I feel as if I can make one statement with great confidence: If Purdue loses to Indiana State on Saturday there is a better than excellent chance the Boilermakers will go winless in 2013. Big Ten teams schedule FCS programs for one purpose: an easy win. Yes, the FCS level has bitten Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota (THREE TIMES!!!), while coming close against Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, but for Purdue it has been different.
Our Boilers have hardly been on par with Alabama the last few seasons, but Purdue is a spotless 8-0 against the FCS since that level was created:
1990: Indiana State W 41-13
2002: Illinois State W 51-10
2006: Indiana State W 60-35
2007: Eastern Illinois W 52-6
2008: Northern Colorado W 42-10
2010: Western Illinois W 31-21
2011: Southeast Missouri St. W 58-0
2012: Eastern Kentucky W 48-6
Aside from that Western Illinois game, where the Leathernecks later made the FCS playoffs and Purdue suffered a devastating injury to Keith Smith, Purdue has scored at least 40 points and won by at least 25 in every game against the lower division. The last two games, which were Danny Hope's "best" teams, were won by a combined score of 106-6.
Purdue enters Saturday's contest preparing to face an Indiana State team that just gave up 73 points and 632 yards of offense to Indiana. After as bad as Purdue looked on offense against Cincinnati I don't think we're going to see a similar output. Still, Purdue scores early and often against FCS opponents and often has a banner defensive day. Purdue fans have to expect better because this may be the last time the Boilers are favored in a game until mid-November.
If 2013 is going to have a bowl game this game has to be a win.
Indiana State Offense Vs. Purdue Defense:
The Trees lost possibly their best shot at springing an upset of Purdue when running back Shakir Bell left the Indiana game before halftime with a separated shoulder. Even then, bell proved why he is one of the best running backs in all of FCS if not the country when he ran for 113 yards on 18 carries. With him, the Trees had at least a chance of beating Indiana or Purdue. Without him, it will be very difficult.
Mike Perish gives ISU a solid situation at quarterback, as he formerly played at Western Michigan and was even on the Broncos' roster when Purdue played them in the Little Caesar's Bowl. Last week he had 118 yards and two touchdowns with an interception on 11 of 29 passing against the Hoosiers. Indiana sacked him four times, however, and didn't allow him to get into any kind of a rhythm.
That last statistic will prove to be damning for the Trees. Purdue's defensive line was excellent at getting into the backfield against Cincinnati and was relatively disruptive most of the day. Ryan Isaac even managed an interception as a defensive tackle. Clyde Ignont, Russell Jones, FN Lutz III, Adam Masters, and Paul Patrick should be at a disadvantage up front. Only Masters and Patrick are over 300 pounds, so this is one of the smallest lines we will see all season.
Aside from Bell the running game did nothing against Indiana, which is telling given the state of Indiana's usual run defense. The Hoosiers only gave up 18 rushing yards to someone not named Shakir Bell. At receiver Demory Lawshe and Jamar Brown each had touchdowns, but for the most part the passing game was also held in check.
Purdue Offense Vs. Indiana State Defense:
Indiana runs a very fast tempo on offense and they are one of the best offensive teams in the Big Ten, but even then, 73 points and over 600 yards is a lot. Indiana State's defense helped make it a game again when Connor Underwood returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown as ISU had 21 points in 1:02 of game time last week thanks to a pair of scores on turnovers, but for the most part the defense was shredded.
Indiana State did not register a single sack and it was an almost equal-opportunity shredding. They sucked against the run (313 yards, 3 touchdowns given up) and the pass (319 yards to three QBS and 6 TDs). Tevin Coleman was very effective with 169 yards and two scores, so this needs to be the game where Akeem Hunt needs to get on track.
Jameer Thurman, Kendall Walker, Calvin Burnett, and Brady Collins led them in tackles last week, but Thurman and Burnett were defensive backs that made a lot of tackles often out of self-defense.
Honestly, after the way the Trees got lit up last week I would be more concerned about Purdue getting in its own way than about Indiana State stopping us. Rob Henry was missing receivers by yards last week, and that equals a stop regardless of who you play. The Purdue running game also got outworked by a Cincinnati front seven that planned well against the run. Purdue is going to be bigger, stronger, and faster at almost every position. If that doesn't prevail then something is seriously wrong.
Paul Griggs missed a field goal last week while Tanner Fritschle was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra points for ISU. Cody Webster played like the best punter in the country and set up Purdue's only touchdown. Jordon Stangler punted a whopping 10 times and averaged less than 39 yards per kick.
One thing to watch out for is on punt returns. Shane Wynn was removed from a vicious targeted hit that resulted in an ejection, so Purdue needs to be careful there. B.J. Knauf played back on both punts and on kickoffs and looked like he could do something productive if given the chance. Purdue also still has Raheem Mostert, who was quiet against Cincinnati.
There is a reason that most of these games are blowouts. Purdue has more scholarship players and better athletes. Some of the front line guys are really good players for a team like ISU, but for the most part Purdue is the deeper, better football team. These upset happen when you run into an experienced FCS team that is very well coached.
Purdue should be slightly on alert, however, because there are already several schools that got bit by FCS teams last week. Kansas State, San Diego State, Connecticut, South Florida, Iowa State, and Oregon State all got punked by the lower division last week, so this can happen. Indiana State is a good team too. Kansas State was beaten by North Dakota State, who has only won the last two FCS titles, beaten an FBS team now four years in a row, and is 29-2 since the start of the 2011 season. Both losses were by only three points, one to Youngstown State and one to... Indiana State last year.
Yes, the same Indiana State team we play this week did what the defending Big 12 champion could not do: Beat North Dakota State. They did it by intercepting them three times and two of those were returned for touchdowns by Johnny Towalid. The ISU offense didn't do a lot, but the defense was solid in the upset.
I feel better since ISU doesn't have Bell, who is a very large part of their offense. The recipe for an upset was him going crazy while Purdue kept getting in its own way offensively. Now Purdue merely needs to stop an offense that couldn't gain 200 yards without Bell against the consistently putrid Indiana defense.
Breathe a sigh of relief if:
- Akeem Hunt and Dalyn Dawkins have big days on the ground.
- Ryan Russell and Bruce Gaston lead the defensive line to dominate.
- Ricardo Allen gets a pick.
- The linebackers look competent and much improved.
- Henry shows why he won the starting job.
- Austin Appleby gets his first career action because of mop up duty.
Officially panic if:
- Henry continues to look awful.
- Purdue gives up multiple turnovers.
- Perish starts bombing for 300+ yards.
- ISU gets its running game going.
- If Purdue is anywhere close to being in danger of losing in the second half.
Prediction: Coming in Friday's Big Ten preview.