on defense, then they should walk away with the win and enough confidence to carry them forward to next week.
Of course, this could swing disastrously in the opposite direction, with EKU seizing a precious opportunity to nab one against the big boys. Purdue's confidence is at an all-time low, injuries have ravaged an already thin 2-deep roster, and with so much unknown anything could happen.
I'll stake my bet in Purdue pulling this off. Enough of a win to prevent too many nerves, not big enough to actually answer any questions.