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Week 13 Preview (ALOHA!)

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Even though I have traveled over 5,000 miles to get here, I am finding it very hard to get excited about this week's game. We're the only game in town as far as the conference goes, but we're playing so late that most of the country will not be paying attention. We have absolutely nothing to play for outside of pride, and even then we can't exactly say we have huge amounts of pride from who we have beaten. We can't improve our postseason position, we can't lose our postseason position, and we're not exactly going to look bad by going on the road at this distance and losing to a ranked team.

Basically, we have two things that we can gain from this game. We can break our streak of losses against ranked teams, and we can keep hope alive for just the second 10 win season in school history. Also, with a win I would look like a savant for completely nailing the 9-4 season prediction before our bowl. Granted, these things aren't exactly great to play for, but with the way Tiller is complaining about the trip we have to find some sort of positive.

I must say that I am highly disappointed with the amount of whining coming from Coach Tiller. He knew this game was coming for years, and it didn't get rescheduled as he asked. We get it that he doesn't want to be over here. It's time to be quiet and prepare to play. Let's get the team down to business and get a win since that is what we came over here to do. This is an excellent opportunity for us to have a dry run at bowl preparation with all the extracurriculars that come with it. Since our last few bowl trips have yielded slow starts maybe it is a good thing to have another game between the end of the season and the bowl game. Now we only get about five weeks off instead of the usual six, and that can only help when getting ready for the Champs Bowl.

It is hard to believe that this game is finally here after seeing out on the schedule in the distance for so long. As we were walking around Waikiki today we noticed several Purdue fans for the first time in our first three days over here. I know it is because many of the fans finally got over here to Oahu after being on Maui for the Maui Invitational. Purdue certainly has a healthy contingent of fans over here for the game, so at least they won't be playing before a Hawaii-only house. From what I have read, this game was originally scheduled during the glory of the Colletto years, and kept getting pushed back until this week. As a fan, it is probably the one good thing to come out of the Colletto era of Purdue football.

The hardest thing for the players to adjust to will be all the distractions. I admit that since we got over here on Monday I haven't had many thoughts about football. It's very easy to get distracted and the players will find the same temptations as everyone else. We saw a few of the players out and about today in Waikiki, and it looked as if they were enjoying themselves. Tomorrow is the day the team is visiting Pearl Harbor and we will be visiting the memorials as well. Hopefully the guys won't be too distracted and forget they have a game to play. It's important that they relax and get plenty of beach time as a reward for a good season, but the bottom line is that they still have a game to play. If our heads are not in this thing from the opening kickoff, we very well could get our heads handed to us.

The time change is also difficult to adjust to. It's now just past nine in the evening on Thanksgiving Day and it feels like it is well after midnight. There is such a disconnect between here and the mainland that it is hard to truly adjust even if your body gets in a rhythm. Even the late 6pm local kickoff is a vast departure from normal for us a program. We all remember what happened with our last 6pm kickoff against Notre Dame last year, and it wasn't pretty. I'm not sure what the tailgating situation is like out here, but I don't think the fans will be quite as rowdy as they were last year against the Irish. Thankfully the players have a few days to adjust to everything before they play, but as a fan it is still a struggle to keep things straight. At least it is nice and warm out everyday instead of cold like the Illinois and Indiana games.

As for the game itself, offense is going to be the key. It is time to use our running game at least as much as we did against Illinois, if not more so. Hawaii's weakness is against the run and we need to have a big day from our backs. We need to have a big day from Painter with his legs. Painter needs to keep them guessing with option runs and keep the ball moving on the ground. They are a good team, but it is still a WAC defense we are moving the ball against. This is not Wisconsin, or Penn State, or even Indiana in terms of overall depth and talent. Hawaii gets to keep a lot of good in state talent at home, but it is still a small pool from which to draw recruits. The Warriors' defensive weakness is against the run, and we need to exploit it so we can set up our passing game. Of course, I recognize that this is what every football team wants to do in any game.

As far as our defense goes, I think we could be in for a long night. If we can get a consistent pass rush like we did against Illinois and Michigan State, then we might be able to slow them down a bit. Colt Brennan is very much a rhythm quarterback, and we need to disrupt that rhythm in order to slow down their offense. We're going to give up points and we need to come to terms with that. Hawaii has scored less than 30 points just once this year, in a season opening 25-17 loss at Alabama. That is Alabama, one of the traditional programs in all of college football that plays in the toughest conference in the country. The Warriors have yet to be held under 40 points at home and have been over 50 in each of the last four games.

