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Know Thy Opponent 2015: Indiana State Sycamores

For the third time since 2006 Purdue will face the Mighty Trees of Indiana State.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Soon the FCS home games will be gone. The days of paying a lower division foe to come in, receive a beating, and get a big check will be over once the Big Ten goes to a nine-game schedule. Purdue only has one such opponent left after this year, and that is next season against Eastern Kentucky. Despite recent struggles, the Boilers have done their jobs, too:

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 - SE Missouri State - W 59-0

2012 - Eastern Kentucky - W 48-6

2013 - Indiana State - W 20-14

2014 - Southern Illinois - W 35-13

That is a perfect 10-0 against the lower division, as it should be. As I have said before, there is no valid reason whatsoever that a major conference team should ever lose to an FCS team. There is just too much of a difference in recruiting, depth, training, and everything else. The lone exception might be North Dakota State, who has won four straight FCS titles and five straight against FBS teams. So, if you schedule them it is your own fault.

So Purdue has nothing to fear when the Trees come to town, right? Well, maybe not. Indiana State is coming off of its best season in decades. They reached the 2014 FCS playoffs and even won a game before falling in the second round. They finished 8-6 and went 4-4 in the ridiculously tough Missouri Valley Conference, which only had the two FCS finalists in NDSU and Illinois State.

Oh, and Indiana State was the last team to date to beat North Dakota State on its home field, doing so in 2012.

2014 Record: 8-6, 4-4 Missouri Valley Conference

Bowl Result: Lost to Chattanooga 35-14 in Second Round of FCS playoffs

Blog Representation: Sycamore Pride

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 4-0

Last Purdue win: 9/7/2013 20-14 at Purdue

Last Season for the Sycamores:

Mike Sanford's second year in Terre Haute was a huge bounce back. The Trees were 1-11 in 2013 (nearly beating Purdue, however) and closed the season strong enough to reach the FCS playoffs for the first time since 1984. They even notched a win over an FBS opponent by beating Ball State 27-20. They had a two-point loss to Illinois State (who went on to be the FCS runner-up) and had nice wins over Liberty, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and Youngstown State.

Indiana State was able to have a very solid defense paired with a balanced offense led by senior quarterback Mike Perish. Perish is gone, however, and the Trees have quite a bit they need to replace.

Indiana State Offense:

Perish was an excellent quarterback in his final season. He completed 61% of his passes for 3,515 yards and 21 TDs against 12 interceptions. His departure leaves the Trees thin at the position. Matt Adam threw for a modest 201 yards and two scores in four games as a freshman, so he could be the replacement. Junior college transfer Zach Kline is also in the mix.

Indiana State also lost its top rusher in Buck Logan, who had 797 yards and 7 touchdowns. Junior running back LeMonte Booker will play a larger role as a 5'11 190 pound junior that rushed for 378 yards and 3 TDs. Dimitri Taylor (293-3) also returns with experience. Roland Genesy, another JuCo transfer, will also factor into playing time.

At receiver whoever wins the quarterback job will have some good targets tot hrow to. Gary Owens (69-815-5) and Robert Tonyan (54-747-4) were both prolific receivers last year. They will look to take advantage of a young and inexperienced Purdue secondary. Jamar Brown (29-255-3) will be playing the role of the completely uncovered tight end that roams the middle of the field wide open.

I am not even going to pretend I know who is starting on the offensive line, but there are some skill players back. With a game to get acclimated to a new quarterback this could be a decent offense that comes to West Lafayette. Purdue will have to use its size and talent discrepancy to full advantage.

Indiana State Defense

The Sycamores had a very, very good defense last season for an FBS team. It was exhibited early on when they held a full strength Indiana offense to only 28 points after giving up 70 the year before. It wasn't that great against the run (giving up 2,411 yards and 22 TDs), but the pass defense was excellent. in fact, if we could borrow their four starting defensive backs and put them on our defense I absolutely would.

The secondary was led by defensive backs Travis Starks and Mark Sewall, who both return for their senior seasons as bigger defensive backs that will be difficult to throw on. Each of them had four interceptions last year. DeJuan Lang and Alex Stowers are also back to complete the back four and they had a combined five interceptions. This is a very, very good unit that might be among the best we see all season.

Unfortunately, I could not find much else about their defense. Upfront you do have Connor Underwood, who was named First Team All-American by TSN and 2nd Team All-American by AP. We need to be encouraged that the running game is the way to go here. There should be no need to test a very good secondary because the run game was porous last season.

Indiana State Special Teams

As if Sewall was not as much of a concern on defense, he is a pretty good punt returner at 8.8 yards per return. That makes up for a kick return game that did not do much, which is a good thing since our return coverage was horrible last year.

Kicker Eric Heidorn is pretty good after going 17 of 24 on field goals with a long of 49. He did not miss an extra point. Punter Osborn Umeh averaged less than 39 yards per punt, so they aren't excellent at flipping the field.

Game Outlook

It really all goes back to the opponent. Aside from the near miss against the Trees two seasons ago, when both teams were absolutely horrid, Purdue has taken care of business with ease in its FCS games. The Trees were a good FCS team a year ago, but we're a Big Ten team and it should not matter. If this game is close or, heaven forbid, a loss, it will throw up some MAJOR red flags about this team. The Tree can probably hang around for a half or so, but We're the bigger, stronger, faster, and deeper football team. There is no valid excuse to lose this.

Way Too Early Prediction:

When we last played the trees we had to have Ricardo Allen save our sorry asses with a late interception. It was the only victory of 2013 and it came against and FCS team whole also went 1-11, with their lone win coming against a Division II team. The game two years ago was a major warning for what was to follow, and a similar result will produce a similar warning. Purdue should go out and act like it is a Big Ten team, building some confidence with what should be an easy win. That's why we paid the Trees to come to West Lafayette. Purdue 45, Indiana State 17