PURDUE GOES BOWLING: It’s the Bowling Green Predicto
In what is likely the closest Purdue will get to going bowling this football season, the Boilers welcome the Bowling Green State Falcons to Ross-Ade. According to my research, the last time the Boilers and BGSU played was way back in 2003. It felt more recent to me but that’s because I’m old. Not old like Dave or B-dowd, but old all the same. That 2003 matchup was also in Ross-Ade and was a one-point loss for Purdue. The good guys then proceeded to reel off six straight wins and eight of nine in climbing as high as tenth in the national polls. Let’s just say the BS Boys don’t foresee a similar outcome this time.
What do Northwestern, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, and Iowa have in common? Like past opponents Marshall and Virginia Tech, those teams are on Purdue's schedule and also have a higher-rated defense than Purdue's. Notably absent from that list isSaturday's opponent, Bowling Green. If you feel compelled to make a change at QB, as Darrell Hazell seems to be, then there's no better time to do so than when you face a team that sees defense like John Shoop sees scoring drives. (Ideally this would not have been preceded by facing a defense that historically eats QBs for lunch, but then it's also important not to leave a struggling QB in until he collapses.)
The Falcons are mediocre against the run (well, against a normal offense, at least), slightly worse against the pass, bad on passing downs (103rd) and, while they generally make good plays (25th in Success Rate), prone to giving up big plays (82nd in IsoPPP+, which basically means explosive plays). That passing-downs stat (remember, for FO purposes, passing downs are 8+ on 2nd or 5+ on 3rd or 4th) is important because the one thing Purdue isn't terrible at this year is offense on passing downs. If Blough finds himself in a long-yardage situation - and if the running game looks like it did the first two I-A games, he sure will - then he's going to have opportunities to beat the Falcons deep. He doesn't have to hit them all, but he will have to hit some of them.
The main reason for that is that the Falcons offense is frightening. Keep schedule strength and sample size in mind, but look at their numbers: 6th on passing downs, 7th in IsoPPP+, 13th in passing, 23rd in Success Rate, 27th in rushing, 15th overall. Virginia Tech is 26th overall, Marshall is 64th. While Purdue's defense doesn't look too bad, that's in the context of all I-A teams, not Power-5 teams, and BGSU's offense is a lot better at this point than "not too bad". As we've discussed recently, some portion of this has to be the result of special teams and offense not getting their jobs done - no team can keep their defense on the field like Purdue does and expect to win a lot of games. 28:41 doesn't sound like much of a deficit, but that average ToP is 82nd in I-A, and when paired with an offense that is 103rd in yards per play (5.25; BGSU is 19th at 6.92), you get a team that doesn't move the ball or keep it well enough to give their defense time to work.
That has to change Saturday. It may be true that the Boilers are basically a mid-level MAC team in a P5 conference, but that doesn't mean a result along those lines will be acceptable. Blough may put Purdue in a better position, but appointing a new captain doesn't fix a sinking ship. To beat the Falcons, Purdue must patch their leaky running game, or at least dial up protection schemes that give the freshman time to find a Good Guy behind a safety or corner. I think they will - but only often enough to eke out a win, and not enough to quiet the critics that will continue to press for change. The guy they should be pointing at isn't a redshirt freshman or junior, but a man who's a full two years younger than me and equally undeserving to be the offensive coordinator. Changing deck chairs may drop the Falcons, but there's an iceberg next week in East Lansing, and it may well fall to Hazell to decide if he'll abandon Shoop for a life raft or go down with the ship himself.
Purdue 29 Bowling Green 27
Aneesh the Swamy:
Let me start off with this:
15/20 for 202 yards, 1 touchdown, QBR of 97.7. 7 carries for 76 yards (with one 62 yard run), 2 touchdowns.
That was Austin Appleby’s performance on October 4th, 2014, in his first start at Purdue. His QBR didn’t break 60 after that. So, no matter what happens against a porous Bowling Green defense, let’s keep the hot-takes to a minimum, shall we?
[/cut to Aneesh’s twitter feed as Blough is throwing for 900 yards and 12 touchdowns, proclaiming him to be better than Aaron Rodgers, in all-caps]
Blough wasn’t chosen to start because of turnover problems in camp. Against *this* Purdue defense. So pardon me if I’m not extremely excited for a 6’1” (on a good day) redshirt freshman quarterback who didn’t show much last week.
Also, (shameless plug alert) just take a look at Purdue’s quarterback rotation since Curtis Painter. More than anything else, I wanted to see some continuity. Going with an unknown in Blough, whose confidence could be completely shot by beginning his career against an absolutely brutal Big Ten opening slate, screams “coaching job security” fears to me. Hazell, Shoop, Burke…they all seem scared, and sensitive to everything donors/fans are complaining about, and in a state of mini-panic with this move.
But hell, this athletic department has hit home runs by accident plenty of times. Here’s to hoping that Blough is ready, and a possible 0-fer until the November 7th homestand against Illinois doesn’t permanently kill whatever vigor resides in his heart.
Then we come to the team lining up across the field. Bowling Green is one of the most powerful offenses in the country, and Dave’s trusty numbers show the passing attack is going to be an issue. Roger Lewis, BGSU’s leading receiver, had 275 yards and 2 TD’s last week, so look for that to be a thing. Frankie Williams, Anthony Brown and Leroy Clark had better be ready to play, because if BGSU’s past games are any indication they’re in for a long and tiring day.
