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235 Days to Purdue Football: Why Not Dream?

LSU brought it home in the Superdome, so let’s count down to the next season.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I mean, basically Purdue won last night’s college football national championship.

In Ed Orgeron’s first two seasons in Baton Rouge he was still considered a shaky hire. he entered with a 16-27 overall career record and had famously failed at Mississippi a decade earlier, going 10-25 in a three year period. He served as a solid interim in 2013 at USC, going 6-2, but when LSU hired him full time there were some definite questions. He needed to stabilize things in a hurry, so he turned to Purdue.

Specifically, he turned to transfer Danny Etling. Etling was the former starter at Purdue that needed to be De-Shooped for a year, but he was ready to go in 2016 when Orgeron took over, again as an interim, after Les Miles was fired. He would finish that year 6-2 in the last eight games and win the Citrus Bowl, before going 9-4 a year later with Etling. Just two seasons later he is 15-0 and a National Champion, winning almost as many games this year as he did in his first four years as a head coach.

It was all thanks to Etling and his Purdue roots stabilizing things those first two years with 4,500 yards passing, 27 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions.

So now that the 2019 season is in the books and a grateful LSU is thankful for Purdue for Etling, beating Ohio State last year to ruin their reputation and push them into being a No. 2 seed, and for Nick Saban’s constant deep fear of all things Boilermaker, we can look forward to 2020. the 2019 season for Purdue was forgettable to be sure, but with health and a promising recruiting class coming in things can turn around next year. Maybe Purdue could even be in the title game.

Of course, that is not happening unless Purdue goes undefeated. We’re not a program like an Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, et al that will get the benefit of the doubt and a playoff bid if we go 12-1 and win the Big Ten. If Ohio State couldn’t do it last year at 12-1 then Purdue never would. It is 13-0 or bust for us.

What would it take to get there? Let’s look at the schedule and find a reason why we would win every game.

(And yes,I shouldn’t have to say this, but what follows is wildly optimistic to the point of lunacy by any reasonable standard. Purdue is not going undefeated any time soon barring an absolute miracle and we haven’t done it since 1943. Just remove the sticks from your rear ends and have some fun).

at Nebraska - September 5 - Purdue already has a tricky road conference opener, but it is against a Nebraska team that has lost two in a row and three of the last five to Purdue. The Scott Frost era has not exactly gotten off to a rousing start in Lincoln. This year they missed a bowl game because a fourth string walk-on QB with barely any playing time drove the length of the field to beat them in West Lafayette. Purdue should be much healthier this time around.

Memphis - September 12 - I admit that this game scares me the most of our three non-conference games. The Tigers were really, really good and deserved the Group of 5 major bowl bid this year. They went 12-2, beat Cincinnati twice, SMU, and Ole Miss. They have a new coach but Brady White and Kenneth Gainwell give them 5,500 yards of offense to build around. They’ll be favored, and probably even ranked, when they come to West Lafayette. It’s a good thing we have won our last three home games against ranked teams at home. (Seriously though, this game is terrifying.)

Air Force - September 19 - It is Purdue’s first game against a service academy since 1944 and we get a 10-win Air Force coming in. The Falcons were really good this year, but graduated a lot. We also have triple-option fun as an extra challenge. Purdue should have a size and talent advantage here, but the triple option is the great college football equalizer when run well.

at Boston College - September 26 - Finally a break! At least it is a perceived break. The Eagles will be breaking in a new coach and AJ Dillon is safely headed off to the NFL. Purdue handled them pretty well in West Lafayette two years ago, so I actually feel pretty good about this one.

Rutgers - October 10 - If we lose at home to Rutgers after a bye we need to burn the stadium down. Yes, I know Brohm lost that weird 14-12 game in Piscataway in 2017, but Rutgers is 3-21 the last two years and has lost 21 straight Big Ten games. They just scored fewer points against a nine game Big Ten schedule than 1981 Northwestern and were shut out four times. In this 21 game conference losing streak they have scored more than 17 points once, when they hung 21 on a bored and disinterested Ohio State this year. They scored 30 TOTAL in their other 8 league games. We will beat Rutgers. Sharpie.

at Illinois - October 17 - In probably Purdue’s worst game of 2019 the Boilers lost 24-6 in a rainy quagmire of a game. It was a dreadful day and we could do nothing offensively. The Boilers haven’t lost in Champaign in a decade, however, and are 6-1 there since 2002. Enjoy the Beef House and a win, everyone!

at Michigan - October 24 - This is perhaps Purdue’s most difficult game of the season. The Boilers have only won in Ann Arbor once since 1966, and that came when Danny Hope did it against RichRod in 2009. The Wolverines are much better now and Harbaugh has built them to the point of at least avoiding the upset him loss in a game like this. Still, Brohm is 1-0 against Ohio State, and Harbaugh can’t beat Ohio State. I don’t make the rules about transitive nature.

Northwestern - October 31 - Can anyone figure out the Wildcats? they won the West in 2018 then reverted to “Bad even by pre-1995 Northwestern standards” this past year. Purdue finally broke a long losing streak against them with Aidan O’Connell setting up J.D. Dellinger’s game-winner this past season, so getting them at home means a more comfortable win. We will hopefully get to use Rondale Moore against them, too.

at Minnesota - November 7 - Brohm vs. Fleck round 4 should be a good one. Purdue has never won in TCF Bank Stadium. We have to win there sometime, right? The Gophers are going to be awfully good next year after an excellent season this year and might be the favorite to win the Big Ten West. Given Purdue’s early league games there is a good chance that even without this dream 13-0 scenario the Boilers could be 4-1 in league play coming in, so it might be an elimination game for the West. Maybe if we don’t have our quarterback and best player get hurt on the same damn play this year we have a better shot against them. Just burn down the Barn on Friday night to be safe. It is the only way to be sure.

Wisconsin - November 14 - Here is my first bold and true prediction for 2020: We will finally defeat the Wisconsin Badgers again in football. The losing streak has to end and even though Brohm is 0-3 against them, his teams have fought very hard and nearly pulled it off already. Thanks to Jonathan Taylor leaving for the NFL (thank God), we don’t have to worry about him anymore. He was exceptionally torturous to Purdue even by Wisconsin running back standards.

Iowa - November 21 - Ferentz’ conservative nature already has him just 1-2 against Brohm, and the one loss this past year was competitive. I think we actually match up quite well with the Hawkeyes when we get gunslinger Brohm, and the two wins we have over them recently were really fun.

at Indiana - November 28 - Indiana’s best team in 30 years needed double overtime to beat a banged-up Purdue team playing a fourth string walk-on QB. Said QB threw for 408 yards and 3 TDs while Zander Horvath ran for 164 and two scores, the best rushing day by far for Purdue in 2019. Since Purdue will be a bowl team in 2020 it means we beat Indiana because they can’t beat bowl teams. It is science.

Ohio State - Big Ten Championship Game - December 5 - This is the easiest one of all. Since we own the Buckeyes within the Indiana state lines I expect another blowout win with Moore going for 340 yards and 4 TDs receiving.

Welcome to the Playoff. Since one of the semifinals is the Rose Bowl we’ll happily head back to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Drew Brees taking us there. The other semifinal is the Sugar Bowl, and getting to play in Brees’ home stadium against Alabama and Saban’s three-game losing streak to us means that if we get that semifinal you can already pencil us into Miami for the title game.