Opponent preview: Purdue

25 Comments

This is the second of twelve opponent updates as we sprint towards next Saturday’s opening game in Dublin. For more, check out the preview of Navy.

The Overview:

Forgive Danny Hope if he’s been feeling snake bit. After taking over the Boilermakers program from Joe Tiller, Hope has had to battle a rash of bad injury luck and inconsistent play from his young team, short-circuiting any progress he was hoping for in West Lafayette. But with depth at quarterback, a stout defense, and 15 returning starters, 2012 might be different, and Purdue might be a dark horse candidate to make some noise in a Big Ten that’s shook up with perennial powers Penn State and Ohio State sitting out the postseason.

Last time against the Irish:

Heading into a primetime start in Ross-Ade Stadium, Boilermaker fans were excited to see their lockdown cornerback Ricardo Allen take his shot at Michael Floyd. It didn’t turn out well for Allen, who was beat long and often by Floyd, who had a big day as the Irish rolled to a 38-10 victory over the Boilermakers.

“We got off to a good start obviously on the road against a Big Ten team,” Brian Kelly said after the game. “Getting Mike Floyd the ball early on really gave us a lot of confidence.”

That confidence also wore off on running back Cierre Wood, who had his best game in an Irish uniform, running for 191 yards on 20 carries, including a 55 yard touchdown. Tommy Rees threw for three touchdowns with no picks and the Irish defense shut down the Purdue running game.

Degree of Difficulty:

Of the 12 games the Irish play this season, I rank Purdue as the eighth toughest game on the schedule.

12.
11.
10. Navy
9.
8. Purdue

The Match-up:

It looks like Caleb Terbush has won the quarterback battle heading into the opener, with the senior building off a solid 2011 campaign. He’ll have the protection of an offensive line that returns four starters and a strong running game anchored by Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt. Ralph Bolden is coming back from another ACL tear, making it questionable that the former standout runner will make an impact. Wide receiver Antavian Edison is the big play threat in the Boilermakers passing game, with dynamic return man Raheem Mostert a weapon as well.

The Purdue defense is anchored by Kawann Short, a returning All-Big Ten selection that could be a first round draft pick. He’ll be joined up front by Bruce Gaston (a former Irish target), Ryan Russell, and Brandon Taylor, giving the Boilermakers a stout front four. Linebacker Dwayne Beckford will do his best to replace Joe Holland, and he’s put a December DUI behind him. All-Big Ten cornerback Ricardo Allen is back in the secondary joined by Josh Johnson and Normondo Harris. They are one of the Big Ten’s strongest cornerback trio.

How the Irish will win:

By playing solid football. Personnel wise, Purdue is improved, but the Irish are in another league still, even with Danny Hope building his program consistently. And while the Irish don’t have a great match-up with Purdue’s strengths along the front four and in coverage, neither do the Boilermakers. Running against the Irish isn’t easy, and if Purdue won’t be able to rely on a ground game that was surprisingly sturdy last season.

How the Irish will lose:

Even if it is the home opener, the let down factor is alive and well with Purdue warming up with cupcake Eastern Kentucky while Notre Dame will be battling time zones, jet lag, and cut-blocks on its way back from Dublin. While Tommy Rees will be eligible to play, Everett Golson will likely still be behind center, and he’ll face a tough defensive front and cornerbacks with play-making ability. TerBush has the skills to be dangerous both through the air and on the ground, and a special teams play by Raheem Mostert or some forced turnovers by new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar‘s unit could make this interesting.

Gut Feeling:

September hasn’t been kind to the Irish, but with the ground game humming and Everett Golson getting his legs beneath him, I expect the Irish to be 2-0 heading into their dreaded dates with the state of Michigan.