No Hope -- or hope -- for Purdue when it plays Wisconsin
JUN 21, 2013 5:00a ET
This is the fourth in a 12-week Friday series looking at the Wisconsin football team's 2013 opponents.
Appearances in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl didn't exactly leave Purdue fans excited about the future of the football program. Athletic director Morgan Burke was less than thrilled, too, and he fired coach Danny Hope in November after four seasons of mediocre play.
In 2013, Purdue begins a new era with coach Darrell Hazell, who spent the past two seasons in charge of Kent State. Changing the Boilermakers' fortunes may take some time because Purdue isn't exactly stocked with all-conference talent this year.
Purdue loses its top rusher from last season ( Akeem Shavers, 871 yards), its top quarterback ( Robert Marve, 1,734 yards passing) and No. 1 receiver ( Antavian Edison, 652 yards and eight touchdown catches). So even though the Boilermakers made two low-level bowl games the past two seasons, fans should be pleased if they can squeeze their way into a third.
Personnel: Marve and Caleb TerBush are gone, and that leaves Rob Henry as the most experienced quarterback on Purdue's roster. Last season, Henry threw for 216 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Even though Henry has seven career starts to his name, he could be in for a battle to take over the No. 1 signal caller spot. True freshman Danny Etling and redshirt freshman Austin Appleby are in the mix as well. Etling in particular could leapfrog everybody on the depth chart. He impressed the coaching staff after enrolling early to participate in spring practices and is more of a pro-style quarterback. Henry, meanwhile, presents more of a dual-threat option for Purdue.
The Boilermakers should have a strong 1-2 combination in the backfield between Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom. Hunt rushed for 335 yards with two touchdowns last season, and Cottom contributed 209 yards and two scores. And they could be asked to carry an even bigger load unless Purdue can figure out its situation at wide receiver.
O.J. Ross was expected to be the team's go-to threat, but he was suspended indefinitely by the new coaching staff in February, and nobody knows whether he'll be in uniform in 2013. If he does not return, senior Gary Bush will be the top returning receiver. Bush caught 41 passes for 360 yards and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, Purdue loses all-Big Ten defensive tackle Kawann Short. Defensive end Ryan Russell (37 tackles and four sacks) will be counted on to make significant gains. The strong suit of Purdue's defense should be the secondary, which returns three of four starters. Senior cornerback Ricardo Allen will make opposing quarterbacks throw in a different direction.
Fun fact No. 1: Wisconsin has beaten Purdue in seven consecutive games, including last year's 38-14 drubbing in West Lafayette. In that game, Badgers running back Montee Ball rushed for a career-high 247 yards and scored three touchdowns. During Wisconsin's seven-game winning streak against Purdue, the Badgers have outscored the Boilermakers 246-84.
Fun fact No. 2: Purdue ranked 106th out of 120 FBS teams in red zone defensive percentage last season. The Boilermakers allowed opposing offenses to score on 46 of 52 drives inside the 20-yard-line, or 88.4 percent of the time. The only team in the Big Ten with a worse percentage? Wisconsin. The Badgers ranked dead last in the country in red zone defensive percentage, allowing scores on 30 of 32 drives inside the 20 (93.7 percent).
Coincidentally, first-year Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen's former team, Utah State, ranked first in the country in red zone defense. The Aggies surrendered points on 28 of 44 drives inside the 20 (63.6 percent).
Non-conference nightmare: College football schedules are put together years in advance, but Purdue certainly didn't do itself any favors with its non-conference slate in 2013. The Boilermakers have one cupcake (you would think) when they play host to FCS school Indiana State on Sept. 7. Aside from that, Purdue will play three teams that finished a combined 34-6 last season: Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois. Toss in Big Ten games against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State to start conference play, and Purdue could be staring 1-7 in the face to begin the Hazell era.
Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Purdue 17
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