A Season's Perspective (and a look ahead)

My brother sent me an e-mail with his thoughts about this football season...and some of it surprised me a bit. He wasn't a proponent of Hope's hiring when it happened and was less-than-optimistic about this season in August...But, it sounds like his (like many Boilers') outlook might have changed after watching the '09 Boilers...below is what he had to say.

We'll have more thoughts on this season and the next in the coming days and weeks.

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As I predicted in August, the Boilers finished 5-7. I wish I had been wrong on this one. At first glance, the program appears to be about where it was at the end of 2008: another lackluster record, another easy win over IU, another handful of “would’ve/could’ve/should’ve” losses. But upon further review, this was a successful year and could serve as the foundation for a perennial bowl-bound program, one that has the chance to challenge for Big Ten championships every four years or so. This is a legitimate and reasonable expectation for Purdue fans, and for the first time since Brees departed, it seems the Purdue coaching staff is comfortable with the notion of competing with—and beating anyone on—the schedule.

I think the 2009 campaign was a success for four reasons:

First, Hope got this team to overachieve. From 2002-2008, Tiller did the very opposite, especially in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008. According to virtually every preseason prediction, Purdue was supposed to finish tenth or eleventh in the conference. Depending on how you count, Purdue finished tied for fourth or tied for sixth. No one expected the Boilers to win more than two conference games; they won four.

Second, specific to Hope, the first-year coach did better than most of his predecessors, at least in conference games. First seasons have not been kind to Purdue coaches. In fact, only six since 1922 have reached the five-win threshold. Most have finished worse than Hope
in-conference. Consider the numbers:

1922 Jim Phelan 1-5-1 (9th in conference)
1930 Noble Kizer 6-2-0 (3rd)
1937 Mal Elward 4-3-1 (4th)
1942 Elmer Burnham 1-8-0 (8th)
1944 Cecil Isbell 5-5-0 (3rd)
1947 Stu Holcomb 5-4-0 (3rd)
1956 Jack Mollenkopf 3-4-2 (7th)
1970 Bob DeMoss 4-6-0 (8th)
1973 Alex Agase 5-6-0 (4th)
1977 Jim Young 5-6-0 (6th)
1982 Leon Burtnett 3-8-0 (7th)
1987 Fred Akers 3-7-1 (6th)
1991 Jim Colletto 4-7-0 (6th)
1997 Joe Tiller 9-3-0 (2nd)

Third, the team broke what Hope calls “jinx streaks” by ending long winless streaks against top-ten opponents, ranked opponents and road opponents. The team also ended 44 years of futility at Michigan Stadium.
That leads us to a fourth reason for optimism: the intangibles represented by Hope’s passion. Tiller had “managed expectations” so effectively that none of the Purdue faithful—including his
players—thought beating a ranked team or a road team or a top-ten team or Michigan in Ann Arbor was possible. That changed this year, and it’s a direct function of Hope’s attitude.

Next step: a bowl victory in 2010 (or dare I say 2011?). This is exceedingly achievable, given the progress that should come as Hope’s system takes hold, as the team takes on his toughness and as the schedule softens. I am bullish and—surprise—hopeful for big things.
Sept. 4 - at Notre Dame (L)
Sept. 11 - WESTERN ILLINOIS (W)
Sept. 18 - BALL STATE (W)
Sept. 25 - TOLEDO (W)
Oct. 9 - at Northwestern (W)
Oct. 16 - MINNESOTA (W)
Oct. 23 - at Ohio State (L)
Oct. 30 - at Illinois (W)
Nov. 6 - WISCONSIN (W)
Nov. 13 - MICHIGAN (W/L)
Nov. 20 - at Michigan State (L)
Nov. 27 – INDIANA (W)
9-3, 6-2 or 8-4, 5-3

The former would be good enough for a January 1 trip to the Gator or Outback; the latter would take Purdue to the Insight on New Year’s Eve. Of course, we should have plenty to cheer about through the end of March.

BS Blogpoll for Turkey Week

SLAM DUNK- Boilers Rout St. Joe's in Paradise

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