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So it has come to this…

I think the official Purdue site says it all. This is the sixth year the Motor City bowl has had a tie-in with the Big Ten, but because of consistently getting two teams into the BCS and a dearth of bowl eligible teams this will be only the second time a team from the conference has played in Detroit. The last time was the 2003 season when a 6-6 Northwestern team lost 28-24 to the same Bowling Green team that upset us to begin that season.

The downside of the Motor City bowl each year is that it is the last of the Big Ten bowls, meaning the team playing in it has had a disappointing year, but was still good enough to win most of its games. That team will be facing the best the MAC has to offer. Considering the MAC usually only has 2-3 good teams getting their best is usually a fairly even game. The Purdue site can dress it up with propaganda all they want, but this is nothing short of a disappointment for us.

How excited can we be to face a team we have already beaten by 23 points? Not only that, we will see them again in nine months when the new season starts as game 2 of the 2008 season is against the Chippewas. This is an embarrassment for us. Just a month ago we were talking about a potential New Year’s Day game, and now we’re in Detroit the day after Christmas for the lowest possible bowl we could have played. Even the Armed Forces bowl would have been better as it would have meant a test against a team we didn’t play. Basically, the various bowl committees said we only deserve to prove our best win of the season wasn’t a fluke.

Let’s face it, the Central Michigan game was our best win of the year. They are decent team and we put them away with a dominant first half. The Chippewas are a better team than Iowa and Northwestern, and they are the only team in the postseason that we beat this year. Yes, our best win, and our bowl opponent, is a team that lost to Eastern Michigan, North Dakota State, and was pounded in games against Clemson and Kansas.

Is this rock bottom for us? Well, if you can still go bowling and hit rock bottom its pretty close. The only way it could be worse is if we lose this game. Since it is more of a home game for the Chippewas than it is for us it’s a distinct possibility. The Motor City Bowl is the type of bowl where the Big Ten team winning proves nothing, while a loss stings even more. That 2003 game was a little different because Bowling Green was very, very good and favored, but the opposite is true here.

I’ll try to take a more positive look at this over the next few weeks, and maybe even get somewhat excited for it, but for now I am feeling pretty low. At least we stand a good chance of winning a bowl game now, but a loss would be devastating because of the previous history. In the meantime, let me give out some good and bad post-season awards for the 2007 Boilers, since the bowl result will be irrelevant.

Most Improved: Chris Summers

Chris had a great year when absolutely nothing was expected from him. He’s probably the main reason we were able to beat Notre Dame, and gave us a real shot at beating Penn State on the road. The only miss that ended up hurting us was the one at IU (of the just four kicks he missed), but in the end it wouldn’t have mattered had we simply come to play. It’s safe to say Chris has earned himself the job for next year, and even more will be expected of him as he is the likely new punter as well. It’s very nice to see him get some positive press after so much negative press, and that a miss in the IU game was almost forgotten because of the other issues.

Least Improved: Curtis Painter

It seemed like he, along with most of the team, regressed as the season went on. Yeah he still put up good numbers, but his games against Michigan State and Indiana were among the least inspiring statistical games by a quarterback ever. He raised his completion percentage and cut down his interceptions, but threw just four TD passes in the last four games after 22 in the first 8.

Mental Attitude Award: Jake Standeford

What will it take to add this kid to the coaching staff next year? Here is a guy that was an invited walk-on mostly because of his record breaking brother and he was never expected to see the field. He did everything that was asked of him and as one of the least heralded recruits in team history he outplayed the most heralded recruit in program history. He only had 27 catches for 284 yards and two TD’s, but he was a fantastic downfield blocker and all-around hustle guy. If we could get his effort out of everyone else we’d be a much better team.

Trojan® Boner of the Year Award: Selwyn Lymon

I hate guys like Selwyn Lymon. God gave his all the talent in the world but he never had it going on upstairs to rein it in. He shredded a bad Notre Dame defense for what ended up being the highlight of his career, but didn’t have a tenth of the heart that Standeford did behind him. All of his talent gave him just 13 more catches, 266 more yards, and the same number of touchdowns. Now he is off the team for good and I hope he can simply get his life in order. He’s the latest in a long line of high-profile recruits that hasn’t worked out, showing why the program has taken a downturn. At least he’s a badass in NCAA ’08 on my playstation.

Offensive MVP: Dustin Keller

Bryant was underwhelming this year with all the drops and the way he disappeared in the last two games, but Keller delivered game in and game out. Why we didn’t go to him more I’ll never know, as he seemed to actually catch the ball when thrown to him unlike Orton, Lymon, and Bryant. Of our highly touted receiving corps only he and Standeford were not a disappointment.

Offensive dud: Joe Tiller

With all the weapons we had on offense we had the most predictable offense I’ve ever seen. Where was the imagination Cowboy Joe used to employ? Where were the in-game adjustments? This was the most obvious year of the Tiller regime where we were outcoached in every loss. Last year I could accept the losses owing to inexperience and lack of talent. This year we had experience and more talent, yet we got worse as the season went on. We had a chance to make noise on national TV against Ohio State to make a statement and only answered with a resounding thud that echoed through the rest of the season. This year Tiller was the king of the inexplicable game decision, such as not kicking a 43 yard field goal at home but sending the kicker out for a 50-yarder at Penn State.

Defensive MVP: Anthony Heygood

The defense regressed the most, but Heygood played hard all year. Next year he should be the leader we need at linebacker and another year of experience could see him playing for conference honors. I felt Avril had a disappointing year as we showed an appalling lack of pass rush for a Purdue team, but Heygood was an anchor in each game. Keep in mind also that it was his first year ever at the position.

Defensive dud: Brock Spack

Here is the sole reason the season went in the crapper. Four years ago Spack was the heir apparent as head coach and we had a string of good defenses. Now we have a defense that plays a base package the entire game never once makes a single adjustment. We are incapable of making the big play we need to get a team off the field with a key stop, and haven’t done so since 2003. The fact we have so many defensive guys in the NFL, yet our defense is now terrible is such an enigma considering Spack is the one constant during Tiller’s tenure.

Best play of the year:

This is either a tie between Keller’s 80 yard TD against Toledo and Cliff Avril’s pick six at Minnesota. I think I would give the edge to Avril because it was simply a great individual effort to go with a solid stiff arm to get to the end zone.

Worst play of the year:

Third and five at mid-field against Indiana. Everyone knew Hardy was getting the ball yet we didn’t have the foresight to double cover him, bump him at the line, or do anything to stop it. This closed the case against Brock Spack ever being head coach.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a rematch to get excited for. Woo.