Blough, along with DJ Knox and Markell Jones, might be able to put up a few yards against BGSU’s middling defense, but I really don’t see Purdue limiting the Falcons’ offense enough to put up a win. If the Boilers fall behind early, Shoop will be forced to play catch-up through the air…and that could spell disaster for the freshman under center.
But if Blough is Brees 2.0? More than a few jobs will be saved, that’s for sure. I’m just not sure I see it.
Bowling Green 38 Purdue 27
Thus far, sadly, the games have played out pretty much how I expected. I hate being right about this kind of stuff, but as Aneesh will tell you, I’m typically pretty much exactly right about most things. But in true Purdue fashion, they've even managed to make the expected feel worse. I expected a loss to Marshall; instead, Purdue looked like the clearly better and more well-prepared team until the fourth quarter. I expected to be slapped around by Virginia Tech; instead, Purdue played them tough for a half before rolling over in a way that made it painful to keep my big TV tuned to it.
There has been some talk online and in the comments on this site that Purdue will simply never compete with their terribly ranked recruiting classes. I will agree that they’re unlikely to play for the Big Ten Championship if they continue to have bottom of the conference recruiting classes, but I stop short of saying they don’t have the talent to beat C-USA and MAC teams or even to – be still my heart – win six games and get into a bowl game. The talent is there. Much has been made of the bevy of Elite 11 QBs, the beefed up offensive line, the improvements in talent at LB, Purdue’s several talented DBs in recent years, the RBs who certainly appear talented enough to make hay in the Big Ten. Are they world-beaters? No. But they’re better than where this program seems to be. Which means I’m in the same place so many of us are – it’s the coaching. It’s always been the coaching. Just as it was the coaching when Purdue leapt from three (3) wins to NINE (9) wins in Cowboy Joe’s first season at the helm and it was the coaching when Purdue was incapable of beating a bad Rice team and it was the coaching when Purdue had an obvious top choice for QB on the team who Hope inexplicably refused to fully give the keys to until it was too late…coaching in college football has a YOOOOOGE effect.
Purdue has the talent to win this game. Purdue’s defense is better than BG’s defense. BG’s offense is more high-flying but Purdue should be able to grind out yards and run off clock with the running game against that porous defense. Yet somehow Purdue will not do that. Would you be surprised if Shoop decides to have Blough throw the ball 30 times? I wouldn’t, even if Purdue has the lead.
I’ve yet to see any reason to believe Purdue is capable of beating a moderately talented team.
Bowling Green 34 Purdue 20
Oh man this football season fell straight in the shitter right off the bat, didn't it? I think at this point it's fair to reserve any positivity to actual improved results in the win column. The positive-leaning narrative heading into the season was that the team looks bigger/stronger/better, etc...but to be frank, who gives a shit if they aren't winning? Given how they've played so far, they don't exactly look better either.
Austin Appleby has lost his starting job to David Blough, and this is where I start to get nervous. Blough has a certain Tony Romo-type quality about him. He's comfortable moving out of the pocket and winging the ball all over the place and running when he needed to. At least, that's what he was like in high school. No one knows what he will be like in college because, as a redshirt freshman, he's only played mop-up minutes. This is concerning. It's especially concerning given that Appleby lost this job to begin with. He's an upperclassman who's been in the program for four years. He won the starting job last season, and held on to it through the whole of the offseason, and then blew it three games into the scheduled this season. His decision-making, and tendency to either put the ball on the ground or into the loving arms of the defender has made his a liability. If that is what he does poorly, then what is it that he does well? At the beginning of the season I said that I was concerned when the best qualities of our starting quarterback are those which cannot be measured. Toughness and leadership are great, but so are the ability to throw touchdowns and not turn the ball over.
By all accounts, Appleby fairly won out over Blough in training camp, so I'm not sure why a change would endow great confidence in me that this is The One Missing Piece that will take us from joke to respectable. I don't see it happening this week. BG can score. They can't play a lick of defense, but they will put points on the board. And we're asking a redshirt freshman to match them, point for point? I want nothing more for it to happen, but I can't bring myself to predict that it will.
BGSU 42 Purdue 28
Watching highlights of last week's game followed by listening to the coach speak from Hazell and co this week has left me on the spectrum between apathy and anger.
Hazell saying that they're not far away, Shoop saying BGSU is a really good defense and a host of other comments in the wake of a deplorable effort (all around) is a gut punch to a fan base. I understand that Hazell is trying to keep the players positive, but they see the familiar trend forming too...I appreciate the guys who chose to play football for my alma mater...I hope they have a brighter outlook than I do way outside of the program.
With a win, Hazell will beat his second MAC squad while at Purdue and boost his total victories versus DI-A teams (as Purdue's coach) by 33%. A loss will make it an uphill battle for these Boilers to get to the lofty heights of three wins for a season.
I think Purdue will have the lead at halftime on the legs of Knox and Jones...and I believe the lack of halftime adjustments will put Purdue in an arms race that they won't win. LB depth issues will sting on Saturday with BGSU's pace of play.
BGSU 41 Purdue 33