As we look around the Big Ten we, as Purdue fans, have to wonder if there are enough wins for Purdue to reach a bowl game. Sure, it certainly seems like a long shot at this point and there were questions already about our new coaching staff, but I am trying to be an optimist. I have to believe that this team will improve as the season goes along, otherwise there is little point in watching.
So far Michigan State looks almost as bad on offense as we do. Yes, Sparty is 2-0, but their defense has scored four touchdowns to the offense's two and they only got seven points against a defense that gave up over 50 to an FCS team the week before. Iowa continues to look like a mess, while Indiana proved on Saturday that, indeed, they are still Iniana (No D, get it?).
Right now, Purdue's best chances at a win are Northern Illinois (far from certain), Michigan State (offensive disaster), Iowa (disaster all around), and Indiana (trying to go the multi-QB route). That only gets Purdue to five, but based on what we have seen so far, that might be a triumph.
In the meantime, let's look around the Big Ten and go best to worst again:
Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, Michigan. You have done the country a service by assuring that Notre Dame will not be in the National title discussion for a second straight year. Just don't call this a rivalry game, apparently. Jeremy Gallon, who feels like he has been with the Wolverines longer than Robert Marve was at Purdue, earned big Ten player of the Week honors with three TD's and made Maize N' Brew happy:
Like I said, it wasn't all perfect. Michigan's defense gave up some yardage and the secondary had its issues. Fortunately for Michigan, the Irish had to stop running the football due to the score. ND's offensive line had some success against Michigan's front. Lines like those of Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State will provide a different sort of challenge, but, either way, it's not great to see the front getting pushed around. Removing the Rees sack from the numbers, Notre Dame finished with 117 yards rushing on 6.5 yards per carry. Kelly called the ground game's number just six times in the second half.
Ohio State 42, San Diego State 7
Whale's Vagina State was no match for the Buckeyes even though Braxton miller got hurt. Kenny Guiton came in and finished the job as Ohio State was up 42-0 before giving up an opposing score. Land-grant Holyland continues to love Guiton, who saved their undefeated season last year with that drive against Purdue:
But as we have seen in the past, when team captain and back-up quarterback Kenny Guiton has had to replace Miller, the offense does not miss a beat. Guiton ran the offense to perfection, tallying 445 yards of total offense in a 42-7 victory, adding some much needed style points.
Wisconsin 48, Tennessee Tech 0
The Badgers technically have the best defense in the country right now. Purdue's opponent in two weeks has yet to surrender a single point. Yes, They have played against teams thought would struggle against a really good high school team, but it is still impressive. Bucky's Fifth Quarter is not worried as they travel to face Arizona State:
We're supposed to feel badly because Wisconsin's two dominant wins came against two relatively awful opponents. Or at least, we have to pretend we're not happy because Wisconsin hasn't proven themselves in the face of adversity. It's true that Wisconsin's opening slate was soft, but to hell with clandestine revelry. Fans should be free to enjoy their team's success without first-world guilt.
Illinois 45, Cincinnati 17
This was by far the most shocking result of the weekend. After Cincinnati had little trouble beating Purdue and Illinois struggled to get past Southern Illinois I thought this was a layup for the Bearcats. I even said that Cincinnati as a seven point favorite was easy money and that the Fighting Illini would get blown out. Instead, Nathan Scheelhaase has risen from the dead and threw for four touchdowns, which is how many he threw all of last season. As of now, Illinois is surprisingly good, and they next get a home game against No. 19 Washington:
A funny thing happened on the way to the graveyard though. Under pressure to save his job, Beckman made some changes to his coaching staff, getting rid of both offensive coordinators that proved to be poor choices. In came Bill Cubit, freshly fired from his longtime gig at Western Michigan. Cubit had earned a reputation as a bit of an offensive guru, turning lesser talents into high-octane offenses in the MAC. And after just two games, it's starting to look like he might be pulling the same trick off with an Illini squad pretty much bereft of weapons in the passing game.
