Friday, September 28, 2012

Preview: Purdue vs. Marshall - September 29th - 3:15 pm - BTN

How about we decide not to play anymore games in the regular season?  If Purdue gets 5 additional votes every time we have a bye week, we'll be ranked in the final BCS standings.  Plus, an 0-0 (.500) conference record will probably put us in the Big Ten Championship game.  The Leaders division is horrible.

Why Purdue wins
Marshall may be leading the nation in passing yards (384 yards per game), but they haven't played anyone with Purdue's caliber of defense.  In fact, Marshall's first 4 opponents have given up an average of 30.8 points in 15 total games, while Purdue has allowed their opponents to only score 14 points per game*.  Purdue's offense should have no problem moving the ball against a poor Marshall defense while the defense should make enough stops to give Purdue a comfortable margin by the end of the 3rd quarter.

Why Marshall wins 
Generally, Purdue's defensive strengths are considered to be on the defensive line and at cornerback. However, Marshall spreads the ball around as 11 different receivers have caught at least 5 passes in their first 4 games.  This will put extra pressure on Purdue's linebackers and safeties, which could expose a weakness in the middle of the field.  While Purdue's offense should still outscore Marshall's, special teams mistakes and turnovers could end up really costing Purdue.  Between missed extra points, boneheaded special teams errors, and the weekly interception inside our own 20, Purdue could let Marshall hang around long enough to make this a close one.  And if it's close in the 4th quarter, expect the offenses to dominate as the team with the ball last will pull off the victory.

Player we're most concerned about since their stock photo may break our TV

#36 Monterius Lovett is a junior defensive back with 4 career interceptions.  He also appears to have a black sea urchin on the top of his head. If true, he is one tough dude as those things inject very painful venom through their spines.  I'm really hoping he doesn't get interception number 5 against Purdue since the folks over at BTN will surely create a horrible graphic with his cringe-worthy photo.  Keep it away from Number 36!

Black Sea Urchin

Picks of the week
Purdue is favored by 16.5. This week, Kirk and I will be betting the value of the last dessert we ordered at a restaurant.

Kirk's Bet
Kirk will be betting a Brew-Homemade German Chocolate Cake he had at Thr3e Wise Men in Indianapolis.  A $5.50 bet, this may be the first German chocolate cake I've heard of without coconut, and would also probably be the first German chocolate cake I'd actually like.

Kirk thinks Purdue wins easily and covers the spread. Purdue 38 - Marshall 17

Erik's Bet
I will be betting a Crème Caramel that I had a L'albatross in Cleveland.  At $6, you know it has to be good when they have the accent mark in the name. (Bonus foodie alert - if you ever find yourself in Denver, absolutely make it a point to grab lunch at Rioja, one of the top restaurants in the city.  I checked it out yesterday and had Gabe's Chronic Chicken Sandwich.  This may be the altitude talking, but it's $12 and may have been the greatest thing I've ever eaten.  Book your flight now!).

Adding 16.5 points to Marshall's already potent offense makes it difficult to take Purdue with the points.  I'm a bit concerned about this one, but after a sluggish start following the bye week, Purdue uses the Eastern Michigan formula and runs its way to victory.  Purdue 41 - Marshall 27

Three Final Things
1. Robert Marve and Ralph Bolden will not be playing this weekend, but the fact that Danny Hope even had to address the question is a remarkable sign that we may get to see them suit up within the next couple of weeks!

2. Big Ten season starts for 10 of the 12 teams this week, and most eyes will be on ABC at 3:30 pm for the OSU/MSU matchup.  However, the 8:00 pm Wisconsin/Nebraska game on ABC is the one Purdue fans need to be concerned about.  It's absolutely huge for Purdue's chances to represent the Leaders division in the Big Ten Championship game as it's Wisconsin's only cross-division road game (Purdue has two).  Consensus opinion has Indiana and Illinois out of the running, meaning only Wisconsin would stand in Purdue's way.  Go Cornhuskers!

3. Boiler Up!

* The statistician in me wants to strangle myself for using these flawed stats to prove my point.  These numbers barely mean anything unless you throw out overtime stats from Marshall's last game, tack on a strength of schedule coefficient, and remove touchdowns scored by the defense/special teams.  But, I've got a tight schedule this week, so we're going to go with it.  Plus, I'm waiting to pull out my advanced metrics for the Big Ten season.  Look out! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Big Ten Football Power Rankings - Week 4

Even though the Boilermakers had a bye week, there was still lots of action around the Big Ten last weekend.  Sadly, it was pretty mediocre and didn't do much to change the public perception of the conference.  Michigan looked horrible in its marquee match-up against Notre Dame, Illinois and Iowa had devastating games, and most conference wins were by margins far too narrow against weak opposition.

