Penn State’s Prey 2019: Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue (6-7, 5-4 BIG) pulled off one of the biggest surprises of last year’s Big Ten season when they upset Ohio State. And perhaps it wasn’t a fluke as Purdue has become a Big Ten West contender. A lot of their most recent success can be attributed to head coach Jeff Brohm, who has been able to lead the Boilermakers to two straight bowl games.
Looking ahead to this year, it will be interesting to see how their non-conference slate (@ Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU) shapes out. If the Boilermakers can win two of those games and open their conference play with a win over Minnesota then look out; they will be riding a wave of momentum into Happy Valley. A lot of those games will be tough for Purdue to win, but if they want to take the next step and compete in the Big Ten West, those are the games they will have to win.
Regardless of how many games they win, Purdue will be an exciting team to watch simply because they have one of the best players in the country in Rondale Moore (114 catches, 1,258 yards, 12 TDs and 21 rushes, 213 yards, 2 TDs). Moore won the Paul Hornung Award last year, which is given to the most versatile player in the country. It is the same award that Saquon Barkley won in 2017. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Moore yet, do yourself a favor and watch a couple of their games this year.
We also hope to know more about the Nittany Lions at this point in the season. Will the offense be potent, capable, or miserable? Will the defense be up to the task?
Offense (30.5 PPG, Returning Starters: 4)
First off, the four returning starters is extremely misleading. Elijah Sindelar (56%, 2,547 yards, 20 TDs, 13 INTs) has a ton of game experience and should be considered a returning starter. The biggest knock on him is his knack to give the football away. If he can clean that up he should have a productive season.
Technically, Rondale Moore wasn’t a starter last year and Purdue did lose two of its starting receivers, which further misleads the number of returners on offense. The two four-star recruits in Milton Wright and David Bell will quickly fill in those holes. Obviously having Rondale Moore back for his sophomore season is a luxury that every quarterback wishes to have. The sophomore runs a 4.3ish 40-yard dash and squats over 600lbs! Additionally, Purdue returns senior TE Brycen Hopkins (34 catches, 583 yards, 2 TDS).
The offensive line is where things begin to get questionable for the Boilermakers. Purdue only has two offensive linemen with any true experience (OT, Grant Hermanns and OT, Matt McCann). Having little offensive linemen experience is a recipe for disaster in the Big Ten. The ceiling for this team will be based upon how fast they can mature.
Purdue will also have to break in a new leading rusher. Zander Horvath and Tario Fuller will compete for the job but neither of them much game experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if Moore contributes even more to the running game and ends up leading the team in rushing and receiving.
Defense (30.0 PPG, Returning Starters: 8)
The bad first. Purdue could still be without defensive nose tackle Lorenzo Neal (ACL) and linebacker Cornel Jones (foot surgery) when they play Penn State.
The good news is Purdue returns 10 of their 12 leading tacklers (not including Jones and Neal). Now statistically, Purdue was awful on defense last year so you could make the argument that returning most of those players might be a bad thing. However, Purdue’s 2018 defense was a compilation of plugins–this year’s defense will be better. Purdue had a top 25 scoring defense in 2017 when they had experience and while I don’t think they will be that good they will be much improved.
The defensive line is mostly back besides the possible injury to Lorenzo Neal. The Boilermakers also add George Karlaftis, who is another big-time recruit. This group has to be better than a year ago.
The linebacker corps returns all three starters and adds the defensive coordinator’s son, Ben Holt, who transferred from Western Kentucky. Markus Bailey returns after a 115 tackle season and is joined by Cornel Jones (43 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and Jaylan Alexander (14 tackles).
The secondary is the spot that has the most question marks on the defense as there are a couple holes to be filled. Navon Mosely (207 tackles, 3 INTs) however, has three years of playing experience and will lead the way.
This Purdue team has a lot of pieces to be in a lot of ball games this year. However, with such little depth at the offensive line, I don’t know how they plan to survive in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers won’t be able to do very much on offense against the Nittany Lions’ stout front seven. Throw in Sindelar’s tendency to turn the ball over and I have Penn State comfortably winning this football game.
Purdue Boilermakers: 14
Penn State Nittany Lions: 35