In 2012 Purdue played both teams that completed undefeated regular seasons in major college football on their home fields. In both games the Boilermakers played the hosts to a virtual draw despite being overmatched in nearly every category. Ohio State was 12-0, but had to survive late touchdown and two-point conversion drive with a backup quarterback and a minute to go while down 8. It should have never even gotten to that, as a blocked extra point earlier in the game prevented Purdue from having a two-possession lead at that point.
Notre Dame also went 12-0, but escaped on a last second field goal with a 20-17 home victory mostly thanks to a colossal coaching blunder by one Danny Hope. Caleb TerBush was ineffective in the first quarter, but Robert Marve led Purdue on a 58 yard touchdown drive in 13 played just before halftime to tie the game at 7. Purdue had momentum, Marve was hot, Purdue would get the ball to start the second half thinking upset. Instead, Hope sent TerBush out, who went 3-and-out, interception (that set up a crucial field goal), three-and-out while going 0-for-4 and gaining only 17 yards before Marve was sent back in.
We all know what happened next. Marve led a scoring drive and had Purdue in position for the tying score before he got hurt and TerBush completed a 15-yard pass for a TD with 2:12 left. Purdue lost on a field goal, but fans already turned on Hope for benching Marve in favor of TerBush. Did it cost Purdue the game? We'll never know, but Purdue certainly had its chances and a 10-minute stretch of no offense whatsoever under TerBush did not help those chances
Last season's Notre Dame game was the beginning of the end of Danny Hope. Had Purdue upset the Fighting Irish in South Bend who knows what it would have meant for not only Hope, but the positive momentum of the team. Instead, it started a 2-6 stretch where the Boilers looked awful in every loss except against the two unbeatens. The 2013 Notre Dame game now looms as a chance for Darrell Hazell to make his mark. It is the first Big Game under coach Hazell, and after Hope dragged the program down it could be a turning point much like the 1997 contest against the Irish.
2012 Record: 12-1
Bowl Result: Lost to Alabama 42-14 in BCS Championship Game
Series with Purdue: Notre Dame leads 56-26-2 (Notre Dame leads Shillelagh portion 37-19)
Last Purdue win: 9/29/2007 at Purdue 33-19
Last Notre Dame win: 9/8/2012 at Notre Dame 20-17 (Notre Dame has won five straight).
Last Season for the Irish
There have been many false returns to glory for the Irish over the past 20 years. At one time both Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis were deemed as The Greatest Coaches In Human History, but last season the Irish finally returned to the nation's elite. Their 12-0 regular season was more than earned as they had a stifling defense and luck on their side in the form of Pittsburgh's kicker missing a game-clinching field goal in overtime.
After TerBush found Antavian Edison for the tying touchdown Notre Dame did not give up another touchdown for 13 quarters as they beat Michigan State 20-3, Michigan 13-6, and Miami 41-3. Notre Dame was 5-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less and beat both Stanford and Pittsburgh in overtime. The offense wasn't great, but the defense was up to the task by not giving up more than 20 points in regulation before the BCS title game. Four of the wins came over ranked teams, including Pac-12 and Rose Bowl winner Stanford as well as Big 12 co-champ Oklahoma.
On of the hardest things to do in sports, however, is go undefeated in consecutive seasons in college football. Not only do you need to be very good, but you need some luck along the way. Alabama may have won three of the last for National Championships, but each of the last two seasons they have dropped a home game. The 2013 Notre Dame schedule has plenty of landmines that could prevent another unbeaten run. They must go to Michigan and Stanford in addition to traveling to Purdue (hey, we gave them a game and we got rid of the one major factor in our loss). Michigan State has a strange hex on them in South Bend and must go there. Oklahoma and USC also come to South Bend.
The 2013 Irish will still be a very good team, but the odds of another spotless run seem very long.
Notre Dame Offense:
Last year at this time there was a QB debate between Everett Golson, Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, and Gunner Kiel. Now, that debate is over. Golson started 11 games and was solid with 2,405 yards and 12 TDs against only six interceptions as a sophomore and will once again be the starter. Rees and Hendrix are back as solid backups, with Rees having the most experience. Rees, if you remember, was sort of a closer last season as he led the game-winning drive against Purdue.
Golson was an effective runner with 298 yards rushing and six touchdowns. He could be turned a little more loose this year too, thus opening the door for injury risk. Rees is a solid backup with multiple starts, however, and a very nice luxury to have.