Northwestern 48, Syracuse 27
The ‘cuse falls to 0-2 in the Big Ten with a loss to the Wildcats where Kain Colter stepped back into his starting QB role and earned the win. Northwestern appears to be rolling offensively and Venric Mark has barely played, making them a pretty scary team going forward. Sippin' On Purple is enjoying that the ‘cats will likely be 4-0 before hosting Ohio State:
NU just dominated. Dominated! The Wildcats scored the first 20 points of the game, covering the spread really quickly. They shut down anything Syracuse did through the passing game, recording somewhere between 40 and 132 interceptions. They passed the ball phenomenally well, something like 400-plus yards passing with under five incompletions combined between Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. Tony Jones had damn near 200 yards receiving. And they did this all without Treyvon Green!
Penn State 45, Eastern Michigan 7
The Nittany Lions fell behind 7-0 on a fumble-six by the EMU defense, but then nothing else went wrong. Christian Hackenberg is proving to be the real deal as he threw for 311 yards in his home debut. As black Shoe Diaries explains, it was a very comfortable win:
The optimist can point to the defensive shutout, the 5 TD margin of victory, the net 400 yard advantage, and a freshman-record 311 passing yards by Hackenberg, and feel good. The pessimist can note the inefficiency on offense, the minus 2 turnover margin, and the disturbing ease with which EMU completed crossing routes early, and be concerned. Both views, paradoxically, are correct at this juncture. We get the final verdict in four months.
Nebraska 56, Southern Miss 13
A week after struggling with Wyoming the Cornhuskers were able to continue the nation's longest losing streak as Southern miss has not lost 14 straight. For Corn Nation, the Nebraska defense has been a major concern, and Saturday was a refreshing change for them:
Nebraska's defense felt plenty of heat this week after last week's late let up against Wyoming resulted in giving up 602 yards and the Cornhuskers had to hold on for a tight 37-34 win. This week Nebraska came out swinging, with the much-aligned defense getting two interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter. Stanley Jean-Baptiste stepped in front of Ricky Bradley Jr and ended up with a 43-yard TD return on the third play of the game. After Nebraska's first offensive resulted in a three-and-out, Ciante Evans picked off a balled tipped by Southern Missin running back Tyre-oune Holmes and returned it 22 yards to the end zone.
Minnesota 44, New Mexico State 21
Few people saw it, but Minnesota moves to 2-0 on the strength of its defense and special teams. Marcus Jones returned a punt 65 yards for a score and Aaron Hill had a 50 yard fumble return for a score. That gives the Golden Gophers five touchdowns scored either by the defense or special teams in two games. That is helping a team where the offense is struggling a little to gain rhythm according to The Daily Gopher:
Special teams were, again, outstanding. Chris Hawthorne went 2/2 on 1st half field goals, including a 45 yarder, while Marcus Jones raced into the end zone for a second consecutive game -- this time reaching paydirt on a 65 yard punt return. Aaron Hill would add a late scoop and score off an Aggie fumble, marking the second straight week Minnesota produced special teams and defensive touchdowns.
Michigan State 21, South Florida 6
Can the Spartans' defense really do it all? At the rate this team is going it may have to. Michigan State gave up only 155 yards, but offensively gained just 265. A total of three quarterbacks only threw for 94 yards as MSU managed just seven points against an abysmally bad USF defense. Fortunately, Shilique Calhoun (Defensive Player of the week) scored on a fumble return and an interception return. The Only Colors questions how long this can go on:
It just flat out isn't working. If I had to rank the factors, I'd be hard-pressed not put to quarterback play fourth behind receiver play, pass blocking, and play design. (Really, coaching failures have to be #1 at this point, when this many things are going this wrong.) Which isn't to say the quarterback play has shown any signs of promise--just that it's almost impossible to evaluate the QBs given the other factors. MSU's offensive disruption percentage was 21.5%. Again, middling.