We're one-third of the way through the season (for most teams), and it's pretty obvious the conference is in a down year, if not a record-setting low.  Once conference play starts, if the teams beat each other and none rise to the top, we could be in store for a horrible bowl season of blowouts and no Big Ten teams ranked in the top 15. On the contrary, if a couple teams do rise to the top, we could see a year with only 6 or 7 conference teams bowl-eligible.

On to the rankings, where it gets so difficult each week to determine who is the worst!

1.   Northwestern (4-0) [Last week's rank: 1]

The Wildcats just keep on winning, easily topping South Dakota State of the FCS.  Remember, I was the first to predict a 7-0 start, when they beat Indiana, Penn State, and Minnesota to start the conference season.  Northwestern almost cracked the AP and USA Today top 25 (26th in both), and with an undefeated season a the halfway point, you can bet they'll be getting more national attention.

2.   Nebraska (3-1) [Last week's rank: 2]

Nebraska gets credit for destroying an FCS team like they should (Idaho State), but they are only rising in the rankings because no one else was impressive last week.  The loss to UCLA looks a little worse after the Bruins got beat by Oregon State last weekend, but the Huskers have looked dominating in their three wins. They can prove my faith in them correct by handling Wisconsin this weekend and helping Purdue out in the Leaders division standings.

3.   Ohio State (4-0) [Last week's rank: 3]

The Buckeyes didn't play that well against UAB, giving up a touchdown on a blocked punt early in the game and only leading by six points deep into the fourth quarter.  Stop Braxton Miller and you'll beat Ohio State, that's for sure, and you know every Big Ten team will be game planning specifically for that until they prove they have another way to win (noteworthy, OSU did score on a drive that saw Miller only run once and never throw, but that's against UAB.  They won't get away with that against better teams).

4.   Purdue (2-1) [Last week's rank: 5]

Purdue moves up a spot even though it was a bye week based on the best performance against a common opponent (Notre Dame), with Michigan and Michigan State.

5.   Michigan State (3-1) [Last week's rank: 4]

The Spartans could barely score against Eastern Michigan, the same team that Purdue posted 54 points on.  They were losing 7-3 to a vastly inferior team at half time.  I know teams can come out flat against teams that they should easily beat, but I think MSU's second string has enough talent to beat Eastern Michigan handily.  What is wrong with Sparty after losing to Notre Dame? Le'Veon Bell is the only thing that seems to work for the offense, and he had to carry the ball 36 times.  Someone's going to get pretty tired once the season gets further along.  MSU's showdown at home with Ohio State this weekend will tell us a lot about both teams.

6.   Minnesota (4-0) [Last week's rank: 7]

Minnesota keeps winning against inferior competition, but good for them for not crapping the bed.  This time they beat Syracuse, mostly by forcing four turnovers and not giving the ball back.  The offense definitely leaves something to be desired without MarQueis Gray, but then again, it wasn't too great with him either. The Gophers face Iowa this weekend, which could allow them to start 5-0 for the first time since 2004.  Also, Syracuse has now lost to two Big Ten teams and looks to be no better than a MAC school.  Go Big East, right?!

7.   Michigan (2-2) [Last week's rank: 6]

Michigan looked horrible against Notre Dame, mostly because Denard Robinson through four interceptions and lost a fumble.  His turnovers led to all of ND's 10 first-half points, and occurred on four consecutive series.  Better than that (or worse, if you like the Blue), the interceptions were on four consecutive throws.  Robinson went 4-4 in the second quarter...and all those receptions were by the Notre Dame defense.  You can't make this stuff up. The guys got some NFL talent, right?  As I've said, the Wolverines can only go as far as Robinson takes them since he is a one-man offense.  I doubt he'll ever play a game as badly as that one, but his inconsistency could be the death of his team.  I can't wait to see the Boiler defense take him on in two weeks.

8.   Wisconsin (3-1) [Last week's rank: 9]

Another week with the Badgers underwhelming and barely winning a game they should have more easily won.  With less than four minutes left in the game, Wiscy was only up four points.  They squeaked another one out, though, but the only reason they are getting votes in the polls is because of their name.  Everyone expected Wisconsin to be the cream of the crop this year, at least in the beleaguered Leaders division, and they are simply failing to take advantage of an lightened route to Indianapolis.  I can't wait to see Nebraska pound them in Lincoln this weekend.

9.   Penn State (2-2) [Last week's rank: 12]

Penn State beat Temple 24-13 with efficient running and passing games.  They still aren't very good, but at least they won their game.  Sure, it was against Temple, and the Nittany Liars won't be getting many conference wins, but at least they get to start conference play against Illinois this weekend.  That's winnable for them!

10.  Indiana (2-1) [Last week's rank: 11]

Indiana rises one spot thanks to their bye week.  If only the Hoosiers could stop playing and finish with a winning record, they may be in the top half of the power rankings then.  Unfortunately for them, they get to be the first conference victory for the conference's best team, Northwestern, next weekend.