Then again, let's look at their opponents: UNLV, Eastern Illinois, Nevada, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, and San Jose State. Those are their six home opponents. That's not exactly a who's who of college football. They still have a quarterback that more than knows what he is doing and a running back that compliments the attack quite nicely. This is not the Hawaii of the Timmy Chang era where they threw almost every down. There is a balance there that means we can't sit back in coverage and wait for the quarterback to make a mistake.

We have to key on Devone Bess as a receiver, as he is the go to guy for Brennan. Honestly though, with an attack like Hawaii's there isn't a single player that we can point to say and say, "If we stop him, we stop them entirely as a team." The local players are talking up Brennan for all kinds of national awards, as are the local news channels. We've even been hearing it from my wife's friend who has gotten us the tickets for this game. He has been saying all week that Hawaii is going to destroy Purdue.

Honestly, this is going to be a very difficult game to win. Hawaii's offense may be as good as Notre Dame's and the Irish toyed with us earlier in the season. Our heads may not entirely be in this one, and our coach's head is certainly not in the game. As almost every game has been this year, it depends on our offensive attack. The defense has improved, but every sign points to them getting torched early and often. If the offense is clicking, then we have a chance, but I don't see us outscoring them. We're going to need that elusive perfect game in order to come out with a win, and there have been no signs that it is just around the corner after the way we played against Indiana.

PREDICTION: Hawaii 45, Purdue 35 – We'll score with them early and hang around for awhile, but there is simply too much firepower there for us to overcome. We need the offense of the Indiana State game and the defense of the Northwestern game in order to have even a chance.

This leaves plenty of room to pick some of the national games this week, and there are several to choose from. First of all, I want to congratulate Miami for coming through and winning in the Orange Bowl tonight. The end of the broadcast was very touching as the players took a banner painted with Bryan Pata's picture out to mid-field between the U logo and laid it down while they had a prayer. For all the team has been through this season it is amazing that they have qualified to go to a bowl game. There was even talk during the broadcast that the Champs bowl was still a possible destination for them. I don't think it will happen, but we can dream.

The first game I want to talk about this week is Notre Dame at USC. With a win by USC, they will likely control their own destiny when it comes to playing Ohio State for the national title. It is comforting to know that since Michigan is still #2 after losing to Ohio State it is unlikely that Notre Dame will jump over them and get into the title game win or lose. Honestly, if I had to watch another Ohio State-Notre Dame bowl game, especially if Brady Quinn's sister is there, I would have to call for a jihad against University of Phoenix Stadium during a game. Fortunately, Notre Dame hasn't played a good team since the UCLA game, and they won't know how to react when they fall behind early on the road. USC simply does not lose at home to anyone, and I would love to see this become another blowout in Los Angeles for the Irish. Still, it should be a close game. USC 31, Notre Dame 28.

My second game is LSU at Arkansas. LSU is a completely different team when they playa t home, but this is on the road. Arkansas probably needs USC to lose in order to get a chance at the championship, and they still have that pesky SEC title game to get around as well. They are playing very well, however, and they are the only BCS conference team outside of Ohio State that is undefeated within their conference. When you consider that that conference is the SEC, then it means that Arkansas is a very good team. Part of their good fortune can be attributed to the fact that they play in the weaker division of the SEC. Mississippi State and Mississippi are jokes. Auburn can't score. Alabama isn't that great, and they got to play Vanderbilt and South Carolina from the SEC East. Still this should be a very good ballgame, and may be too close to call. Arkansas 21, LSU 20 based on the home field advantage.

Finally, there is one more game I wanted to talk about, and I still have plenty of room to do it. Wake Forest plays Maryland for the right to go to the ACC championship game and actually play for a BCS bid. It's hard to believe that one of these teams still has a chance to play in a big bowl, and that it would be a second such appearance for Maryland. It is also a big game because we have a strong chance of playing the loser of this game in the Champs Sports Bowl. In the end, Wake Forest is playing better and they have a lot to play for. Wake Forest 17, Maryland 14.

So that is that for this week. Next up I'll have an entry with my reactions from the Hawaii game, before having an early Big Ten bowl preview once all is said and done from here in Honolulu. We still have a lot of football left to be played, but in the mean time it is time to kick back, put my feet up, and spend some time in the sun on the beach. It is a well earned reward for both myself and the team. I encourage all Boiler fans to Boiler Up and stay up late to watch the game from Hawaii.