Row Your Boat Back to Minnesota – The Fleck Predicto
PJ Fleck and his team of boatmen row their way into West Lafayette this weekend. Purdue opened as a favorite (we’ll see if they still are by gameday) in a Big Ten game for the first time in years. Minnesota is 3-1 with three ho-hum wins and a close loss last weekend at home against Maryland. But most importantly, this is the first meeting of the two head coaches newest to the Big Ten and who have the biggest fanfare thus far.
Fleck was also on Purdue’s short list and many of us were excited about the idea of him bringing Purdue back to life. But after getting to know how weird he really is, we’re all pretty happy with how things worked out. We’ll be even happier if Jeff Brohm’s offense takes a big bite out of little PJ.
You’ll also see both the wonderful Tiller tribute logo pictured above designed by Paul Sadler as well as a cool one Minnesota will have on their lids.
On to the predicto.
Does Purdue have a chance?
Dave: Definitely. The problem is that it's really, really hard to tell how much of one, since both schools have first-year head coaches who excelled in second-tier conferences but don't have experience leading a power-conference team. In the Boilers' four games, they've had two slam dunks and two games that teams generally don't win (think of win expectancy as "how often should a team win a game when these things happen?"); Minnesota's had three and one, respectively. Neither team's really played a game where we could narrow down the range we'd expect them to play in ... which is more of a concern for Minnesota, since Maryland was starting their #4 QB and was coming off a blowout at the hands of UCF. That reminds me, I hear Scott Frost is a frontrunner for the Tennessee job next season. Did I just make that up? Maybe.
Michael: Yeah, I think so. They're actually the favorites, according to Vegas. Imagine that! A Purdue team that is expected to win against a fellow Big 10 team! The biggest hurdle for them will be surviving the first half on defense. With personal foul suspensions carrying over to Saturday, Purdue can't allow Minny to take advantage and put Purdue in the hole early.
Boilerdowd: They sure do...Both teams are struggling through injuries and attrition. The good news is that Purdue's biggest loss will return in the second half of this game. Minnesota is scrambling a bit to figure out how to fill some of the holes created by long term injuries that will affect them for weeks to come. Atop of that, Brohm, Brohm, Shepherd and Holt (LLC) have had two weeks to prepare for Minnesota. I like that quite a bit.
J Money: Oh hells yeah, they have a chance. They should come out of the chute pretty pumped up. Back at home, another cool time (3:30 PM again, this time on ESPN2), a pretty good crowd (not sure a sellout is possible given that it’s October break for the students) and a hopefully hungry Boilermaker team. They’ll also be honoring Coach Tiller throughout the day, including by wearing the helmets the team wore during Tiller’s era and having members of his ’97 team on hand.
Swamy: Purdue are 4 point favorites, at home, against a team with a better record and much better recent history of wins. I...I really don't like the public on Purdue's side.
That being said, there's no football-reason to think this should be a blowout either way. Tactically, Purdue has the advantage on both sides of the ball. Depth goes slightly in Minnesota's favor. Player talent, believe it or not, is even (Minny's recruiting rankings in the B10 since 2013: 14, 11, 13, 8, 12). Both teams are injured, and only Purdue has a truly signature win against a Power-5 (the Mizzou blowout). The Gophers have three wins against mediocrity, a loss against a super mediocre Maryland team, and a slogging ground-and-pound style. Does Purdue have a shot to beat a team like that? Absolutely.
Why does PJ Fleck wear a necktie under a windbreaker?
Dave: Because it looks weird to wear it over a windbreaker. I mean, obviously. But maybe also because if you want to be a successful coach in cold-weather territory, and especially if you're kind of young, you wear a tie on the sidelines.
Michael: He's so weird! Honestly, I kind of love it. It gets grating after a bit, but his whole schtick works if you're only exposed to it every once in a while. I'm fine with weird. Too many coaches are soooo humorless. It's nice to have a little life.
Boilerdowd: He wears a necktie because he thinks people notice it and it's good for his brand...clearly you've noticed, so you're playing into his hands, J. The best thing we can do with Fleck at this point is beat him a few times, hope he gets another job and gets out of the conference.
Have you seen the suits he wears? They look like he bought them at Man Alive (not sure if they're still in business...perhaps he cleared their stock?).
J Money: Because he’s a weirdo and I don’t get it. It’s like he’s combining two looks.
Swamy: The necktie is everything at Minnesota. It's a never-give-up mantra. There's three parts: The neck is the energy you bring to your life. The fabric is the sacrifice, what are you willing to give up for something that you've never had? The third part is the knot, it's the direction of your life set by your circle of people. If you surround yourself with turds, you're headed towards turdville. If you surround yourself with elite people, you are headed towards elite things.
I'm sorry what was the question again?
Purdue wins if…
Dave: If they stop Minnesota's passing attack. The Gophers don't break many long plays, so their offense is predicated on getting reasonable yards on first and second down. Their offensive line hasn't done a great job of that - if you need three yards, they'll get you three yards; if you need six yards, they'll get you three yards - so there will be opportunities to stop Minnesota on passing downs. Purdue ... did not do that so well last game. With weather conditions possibly less than ideal for passing teams, the Boilers can't afford to give up easy completions.
They will, but not enough for a home loss. The Brohm Bag O' Tricks will be opened again, and this time, there won't be a defensive genius on the other sideline. The Good Guys will hit one out, Goldy will steadily chip away at the lead, but it won't be enough.
Michael: They survive the first half without getting behind and they can establish the running game. It will be interesting to see what Jones can do. Gotta do more than they have been.
Boilerdowd: They can keep up their redzone efficiency AND stiffen up in the redzone on the other end of the field. I think Minny's TEs will feast a bit between the 30s. My biggest concern is Purdue's ability to get off of the field and not allow Minny to control the pace of the game.
J Money: If they can get Markell Jones going, that’s a really good sign. Like any game, controlling time of possession and winning the turnover battle are key….but now I sound like I’m on a boring NFL pregame show. If Purdue can do more than only dominate the second quarter, then I like their chances.
Swamy: Nick Holt's defense can hold fort in the first half without Thieneman and Bentley, and Tario Fuller's absence is mitigated by the possible return of my favorite Boiler Markell Jones. And, obviously, no dumb turnovers by Blough.
Dave: Purdue 20, Minnesota 19
Michael: Purdue takes the W, 37-31
Boilerdowd: Purdue 34, Minny 30
J Money: Minnesota 24, Purdue 20. I just have a bad feeling about this game for some reason, as badly as I want it.
Swamy: Purdue 31, Minnesota 21. The energy on Tiller Saturday will propel Purdue through the first half, and David Blough will bring the game home in the second half. Can't freaking wait.