I have a longstanding tradition when I write about the Big Ten. I’m not really sure when or exactly how it happened, it just did. Basically, as long as I’ve been writing for Campus Pressbox or its previous iterations I have been mean to Purdue. There’s not actually an article with the main subject being the Boilermakers but I have taken a shot at Purdue in a vast majority of my columns.
Well, I am here to say that the time for that is at an end.
At least I hope it is but for the moment at least, I am a believer in what Jeff Brohm is doing down in the state of Indiana.
So there is something that needs to be taken into account when talking about Purdue that was maybe lost on me in the past. Purdue is not a football school, Purdue is a basketball school. The top tier of football talent is never going to show up in West Lafayette. If you want to look at it in terms of NFL draft picks, there hasn’t been a first-round pick out of Purdue since 2011.
Purdue is in the same boat as Northwestern in that they’re very rarely going to get top level talent but still have to compete in one of and arguably the toughest conferences in the Big Ten. Given that fact, it’s less surprising that the Boilermakers haven’t posted a winning season since 2007 and third coach since 2009.
But that doesn’t mean that my former criticisms weren’t justified. Purdue has only won nine games since 2013 including a 1-11 season in that year. It’s been a bad couple of seasons.
So why do I think Jeff Brohm is going to change the culture there?
First off, Brohm has had success before despite only being a head coach at one stop before Purdue. However, Brohm had success during his three-year tenure at Western Kentucky University. Three winning seasons, including two with more than 10 wins and two bowl game wins over South Florida and Central Michigan. Is it Conference USA? Sure but that doesn’t mean you can win more than 10 games without any talent.
Does that mean that Brohm is going to have success at Purdue? It most certainly does not. Previous winning experience doesn’t always mean you’re going to win at the next level. Right, Brady Hoke?
But let’s look at the early season results.
Lamar Jackson is a heck of a player and Louisville is a pretty good team but Purdue was actually leading going into halftime. The Boilermakers ended up losing only be a touchdown. That’s already an improvement after they spent 2016 mostly getting blown out by teams that aren’t nearly on Louisville’s level.
Missouri’s not a top-tier program anymore but they’re still a SEC school. Purdue absolutely torched them. The Tigers were held to under 70 yards rushing which at first glance means that Missouri is bad at running the ball. But Purdue actually kept Michigan bottled up for most of the game. Take away one breakaway run by Chris Evans for 49 yards and the Wolverines are under 100 yards rushing too.
Guys, Purdue is actually getting better.
But let’s hold off on penciling them into the Big Ten title game. This isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. Let’s see what happens in three weeks when Purdue travels to Wisconsin. If the Boilermakers can hang with Wisconsin or even somehow manage a win, we know that this isn’t a mirage.
Purdue might actually be climbing out of the Big Ten gutter. And I’m going to have to start being mean to someone else. I’m thinking Illinois.