We all try to do it- look into the crystal ball and figure out who will win based on what we've seen a team do versus other opponents...then we try look back at games from previous weeks through the prism of what we learned this week.
-Wisconsin's first two games are greatly overshadowed by the awful clock management and poor play calling in the closing seconds in Tempe. I'm told that even Danny Hope and Gary Nord called Gary Andersen after the game to ask what he was thinking.
-Notre Dame's win over Temple looks more unimpressive now since it wasn't more lopsided, after Fordham beat those same Owls.
-Akron barely beat James Madison, then was jobbed at the big house and should have beaten Michigan.
-Purdue went toe-to-toe with Notre Dame for three quarters before just a few plays effectively knocked them out after barely-escaping the cold grasp of the mighty Sycamores one week earlier.
Here's what I gather from other games when I look ahead to Purdue's schedule: Match-ups and timing are everything...and Wisconsin, while they showed how beatable they are, will be flat-out pissed as they head to Madison...Plus, they will test Purdue's linebackers in run support more than UND could dream of doing. (click continue for more...)
NIU, Nebraska and MSU are all flawed teams, and Purdue has to beat one of them in order to be bowl eligible at the end of the season. I actually think two of those games are now winnable and didn't think that a week ago.
aOSU is damned good on offense no matter who plays quarterback...but their defense isn't as sound as I thought it would be at this point. If it wasn't for Purdue's recent past with the 'nuts, I'd put this one down in sharpie...instead, this loss is just in pen.
I think Iowa, Penn State, Illinois and IU are all very beatable for different reasons. Iowa is simply not that good, Penn State has a Freshman QB and depth concerns all around...sadly for Purdue, the two weeks prior to Purdue aren't really bruising opponents. Illinois is vastly-improved...but just like IU, I have a really difficult time believing in either team.
Oh, one more thing- I'm really glad Northwestern isn't on the schedule. (Have those words ever been muttered?)
So, the good guys are one-fourth the way through Hazell's first season...so far, the record is what I thought it would be, but the scores have all been different than I thought they'd be. What we know is the defense looks to be improving each week, but the offense has a ton of concerns, even if Henry continues to play like he did v. UND.
Let's review the defense team thus far...
Gillium, Lucas and Robinson all looked pretty solid last game. The scheme seemed to put them in a good position to succeed. They were all active and good on both run support and pass defense.
The front four is big and strong...but lacks speed on the ends. So they don't put much pressure on QBs. I'm not sure if we'll see that change, but if they can effectively contain mobile QBs, that's a start. They've been generally very good versus the run.
The defensive backfield is still a mixed bag. They've given up too many big plays. And while I called out #21 for his woes v. UND, I have no idea why Hudson left him on an island without a safety in the fourth quarter. Brown looked much better in his first start than he did v. ISU...and Williams and Richards have looked pretty solid thus far.
The corps of WRs is as young as I can ever recall...and their youth shows a bit in their inability to get open. That said, they've been pretty sure handed when called upon. Ben Knauf is going to be feared by DCs in the next year or two...and if Anthrop can be 100% in the next few weeks, that one-two punch will create problems. I'd still like to see Macarthy on the field more...but Mikesky has been solid...and Yancey, if nothing else looks like an absolute monster in his uniform. That said, it hasn't translated into a ton of production. The TEs will be more and more important as the year goes on. And in spite of Holmes' injury, this corps is solid. They can block and caught everything thrown their way on Saturday.
Henry showed a lot on Saturday. But, he tends to telegraph his passes and not go through progressions. Maybe Shoop was just taking what was given, but Purdue won't be able to rely on routes underneath and jailbreak screens all season. The ball doesn't zip out of his hand, mostly because he throws off of his back foot so often...but it's obvious he throws a very catchable ball. Problem is, when you can't chuck it, it's nearly impossible to fit the ball into tight, bump coverage...which Purdue will see v. Wisconsin, MSU, aOSU and others this season.
This has been a mixed bag...the kickoff coverage was pretty horrible in the second half v. UND...but the kick return unit seemed to make up for it as they were getting the ball past the 30 pretty much every time. Cody Webster has absolutely smoked some punts this season...but he missed a few v. UND when Purdue really needed to pin the Irish. Field goal kicking has been an adventure- Purdue missed a 27 yarder, then hit a 47 yarder minutes later v. UND. I think this can be chalked up to a developing kicker...but there are some signs of progress here.
Whatever the reason, Purdue's coaches had the Boilers ready to play v. UND. Next week, in the 3:30 slot versus a good, ranked team, they should be able to motivate the boys to do big things as a heavy underdog. But, I am curious to see what happens at noon v. NIU the following week. That game is a must-win, in my opinion...and Hazell should know how to handle a MAC team. This is another important game for the fanbase since it's homecoming.
Shoop's system looked absolutely horrible in the first two games, but he rolled Henry out more v. UND, exploited UND's blitzing tendency and gave Henry easy passes to make. They still can't run the ball worth a damn. That's not good...that's on the offensive line. This offense needs to be able to pick up 1 to 3 yards in a pinch...but if they were playing air right now, they might struggle to get the first down on the ground. No Cottom? Big problem. The scat backs, Dawkins and Hunt show flashes of brilliance, but they have no space...Shoop's gotta figure that out.
As ZLions talked about in his analysis of the coaches on staff, Hudson is a difference-maker for programs. It shows as his defense looks improved over last year...He seems to do his homework and film study of opponents' tendencies get his guys ready...that might be why the team looked like dogmeat v. Cincy? I'm starting to have faith in him as a coach...but his defense needs to come up with more turnovers for Purdue to win consistently right now. The offense is far from opportunistic or explosive...so they need as many opportunities to score as possible.
So far, so meh, as a team. I don't expect a win in Madison, but if Purdue can head into aOSU with a 3-4 record, I think that'd be a huge positive. The process matters this season, competing without rolling over at Madison is the next goal.