We have had a couple of weeks to digest what was, unquestionably, a successful first year under Jeff Brohm. It has been fun to bask in the afterglow of a bowl victory and 7-win season. A new one will be here before we know it, however. Spring practice will happen in a couple of months, then we get the season kickoff on August 30th.
So what does the 2018 season bring? Purdue has a lot to replace on defense with no clear answers, but I trust the coaching staff that made pretty much a miraculous turnaround to put forth a serviceable unit. The offense still has some questions, but not as many as it faced a year ago. We also have a schedule that looks favorable for a hot start:
August 30 vs. Northwestern (10-3, 7-2) – The season opener should already be a fun one, as Northwestern had an excellent year when it comes to winning close games. We will also be opening the year under the lights on a Thursday night as one of the first games of the entire college football season. Overall Northwestern will bring in an 8-game winning streak, one of the longest active streaks in the country. They stand a good chance at being ranked, but they have started slowly each of the last two years before playing better football later in the season.
September 8 vs. Eastern Michigan (5-7, 3-5 MAC) – Normally Eastern Michigan is one of the weakest FBS programs in the country, but of late they have been feisty. They reached a bowl game in 2016 and last year they did something Purdue could not do: They won at Rutgers. This is a game Purdue should be able to win, especially after Brohm easily handled a pretty good Ohio team last year.
September 15 vs. Missouri (7-6, 4-4 SEC) – Which Missouri team will show up? The Tigers ripped off six straight wins to close the regular season last year before losing to Texas in their bowl game, scoring at least 45 points in all six wins. Of course, all six were against teams that finished with a losing record overall. They were the ultimate good bad team in that they blew out non-bowl teams, but often got blown out themselves by bowl teams. This included the 35-3 hurtin’ Purdue put on them in Columbia. Quarterback Drew Lock returns after throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and 40 TDs against just 13 INTs, but Purdue held him to a season low 133 yards and 0 TDs with 2 interceptions.
September 22 vs. Boston College (7-6, 4-4 ACC) – A second non-conference game against a Power 5 conference team should be a good one. They are basically the opposite of Missouri, too. The Tigers are known for prolific offense, but Boston College often touts a very strong defense. BC won 5 of 6 to finish the regular season before losing to Iowa in its bowl game. The lone loss was 17-14 to NC State. They did not give up more than 20 points in their final five regular season games. The clash of style between them and Missouri will be jarring.
September 29 at Nebraska (4-8, 3-6) – The Cornhuskers had a dismal 2017, but they still managed a one-point win at Purdue. Scott Frost certainly looks promising after coaching the true national champs to a perfect season, but how quickly can he turn things around? This is also Purdue’s first road game of the year after four straight home games. The Frost angle definitely bring mystery to this one.
October 13 at Illinois (2-10, 0-9) – The Illini were quite moribund this past year and not much is expected this coming season. Should Purdue win, it would tie the overall series at 44-44-6, setting up the 2019 meeting as the first time since the early 1900s Purdue could hold an overall series lead. Purdue started 5-1-2 against Illinois, lost the next five games, tied it in 1905 at 6-6-2, then lost five in a row to never lead again.
October 20 vs. Ohio State (12-2, 8-1) – The defending Big Ten champs will once again be the conference favorites and a playoff contender. Does Purdue have another Harboring in for them? The only Hazell matchup was a 56-0 bloodletting that wasn’t even that close, but since 1999 the Buckeyes and Boilers have played 13 times. Purdue has won 4 of those games and was within a touchdown four other times. I am not predicting a win by any means, but over the past 20 years many Ohio State fans have not looked forward to coming to West Lafayette, where they are 3-4 since 2000.
October 27 at Michigan State (10-3, 7-2) – Michigan State also had quite the turnaround in 2017 and should be a top 15 team when the preseason polls are out. This will very likely be the toughest road game on the schedule. Purdue has lost 7 in a row to the Spartans, but even Hazell somehow kept it close with them in the last three meetings. The largest margin of victory in this 7 game streak has only been 17 points.
November 3 vs. Iowa (8-5, 4-5) – Purdue faces all but two bowl teams from the Big Ten in 2018, and Iowa was one of those teams that also won said bowl game (thanks a lot, Michigan). Things rarely change with the Hawkeyes though. You’re going to get a conservative, run-heavy offense. Winning in Iowa City was one of the big shocks of the 2017 season. Can we replicate it in West Lafayette?
November 10 at Minnesota (5-7, 2-7) – Purdue has yet to win in TCF Bank Stadium, going 0-4 against the Gophers. That is the current difference in the overall series as Minnesota leads 37-33-3. The bizarre weather-delayed game this past season was the difference though in a bowl game for us or a bowl game for them. The teams are similar in that they are entering year 2 under a highly touted coach and there is the did we/did we not look at Fleck factor.
November 17 vs. Wisconsin (13-1, 9-0) – The losing streak against the Badgers has to end sometime, right? They have won 12 in a row over Purdue, the longest streak any opponent has ever had over us. Purdue certainly played them tough in Madison this past year though. It will take some breaks for sure, but in the absolute best case scenario this game is a factor in the B1G West race.
November 24 at Indiana (5-7, 2-7) – The Bucket finally returned home last year, and it would be nice if it would stay awhile. Indiana’s offense looks promising, but a good defense was dismantled. The departure of Simmie Cobbs Jr. was also a big loss. Purdue has lost three in a row in Bloomington, too.