The running game was held to only 52 yards by Purdue last season, which was a welcome relief after years of seeing guys like Cierre Wood run wild. Both Wood and Theo Reddick are gone with a combined 1,650 yards rushing, however, leaving George Atkinson III (361 yards, 5 TDs) as the top returner. Five-star running back Greg Bryant could also be an instant impact guy along with Four-star Tarean Folston, Amir Carlisle, and Cam McDaniel.
Golson has plenty of targets to throw to again. T.J. Jones (50-649-4) tied for the team lead in receptions with the departed Tyler Eifert. Eifert will be replaced by a massive tight en in Troy Nilklas, who only had five catches for 75 yards but is 6'7" and 260 pounds. Daniel Smith (7-47-0) and DaVaris Daniels (31-490-0) are at the top of the depth chart right now but there is a ton of recruited talent that can still make an impact.
The offensive line should give Golson lots of time to operate as it boasts three senior starters led by tackles Zack Martin and Christian Lombard. Purdue's defensive line was able to cause a lot of problems against them last season, however. As a whole, the line gave up just 18 sacks, but five of those came from Purdue players. Kawann Short sacked Golson twice while Greg Latta, Ryan Russell, and Nnamdi Ezenwa each got him once.
Notre Dame Defense:
January's National Title game featured the top two defenses in the country as the Irish gave up just 12.8 points per game. It could be excellent again thanks to two massive linesmen that are poised to have big years. I don't see how anyone can block 6'3" 347 pound Louis Nix, who is basically a Destroyer of Worlds at nose tackle. He had 50 tackles, 7.5 of them for loss. Then there is 6'6" 322 pound Stephen Tuitt. Tuitt had 12 quarterback sacks, a 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown, and 47 tackles. These guys are pretty terrifying.
At linebacker the Irish lost Manti Te'o as one of the country's best players overall. He had a team high 113 tackles, 11 passes defensed, and seven interceptions. He was excellent in pass coverage over the middle, so replacing him will be tough. Prince Shembo (51 tackles, 7.5 sacks), is effective as a rusher off the end in their 3-4. Carlo Calabrese and Danny Spond also bring them experience. Jaylon Smith also enters as a five-star recruit for good measure.
The pass defense gave up less than 200 yards through the air per game but has two sophomore starters in KeiVarae Russell and Nicky Maratti. Matthias Farley and Lo Wood (who missed all of last season) are also listed on the top of the depth chart, but five-star defensive back Max Redfield was one of the top high school safeties in America and signed on, so he could definitely see time in the middle.
Notre Dame Special Teams:
Kyle Brindza was called on 31 times last season and was almost automatic inside 40 yards. He had a long of 52, but was just 4 of 8 beyond 40 as he was 23-31 on the season. He'll handle kicking duties and he is currently slated to handle punting duties too.
Atkinson is a dangerous kick returner with speed to burn and will be a factor it that area even if he is not the top running back.
It's Notre Dame and Purdue. They are always loaded with the pick of four- and five-star recruits while Purdue doesn't have anything close to their talent. In three of the last four games Purdue has been close despite this, however. In 2009 Danny Hope's ridiculous timeout in the closing seconds was huge. In 2010 Hope again spiked Purdue by having the most vanilla offensive game plan I have ever seen despite talking about how Marve was going to open things up because of his talent. Then you had last year with juggling quarterbacks, which EVERYONE KNOWS DOES NOT WORK!
Does the addition of Darrell hazel change things in Purdue's favor? Many of the same pieces are back. Guys like Bruce Gaston, Dolapo MacArthy, Akeem Hunt, and Raheem Mostert had good games last year. Rob Henry has played against the Irish before even if he didn't throw a pass in that 2010 game. This is also a night game and there is an excitement around the program from the fans that was not there under Hope.
Danny Hope was a listless 0-4 against Notre Dame, mostly because he was a terrible coach when it came to facing them. He coached scared and made blunders a 12-year-old playing Madden wouldn't make. If Purdue has indeed upgraded its coaching (and I think it has) this could be a very exciting game. Despite everything last year Purdue was tied with two minutes to go and had them facing a 3rd and 6 before John Goodman made a great catch to keep their winning drive alive. With a similar team and improved coaching, plus playing at home, Purdue at least has a chance.
I said Purdue had a chance. I didn't say we'd win. This is still an awfully good Notre Dame team with a solid front seven on defense that will be tough to move the football on. Purdue has a lot of questions offensively and we haven't even settled on a quarterback. Golson is a year better, but Purdue has handled mobile quarterbacks very well, so I think we can hang around. I think this is a game for about three quarters before a late score allows them to pull away. Notre Dame 23, Purdue 13