Purdue Boilermakers football preview 2013: Best case, worst case, prediction

Photo: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue used a hot stretch against bad teams to sneak into a bowl at 6-6 but it wasn’t enough to save Danny Hope’s job.  In comes Darrell Hazell who had Kent State knocking on the door of a BCS game last year before suffering a loss Northern Illinois in the MAC title game.  By all accounts this is a great hire, but Purdue was going to enter a transition year regardless.  The oft-injured Rob Henry barely beat out true freshman Danny Etling under center. No matter who starts at quarterback, however, there will be offensive issues, especially because of the lack of talent around them.  Akeem Hunt is the best offensive player back and while he has big play potential – averaging eight yards a carry last year – he has just 75 career rushing attempts.  Linebacker depth is a huge concern as well – a converted quarterback was able to go out and win a starting job.  Regardless of how high the ceiling is on Hazell for the long term, the short term goals should just be playing competitive ball and showing growth over the course of the 2013 season. Between a tough schedule and lack of talent, this will not be a memorable season in terms of the Win-Loss for the ‘Makers.

2013 Schedule:

At Cincinnati: 10-3 (5-2) – Big East

Best Case: Cincy looks to win the AAC in the first year of the new league’s existence. The Bearcat have the talent to do so despite Louisville getting all the (well-deserved) headlines.  0-1

Worst Case: Purdue got hammered by Minnesota a season ago.  The Bearcats are a tad better than the Gophers.  0-1

Prediction: That rebuilt defense is going against an experienced and dynamic offense from The Queen City.  L: 38-10, 0-1

Indiana State: 7-4 (5-3) – Missouri Valley (FCS)

Best Case: By far the most winnable game on Purdue’s schedule and they take advantage in a blowout.  1-1

Worst Case: ISU has played well against their in-state Big Ten brothers in the past, but I refuse to pick against a Big Ten team, no matter how bad, when facing a FCS squad.  1-1

Prediction: Akeem Hunt is the most talented player on the field and he gets to put that on display against the over-matched Sycamores.  W: 28-10, 1-1

Notre Dame: 12-1 – Independent

Best Case: Purdue made this a field goal game a season ago.  Maybe they make things interesting for the Irish, but again in a losing effort.  1-2

Worst Case: 78-22 was the total scoring margin in Purdue’s combined losses to Michigan and Penn State last year, both of which stand at equal or lesser talent levels with Notre Dame. Those embarrassing losses were both at home so you can rule out some home cooking.  1-2

Prediction: Notre Dame is more talented across the board and will have gone to the Big House the game before so they won’t be intimidated by the road environment in Ross-Aide Stadium.  L: 35-10, 1-2

At Wisconsin: 8-6 (4-4) – Big Ten

Best Case: Another moral victory as Purdue shows some fight under the charismatic Hazell.  1-3

Worst Case: Another blowout from last year is back on the schedule once again this season.  1-3

Prediction: Wisconsin is a popular sleeper pick to steal the division from Ohio State.  There is a reason people are making that claim – experience.  Something Purdue is lacking.  L: 35-14, 1-3 (0-1)

Northern Illinois: 12-2 (8-0) – MAC

Best Case: A sub-par Iowa team managed to beat this club a year ago and the Huskies enter 2013 with a new staff.  Hazell avenges the MAC title game loss, albeit in a strange way.  2-3

Worst Case: NIU is expected to finish high in the MAC again and boast quarterback Jordan Lynch, the best player in this game.  Things are just starting to get ugly.  1-4

Prediction: Sandwiched between Wisconsin and Nebraska, you have to assume there will be some urgency to win this one for whatever slim bowl hopes this team has. That being said, I’m not sure the Boilermakers have enough pieces to actually pull that off.  L: 21-18 (late score and two-point conversion to get within three.  The onside kick fails), 1-4 (0-1)

Nebraska: 10-4 (7-1) – Big Ten

Best Case: Even if Purdue exceeded all expectations and Nebraska fails to live up to any of theirs, the talent gap between these two teams is appalling.  2-4

Worst Case: Purdue’s season starts to go the way of Illinois’ last year as the losses continue to mount.  1-5

Prediction: Nebraska has no trouble in running past the overwhelmed Boilermaker defenders.  L: 38-10, 1-5 (0-2)

At Michigan State: 7-6 (3-5)

Best Case:  Another bad match up as MSU’s d should be able to stop Purdue’s new look O.  2-5

Worst Case:  A long season gets a little longer.  1-6

Prediction: MSU demolished Minnesota in last year’s game.  UM’s 2012 team was a lot better than this year’s Purdue club.  L: 28-10, 1-6 (0-4)

Ohio State 12-0 (8-0) – Big Ten

Best case: A repeat of last your as Purdue manages to – inexplicably, we might add – keep it close against the conference’s top dogs. 2-6

Worst case: I think we all know what that is. 1-7

Prediction: Taking this into overtime last year means that the Buckeyes will be a more than prepared to land a hammer on the Boilermakers in this one. Not pretty. L: 42-21, 1-7 (0-4)

Iowa 4-8 (2-6)

Best case: Iowa is every bit the mess Purdue is and the Boilermakers finally get off the schneid. 3-6

Worst case: The Hawkeyes are the surprise team of the Big Ten in 2013 and wind up just adding to Purdue’s humiliation. 1-8

Prediction: Purdue barely managed to Boiler Up against a banged-up Iowa team a season ago, winning narrowly in 2012. This fall is a completely different story as the Hawkeyes get their revenge L: 28-21, 1-8 (0-5)

At Penn State 8-4 (6-2)

Best case: Yet another moral victory in a close loss for Hazell’s bunch. 3-7

Worst case: The superior Penn State defense makes for a long day for Purdue’s youthful offense. 1-9

Prediction: Penn State could be peaking ahead on the schedule to Nebraska. However, with no bowl game to play for, each week is of the utmost importance. The Nittany Lions will be able to focus in and get the “W.” L: 31-13, 1-9 (0-6)

Illinois 2-10 (0-8)

Best case: There will be no bowl in 2013-14 for Hazell and Co.; with two winnable games to round out the season, however, we see some promise for next year. 4-7

Worst case: A year ago, this matchup served as another close win for Purdue against a terrible team. What happens if the Illini aren’t so terrible this season? 1-10

Prediction: I love the similarities between Illinois getting rid of Zook  and then struggling in Year 1 under Backman. I see the same uphill climb for Purdue.  L: 28-21, 1-10 (0-7)

At Indiana 4-8 (2-6)

Best case: A tough year rounds out strong with the rivalry win. Purdue fans can take solace in the fact that The Old Oaken Bucket stays in West Lafayette for another 12 months. 5-7

Worst case: Nightmare conclusion: Not only does Indiana score the win, but the victory makes Purdue’s bitter rivals bowl-eligible. 1-11

Prediction: Purdue beat Indiana last year to slip into a bowl game. I see the exact opposite happening this season as this game will serve as Indiana’s sixth win of the season. L: 42-28, 1-11 (0-8)

Final thoughts:

Purdue is simply too young on both sides of the ball as the program dives headlong into a rebuilding effort in 2013. Compared to the rest of the league, the talent simply is not there. The Makers can certainly make things interesting, and I expect them to under a great coach such as Hazell proved himself to be at Kent State. That being said, there is just too much of an uphill climb here, with a new coach and increased ability league-wide, to expect too many “W’s” in Year 1.