Of all the “cock-eyed optimist” cliches in college football, none have more resonance than in “a place called Hope.” Where “hope floats,” in West Lafayette, Indiana. That’s not just because the Purdue Boilermakers coach is named Danny Hope; it’s also because the spirit embodies his always-uplifting demeanor.
And that zeitgeist has been tested too, with all the injuries to QBs, WRs and RBs. When it comes to the skill positions, no college football program has been as snake bit as Purdue, especially with ACLs. It’s even carried over to the college basketball team where the injury bug didn’t just bite, but instead feasted on Robbie Hummel, one of the greatest players in program history.
But getting back to hope, now the football program has experience and depth and a signal caller, because of everyone who’s had to play in spite of injury.
2011 was: a bad start, but strong finish. They found that Caleb TerBush, not Rob Henry or Robert Marve is their real quarterback. It’s a shame about running back Ralph Bolden, but Akeem Shavers ran up almost 150 yards at the year end pizza party that some might call a bowl win. It’s safe to call this team an overachieving bunch; especially at a basketball school. So much of a basketball school in fact that when the football program was at it’s recent peak, they were known as “basketball on grass.” Even at a time that they were called “the cradle of quarterbacks.”
2012 will go smoothly if: they don’t play up-tempo, run n gun, shoot it out ball. They have as solid a DL and secondary as anywhere in the Big Ten or the country. There’s some talent at WR and RB, but also some concern. With a Shavers and TerBush backfield, make your dirty jokes now. But they haven’t won a conference title since 2000, and they won’t this year. However, the opportunity is here with Ohio State suspended and Penn State about to be rocked by off-the-field distractions, you’ve got two competitors already out of the way.
2012 will be rough if: they don’t solve their passing game and rush defense issues from last year. Both numbers were bad. Just look at what Wisconsin and their ground game did to them in that 62-17 destruction. And remember the Big Ten Championship game goes through Madison
All-name team: Armstead Williams, freshman Harrison Jackson (2 presidents for the price of one) LB Andy Garcia (loved him as Stone in the Untouchable)
Bottom Line: There are some questions on both sides of the ball, so reaching a bowl is a probably going to happen, but not certain. Especially with this schedule, they’ll need to get off to a better start than last year. But at least with all the injuries that befell the program, they seem to be moving in the right direction and look like a 7-5 squad.
Rankings Athlon- 53 Lindy’s- 42 Phil Steele- 52
All the 77s
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Fox Sports, MSN, Walter Football and Yardbarker
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too