Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, May 28, 2015
Two years into the job at Purdue, Darrell Hazell is 4-20 overall and 1-15 in the Big Ten. It?s time to show some progress in 2015.
Is reaching a bowl-which the program hasn?t done since 2012–a realistic goal? Perhaps. But many questions loom, especially at the skill positions on offense. An often leaky defense also has a lot to prove.
And the schedule is daunting, featuring nine bowl teams.
Toughest non-conference game: vs. Virginia Tech, Sept. 19. This will be daunting. The Hokies are led by legendary coach Frank Beamer, who has been at the helm in Blacksburg since 1987 and built a model program that is among the nation?s elite. And Bud Foster is one of the nation?s top defensive coordinators. Tech may be too fast, too talented and just plain too good for Purdue. Oh, and that season-opening trip to Marshall on Sept. 6 (a Sunday) won?t be a treat, either. Purdue needs a ?Kansas State? non-conference schedule-not this. It may be too much for Hazell?s Boilers, who also play a good MAC squad in Bowling Green.
Toughest conference game: Trips to Michigan State (Oct. 3) and to Wisconsin (Oct. 17) will be equally brutal. The Spartans have won six in succession vs. Purdue. And they just happen to be one of the nation's best programs. The Boilermakers last won in East Lansing in 2006, when John L. Smith was the coach. Too bad for Purdue John L. still isn?t there. The Badgers have won nine in a row vs. the Boilers-often in dominating/crushing fashion. Purdue?s last win in Madison came in 2003. Wisconsin typically is too tough, too strong and too physical for Purdue. When will the embarrassing losses to the Badgers end?
Who they don?t play: The Boilermakers miss Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Rutgers and Maryland.
Easiest game: vs. Indiana State, Sept. 12. This should be a breather. Then again, the Sycamores came close to dumping Purdue when they visited Ross-Ade Stadium in 2013, falling 20-14. Indiana State went 8-6 last year. It won?t be a push-over.
Toughest stretch: October will be a make-or-break month. It begins with a trip to Michigan State, followed by a visit from Minnesota, a game at Wisconsin and a visit from Nebraska. A 1-3 month would be good. A 2-2 month would be worthy of a parade down Northwestern Avenue.
Factoid: Virginia Tech comes to Purdue on Sept. 19 in what will be the first meeting between these programs.
Best chance to be upset: vs. Bowling Green, Sept. 26. It would not be a shock to see Bowling Green waltz into Ross-Ade Stadium and march out with a win. Falcons coach Dino Babers-a Purdue assistant from 1991-93 under Jim Colletto–will have a prolific offense that welcomes back most key parts-including QB Matt Johnson, who is back from injury. If Purdue gets caught trying to trade points with BGSU and its up-tempo attack, the Boilermakers likely will be doomed. MAC teams have enjoyed some nice success at Purdue in the last decade, with Bowling Green, Toledo, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois all beating the Boilermakers.
Best chance to pull an upset: vs. Nebraska, Oct. 31. If Purdue?s offense takes flight with some run-pass balance, the Boilers may have a shot to beat visiting Nebraska.
Must win: vs. Indiana, Nov. 28. If Purdue wants to reach a bowl, it must beat rival Indiana in the season finale. In fact, a bowl bid may be riding on the game. The scales have tipped in this rivalry, with Purdue now looking up at the Hoosiers. The Boilermakers have lost two in a row to the Hoosiers-both in Bloomington. The teams haven?t met in West Lafayette since 2012, the last time Purdue won the Old Oaken Bucket. If Purdue keeps losing to Indiana, it has little chance to become relevant in the Big Ten.
Bye week: The off week comes after seven games, which is good timing. Could the Boilers be 4-3? Anything better than that should earn Hazell the key to the city. Purdue plays at Wisconsin going into the bye and welcomes Nebraska coming out of the bye. The game in Madison is always physical, so the Boilers will need the extra time to recuperate before the Huskers visit.
2015 Purdue Schedule
Sept. 6 at Marshall
Sept. 12 Indiana State
Sept. 19 Virginia Tech
Sept. 26 Bowling Green
Oct. 3 at Michigan State
Oct. 10 Minnesota
Oct. 17 at Wisconsin
Oct. 24 OFF
Oct. 31 Nebraska
Nov. 7 Illinois
Nov. 14 at Northwestern
Nov. 21 at Iowa
Nov. 28 Indiana
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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