There For The Taking?

Purdue fans are beginning to get excited about the possibilities for the Boilermakers this football season. Is the division there for the taking? Will you have the opportunity to high five and belly-bump with T-Mill of Hammer & Rails at the Big Ten Championship game and celebrate the appearance by tailgating to Whitesnake and Taylor Dayne? Let's think about it.

Wisconsin had yet another unimpressive victory over the weekend over the UTEP Miners and one might argue that Coach B is doing some panicking. He fired his O-line coach after the loss in Oregon and has now yanked transfer Danny O'Brien in favor of a former walk-on who only recently became a scholarship player. Stave played pretty well on Saturday and seemed to give the Badgers some life, but he's definitely untested and the Boilers, as we all know, get to take on the Badgers at home, so Stave's road mettle will be tested...though Wisky does play at Nebraska next weekend so if Stave shows no rattle in that one, it's doubtful that a 2/3 filled Ross-Ade will spook him. (Yes, that was my shot at everyone -- go to the games!)

Michigan, while not in the Leaders division, is still a conference foe and is also coming to West Laffy. Michigan was ranked until their six-turnover, stinker of a performance against apparently indestructible Notre Dame. Can the Boiler D follow the lead set by Alabama and ND (and to a lesser extent, Air Force, who only lost 31-25 to the Wolverines)? I do have confidence in this defense, particularly the line, so if they can bottle up the Denard at all, that bodes well for Purdue. Dare to dream?

Illinois got positively dump-trucked at home vs. La Tech over the weekend, 52-24. I understand that Louisiana Tech is a decent team this year, and I understand Illinois is working their way back. But they have to be better than this, don't they? They were at home, and as I tweeted Saturday night, I cannot remember a worse home loss to a non-conference team by a Big Ten program. Can you?

My point re: the Illini is that they're a divisional foe who is prone to getting hammered, both on the road (Lost at Az St, 45-14) and at home (see Tech, Louisiana).

Ohio State, while ineligible for the title game, still is a game that will count in the conference and divisional standings. And no matter what kind of fairy tale season this could turn into, it's very difficult to imagine the Boilers walking into the 'shoe and beating a ranked and potentially undefeated Ohio State team coached by Urban Meyer. 

Penn State seems to have begun to right the ship after two losses to start the season, but you never know where they'll be mentally by early November. And again, the Boilers get the Lions in Ross-Ade. While that's not a gigantic home field advantage, it does help to not have to travel to a place where the Boilers rarely win. As mentioned, the only place on the schedule like that is Columbus.

Iowa, our most hated rivals (OMHR), has now lost to both Iowa State and Central Michigan at home. I'm not saying I think any game is a lock -- esp not a road game against OMHR -- but if those teams can win in Iowa and Purdue wants to have a special season, this is the kind of game you need to win. Plain and simple.

Minnesota is tricky to figure out, because while they're 4-0 and clearly playing a lot better football under Jerry Kill, I think we need to wait to see if this is a truly improved team or more like one of those IU teams that wins non-conference games and then gets manhandled by the conference. Regardless, it's a road conference game.

Indiana is... ah, never mind. It's Indiana.

My biggest concern at this moment is the Marshall game, and not just because of the "take them one at a time" cliche. As you've heard us lament before, Purdue -- especially under Danny Hope -- always has one stinker against lesser, non-conference competition, usually at home. There's only of those left and so I find myself in fear of it. Yes, I like the makeup of this team and I like their focus. That doesn't make me any less concerned, though.

So what do you think? Is your optimism skyrocketing as you see what's going on in the conference? I'm getting closer, and beating Marshall will be a big help in making me giddy going into Michigan semi-under-the-lights in two weeks.

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