After a disappointing 5-6 record in 2005, the Boilermakers came into the 2006 season with high expectations. They returned seven starters on offense and five on defense and have the most favorable schedule in the Big Ten missing both Ohio State and Michigan and getting Wisconsin, Penn State, and Minnesota at home. But things haven't worked out the way head coach Joe Tiller and the Boilermakers had hoped. Purdue started out 4-0 over Minnesota and three weak non-conference foes, but in week 5 they were defeated by Notre Dame 35-21. That was the beginning of a streak that has seen the Boilermakers lose three of their last four games. Their lone win came against a pathetic Northwestern team while their other two losses came to Iowa and Wisconsin. Purdue has a record of 5-3 (2-2 Big Ten).
Last season the Nittany Lions beat the Boilermakers 33-15 in Happy Valley. The Lions rolled up 516 yards of total offense with 303 yards rushing. It was Purdue's sixth straight loss and eliminated any hope they had of making a bowl game.
Purdue sports the usual spread offense we've all come to know and love. Expect to shake your heads in frustration as they pick up chunks of yards on bubble screens and crossing patterns while mixing in the occasional draw play with aggravating success. They possess the #3 passing offense in the NCAA averaging over 300 yards per game, but their scoring has steadily declined as the year has progressed. Their point totals on the season go 60, 38, 38, 27, 21, 17, 31, and 3. So clearly the Big Ten defense are having some success in stopping the Boilermakers, but much of the low point totals can be attributed to redzone mistakes and risky play calling.
After splitting time with Brandon Kirsch last year, sophomore Curtis Painter returns as the signal caller this season. Painter has already amassed 2405 yards (#1 in Big Ten) with 13 TD to go with them. But he has come under criticism of late as he has struggled with inaccuracy and inopportune turnovers. Tiller has tried to take some of the heat off his quarterback saying his play calling may not have been the best, like when Purdue tried to convert a 4th and 11 and failed instead of attempting a field goal in the second quarter of a 7-3 game against Wisconsin.
Painter's favorite target is Dorien Bryant with 46 receptions for 578 yards and 3 TD. He's a short wide receiver at only 5'10" and 175 lbs. The other wide receivers are Greg Orton (So, 36 for 472 yds, 2 TD) and Selwyn Lymon (Fr, 23 for 436 yds, 2 TD). The other dangerous weapon is tight end Dustin Keller (Jr, 36 for 546 yds, 2 TD). Active tight ends have been a problem for the Nittany Lions this year against Notre Dame and Minnesota.
|Runningback Kory Sheets
The running game is split between junior Kory Sheets and sophomore Jaycen Taylor. Sheets is the bigger of the two weighing close to 200 lbs. while Taylor weighs closer to 175 lbs. The duo has combined for 934 yards and 12 TD on the year with Sheets getting the majority of the carries. Sheets is also a bigger receiving threat with 17 catches on the year, but Taylor is not to be overlooked, as he has 9 catches himself. The offensive line is an experienced group of juniors and seniors that have only given up 8 sacks on the year tying Ohio State for the fewest in the conference.
The Purdue defense has been about as stiff as a house of cards in a hurricane. They are ranked #96 in the NCAA in rushing defense giving up 167 ypg and #108 in passing defense giving up 249 ypg. Overall the Boilermakers are ranked #111 in total defense.
|DE Anthony Spencer
The defensive line features defensive end Anthony Spencer who has been named a quarter-finalist for the Ronnie Lott award. The 260 lb. DE leads the team in tackles and is #8 in sacks nationally with 7.5 on the year. His pals on the defensive end are not as great. The defensive tackles, Jermaine Guynn and Ryan Baker, are pretty small at 277 lbs. and 282 lbs. respectively. It was evident Wisconsin was able to push them around all day and they were pretty much helpless to stop it. The other defensive end is Cliff Avril, a converted linebacker (where have I seen that before?) who is pretty small too at only 240 lbs. But what this group gives up in size they gain in speed as Baker and Avril have 5 and 4 sacks respectively.
The linebackers are Bick, Hall, and Keglar. A functional but far from intimidating group. Their backups don't have a lot of tackles so I suspect they don't do a lot of rotating.
The defensive backs have been getting torched this year. Their best game defensively was when they held Northwestern to 83 yards passing, but other than that everyone has passed for over 200 yards against them. This squad has given up 13 passing touchdowns and only picked off 3 balls. Adams and Vinson are the corners and Erwin and Scott are the safeties.
When Purdue Has the Ball
Purdue is going to try to spread out the Penn State defense and pick them apart much like Notre Dame and Minnesota did. I expect we'll see those frustrating wide receiver bubble screens that Penn State has always been helpless to stop for anything less than six yards. The corners are going to have to play up on them and the outside linebackers and safeties are going to have to move in for support quickly. Penn State will probably play their base 4-3 to start but may move into the nickel package if Purdue has success. If that happens look for Purdue to mix in draw plays with aggravating success.
When Penn State Has the Ball
|Unable to stop them with force, the Purdue linebackers try to stop their foe with offensive body odor.
The Penn State offense should get back on track this week. Their defense does not match up well with our running game. Our strength is running between the tackles with Tony Hunt. Defending the rush in the middle is their weakness. Tony Hunt should get back on track with another 100 yard game. I like our chances in the passing game too. In their secondary Erwin and Adams are both freshmen. The corner Vinson is pretty small at 5'9" and 175 lbs. which may open up some opportunities for some deep throws if the offensive line can protect against the better than average pass rushing defensive line.
|Probably won't be stopped.
One thing that concerns me in this game is the Penn State defensive matchups against their offense. Notre Dame and Minnesota were successful in spreading the defense and picking them apart. The Penn State defense is built to stop the run. Purdue doesn't really care if you stop their running game. They prefer to pass first. If the Lion corners continue to play soft zone ten yards off the line of scrimmage, the defense is going to be on the field a long time. The player that scares me the most is tight end Dustin Keller. Every tight end Penn State has played seems to have a career game against the Lions, and this guy may be the best yet. If Purdue gets out to an early lead and the Lion offense has to play come from behind, it could be a long plane ride home.
Somewhat Reasonably Certain Predictions
Tony Hunt rushes for 125 yards on 26 carries with 2 TD
Dustin Keller has five catches for 100 yards.
Curtis Painter throws 2 INT
Better Chance to Look Stupid
Penn State converts all trips to the redzone into touchdowns
Andrew Quarless catches 5 passes
A.J. Wallace has a kick return past the 50 yard line.
Penn State completes a pass over the middle
The Bottom Line
Purdue is going to roll up a ton of yards in this game. But like they did with Wisconsin, they will shoot them selves in the foot in the redzone with bad play calling, errant throws, and costly turnovers. But they will still get some points. The Penn State offense will get back on track and move the ball well. They will shoot themselves in the foot a few times too, but they will get just enough points to win.