I’ve been hesitant to write much about the Irish’s opponent this weekend, only because I’m not sure what to expect from this Purdue Boilermakers team. If you chose to, you could make a compelling argument that Purdue presents imminent danger to the Irish. A rowdy Ross-Ade Stadium, a night game against an enemy of the state, this has all the elements of a trap game. Yet flip the game around, and you can see Purdue as a rudderless ship lost in a sea of change, as new coach Danny Hope tries to establish his own culture after replacing longtime Purdue coach Joe Tiller.
Here’s what we do know. Purdue does have some weapons that should worry the Irish. First and foremost is a potent rushing attack, led by sophomore running back Ralph Bolden. The Irish have started to make a habit of making opponents offenses look good, and Purdue has to feel like they can make that trend continue. Bolden has put up gaudy numbers, running for 234 yards against Toledo, 123 yards at Oregon, and while being neutralized after the Boilermakers fell behind 28-7 in the third quarter, still managed to go for 5.3 yards-per-carry on his dozen totes against Northern Illinois.
Senior quarterback Joey Elliott has also shown himself to have some attributes that could scare the Irish. While Elliott has been around the program for a long time, 2009 is the first season he’s thrown the ball more than 24 times. While he’s been interception prone thus far this season, the game against NIU showed a mobility that could also give the Irish defense headaches, especially if they’re the same blitz happy bunch they’ve been so far this year.
The largest opponent the Irish face is themselves. The last time the Irish walked into a hostile environment, they walked out shocked and humbled. This is Game One, AF (After Floyd), and we’ll learn a lot more about the potency of this Irish offense tomorrow night. With Jimmy Clausen dinged, Armando Allen a game time decision, and the passing game missing its shining star, the Irish can come out conservative and tentative, or look at it as an opportunity to prove that the sum is truly greater than its parts.
I expect Weis to come out aggressive offensively and try to put the Purdue defense on their heels, and help the defense by making the Boilermakers’ offense one dimensional. The Irish had the opportunity to do that in the 2nd quarter last week against the Spartans, but got in their own way, allowing Michigan State to seize the momentum and rally back before halftime.
For the Irish, the Purdue game is a great unknown. How they deal with that unknown could be an indicator for the rest of the season.