Navy 41, Indiana 35
Everyone knows that Navy likes to run the ball. Yes, the triple option is tricky to prepare for, but most major conference foes have a defense that can get them off the field and allow the offense to build a lead. If you fall behind Navy by two scores it can be death by papercuts because they simply drain the clock. The Indiana defense was finally supposed to be better though.
Well, it is not. The Hoosiers gave up 444 yards rushing even though they knew it was coming and the vaunted, unstoppable offense is now possibly going to keep rotating quarterbacks, because that always works. The Crimson Quarry, naturally, is frustrated with the defense:
Defensively, Indiana was an utter disaster. From the first whistle to the final buzzer, Indiana was completely outclassed. Not one stop, not even once. I refuse to count a missed field goal at the end of the half to count as a stop. That was the clock's doing, not the defense's. Navy ran the ball 70 times last night for a 6.3 yards per carry average. Our defensive line got absolutely zero push to blow anything up in the backfield. Which is where you have to stop Navy.
Let's say right up front, the Navy triple option is damn near impossible to defend effectively when given the chance to develop. Superior technique from a smaller offensive line was still able to hold our d-line to complete ineffectiveness. Navy's stable of backs were able to play like there were traffic cones out there to run around. Every play was able to develop fully and the secondary was made to look foolish because of it.
Iowa 28, Missouri State 14
Hey! Another Big Ten team that struggled with a Missouri Valley Conference team this week! We're not alone in the conference! Iowa did almost the same that Purdue did against Indiana State. The Hawkeyes went up 21-0 on two TDs from Mark Weisman and a run from Jake Rudock, then gave up touchdowns 10 seconds apart to start the fourth quarter. A second TD run by Rudock sealed the win, but Black Heart Gold Pants doesn't even think the Purdue game will be an easy one:
The good news is Iowa played a game that poorly and wasn't punished for a loss for it. That's extremely fortunate, seeing as how there's maybe two games left on the schedule where Iowa can plausibly pull a stunt like this again. Against anyone in the Big Ten-even Purdue-that kind of sloppiness gets rewarded with an L. Iowa State too, probably. But here, it's just a win that was multiple scores closer than it had any right to be.
Purdue 20, Indiana State 14
The good news: Akeem Hunt was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his opening kickoff return for a touchdown. The bad news: Just about everything else. Purdue will open this week as a 20.5 point underdog at home in a night game against Notre Dame. The Boilers are among the worst teams in the country offensively and they are going against a fearsome front seven. Purdue is 99th nationally in passing yards, 103rd in rushing, and 116th in points scored.
How bad is it? Purdue has fewer yards gained in two games than Navy had in one game against Indiana. Only San Diego State, Pittsburgh, Miami (OH), Temple, Florida Atlantic, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Florida International are averaging fewer points per game. That means Purdue has scored the fewest points of any team in the country that has actually won a game.
It is very bad. So bad that Boilerdowd is comparing it to the 1993 season when Purdue was a program worst 1-10:
Here's the hardest realization I had on Saturday- A Danny Hope-coached team would be better right now. I'm not theorizing or guessing, I'm positive of this. Is it possible that by the end of the season THIS Purdue team will be better than they'd have been if Hope had not been fired? Kind of tough to imagine from where I sit.
Now, I'm not saying that I think Hope should have stayed...even with what I've seen so far. I'm not saying Hazell isn't the right coach. I am saying that this rebuild, even if it's just one season like this, could be the most-painful season we've seen as Purdue fans in 20 years. I think that says a lot.
It is still very, very early, but the coaching staff has to at least be partially to blame for what we've seen so far, especially on offense. Nothing is working and, I hate to say it, but at least the Nordfense blew out three awful teams last year.
I am willing to be patient, however. I am willing to wait for a breakthrough that signifies things really are moving in the right direction. If it happens this week I am all for it.