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Big Ten Bloggers Roundtable week 8

As a Purdue fan we so rarely see anything coming from Bloomington that is good football-wise, but this week's Big Ten Bloggers' roundtable is much like the Hoosiers season this year: A pleasant exception to that rule. This week the roundtable is headed up by none other than John of The Hoosier Report. John has posted only a couple of questions this week, but they are great questions for discussion as we head down the home stretch of the season.

1. Call your shot. We are halfway through the Big Ten season (or, at least, most of us are). What will be your team's final record? Where, if anywhere, will your team be spending late December/early January? Who will win the Big Ten?

I started the season with a prediction of a 9-3 record and I am sticking with it. So far I have been dead on as I had us at 5-2 at this point with losses to Michigan and Ohio State. The only difference so far is that I thought we would be much more competitive in those two games than we were. Finishing 9-3 will likely put us in the Alamo Bowl at somewhere around the #4 slot, with an outside chance of reaching the Outback bowl depending on how the rest of the conference breaks. I wouldn't like to head back to the Champs Sports bowl for two reasons: 1. it would be a bit of a disappointment falling to fifth, and 2. if we play Miami from the ACC there my marriage will be in danger on game night. Right now I expect to win all our remaining home games with Michigan State being the most difficult test. Depending on whom we play in the bowl game then could mean just the second 10 win season ever for Purdue, and first since 1979.

I think we will win at Indiana in one of the best Bucket games in recent memory, while the Penn State trip looms as another chance to prove ourselves, but I tend to think we'll just crap the bed like we have done of late. I had us losing that game anyway, and won't believe we'll pull the surprise until I see it. At least we should be able to beat a team with a winning record down the stretch, as we'll have four chances to with Northwestern, Indiana, Penn State, and Michigan State.

In the Big Ten it is frustrating to see that no one has been able to rise up and shake off the recent dominance of Michigan and Ohio State in a year when both looked to be down a little. It seems like every team except Ohio State has at least one loss that made people go, "HUH?" While Purdue's two losses weren't unexpected, the margins sure were. These two teams will probably go unbeaten the rest of the way and the winner will be the conference champion. I'm sure the league office would be cheering hard for Michigan in that scenario, as the only way the Big Ten is getting two into the BCS is if Ohio State loses the Big Ten, but finishes 11-1. Right now my money is on the Buckeyes.

2. How is your team's coaching situation? Clearly, this varies from school to school, with some coaches approaching retirement (Carr/Paterno), some who are just starting out (Brewster/Fitzgerald), the unique case of Bill Lynch, and others who seem to be in their primes. If your coach is on the tail end of his career, where do you see things going from here? If he's still early in his tenure, any buyer's remorse? If he's in he's somewhere in the middle, are you happy or wishing things would go a different direction? How does your view correspond to the "majority" view among your school's fans?

Right now I am disappointed with our coaching situation because I can see the Gene Keady syndrome setting in. I am very alarmed by the fact we have been unable to be even competitive against a ranked team in three years. It is clear to me that Coach Tiller is closer to retirement than he is to being head coach for another decade, but who can argue with what he has done? He has taken a team that was mired at the bottom of the league and has made it into a program that consistently cranks out 7-8 wins a year and makes a bowl game. Of the 119 Division 1-A teams only 16 can say they have been to bowl games in nine of the past ten seasons, and Purdue is one of them. Barring an utter collapse down the stretch Purdue will get to a bowl game this year to make it 10 in 11. If not for a six-game slide in 2005 Purdue would be one of just six teams to go to a bowl every year for 10 years. Some "name" programs not on this list of 16 include Penn State, Notre Dame, USC, UCLA, and Oklahoma.

It is a testament to what Tiller has done that Purdue is to the point of being disappointed in an eight win season. Still, there are always those that naturally want more and lately the Boilers have been sliding back, rather than moving forward. In 2004, the last time we faced Michigan and Ohio State we suffered a 2-point loss to the Wolverines on a fumble while in field goal range in the final minute and we beat Ohio State. This year we scored one meaningful touchdown while each game was (briefly) in question. I would like for Purdue to work out a plan where Tiller can definitely retire and receive the accolades he deserves, while still setting things up for a smooth transition. Of course, Purdue mishandled the basketball situation and the program went into the toilet for about five years before finally recovering.

The time for change will be sooner rather than later as clearly evidence by Tiller's desire to retire soon. Hopefully he can go out with the grace he deserves. With four more wins (that can be achieved this season) Tiller will tie Jack Mollenkopf as the winningest coach in the history of the program. I am fine with him staying as long as he wants to stay, but we need to start moving forward again and at least be competitive with some good teams. I am tired of getting blown out in every chance we have to make the program look good.

BONUS BASKETBALL QUESTION: If you plan to cover basketball, give us a brief outlook for your team. Who is your best player? What do you expect from the team?

I haven't decided yet if I will be covering any basketball this year, but I may keep things going for a weekly update just to have something to write about. During basketball season I usually cover two games a week for the newspapers that I write for, plus I do a weekly feature on, so it takes a lot of time out of my writing schedule.

The Boiler basketball program this year looks to be very young, but extremely talented. I am honestly so excited about watching this team in about two years I cannot stand it, especially if we land Tyler Zeller. Purdue has a whopping seven newcomers in a recruiting class that ranked second nationally. What is best is that all of them are "Purdue guys" in that they play a hard-nosed, workmanlike style.

Sophomore Chris Kramer is the emerging leader of this team and he is recovering from two offseason surgeries to relieve compartment syndrome in both of his legs. You can already tell he is the type of player Purdue fans absolutely love, but everyone else in the Big Ten will hate for the next three years.

Freshman E'twaun Moore has a lot expected of him this year, especially after leading East Chicago Central to the Class 4A state title in Indiana last year over IU-bound Eric Gordon and North Central. Moore is a four-star recruit along with JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel, and Scott Martin as the four big freshmen of the class. Look for Juco transfer Nemanja Calasan to make an impact as well, as he is being compared to Brian Cardinal in some circles. Key returners are Terrance Crump, Marcus Green, and Keaton Grant, providing much needed experience to go with the youth movement. Crump is the lone senior on the roster.

I expect this team to be very talented, but its youth will come out at times. An NCAA berth is not out of the question, but where they will really be served is in about two years when the group has gelled together and may compete for a national title.