11.  Iowa (2-2) [Last week's rank: 10]

How many times do I have to write about how horrible this team is?  With less than 50 seconds left against Central Michigan, Iowa was up by eight points at home.  The Hawkeyes gave up a touchdown but stopped the two-point conversion.  A narrow victory you'd think, but they let CMU recover the onside kick, committed a personal foul, and put the Chippewas in field goal range.  Anything good that Iowa did on the field is also offset by the fact that this same CMU team lost by 34 at Michigan State.

12.  Illinois (2-2) [Last week's rank: 8]

Illinois lost by 28 points to Louisiana Tech at home.  I'll let that sink in for a few seconds.  That alone gets you last place in the power rankings.  Illinois is no better than a MAC team right now.  They were crushed in their other loss, by Arizona State, and have no wins of even marginal quality.  The Illini get to play Indiana and Penn State this year, but other than that, I don't see them getting enough wins to reach six and bowl eligibility.  That also rounds out the power rankings with four of the six Leaders division teams making the bottom five (and Purdue's permanent cross-divisional rival Iowa being the fifth).  Purdue better not blow this chance.

FYI: teams on bye weeks don't get photos, since their fans had nothing to react to

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Broadcast Recap - Eastern Michigan Edition

Make sure to check out Kirk's recap of Saturday's game!  Meanwhile, here are a couple of things you missed if you didn't watch the game on BTN...

Screenshot of the week:  Purdue just took a 13-0 lead with a great pass from Caleb TerBush to Antavian Edison.  Everybody go crazy!  Well, unless you don't have time to cheer and instead need to continuously shove popcorn into your mouth in order to finish a GIANT tub of popcorn by the end of the game.  That's what's happening in this screenshot.  Note the guy near the bottom center of the screenshot with the popcorn tub that requires a one arm embrace (shout out to Mark Titus and his sorely missed Club Trillion blog) just to hold on to it.  In the 5 second crowd shot immediately after the touchdown, he stuffs two fistfuls of popcorn in his mouth while everyone else is celebrating.  Well, everyone except for creepy sunglasses dude in front of him. 

No word on whether he was able to finish the tub before the bars closed for the night.

Thing I learned from BTN: BTN and AT&T need to get their act together.  I was out of town for the weekend and recorded the game in order to watch a nice drubbing on Sunday night.  Unfortunately, AT&T switched the alternate channel that the Purdue game was on, and I was forced to watch 3 hours of Western Michigan at Minnesota. 

Announcer/BTN complaint: As I was watching/fast forwarding the Western Michigan at Minnesota game, a minor miracle happened - technical difficulties were forcing them to switch to the Purdue game!  While this allowed me to at least see a quarter of the game, this isn't the first time BTN has had major issues with technical difficulties. In BTN's apology for the Purdue-Western Carolina basketball game, they said:
We recognize that it is completely unacceptable and we will do everything necessary to prevent this from happening again.
Well, it happened again.  Now, things like this do happen - it sucks, but there's not much you can do about it.  Except can't BTN at least prepare for these occurances?  They should have AT LEAST had a running score of the Minnesota game going at all times.  It also appeared as if the sound was working, they were just having video feed problems.  If I was a Minnesota fan, I would much rather listen to Wayne Larrivee give the play-by-play with no video than have them show me a blowout between Purdue-Eastern Michigan on two different channels. It's not like Wayne Larrivee has never done radio before - he's the Packers play-by-play guy on their radio network!  Thanks for screwing up this time so I could watch some of the Purdue game, but get your act together BTN.

Irrelevant Comment of the Week - Wife Edition:  "Oh, you're missing a football game today to see my family? I forgot it was football season!" and "Why are you listening to the Ohio State game?  If you can't get Purdue on the radio, why do you care about any other games?" 

That was a long car ride.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Big Ten Football Power Rankings - Week 3

Another week, another round of non-conference games that give us a momentary glimpse at how good (or bad) the Big Ten is this year.  After last week's suckfest, it's good that the majority of conference teams won their match-ups, but our previously top-ranked team had to let the conference down by losing badly at home against Notre Dame.  At least you, dear readers, won't have to put up with another top photo featuring a crazy Michigan State fan (especially if you're reading the blog on mobile).  These power rankings would be a lot of easier if the "cream of the crop" would stop getting creamed (see what I did there), but it sure should be a wild conference season since every game appears to be a toss-up of mediocrity.

On to the rankings!  Twelve teams enter, twelve teams leave (in reverse order of ineptitude):

1.   Northwestern (3-0) [Last week's rank: 3]: Ho hum, another week, another win by Northwestern against a BCS opponent.  What is happening? Seriously, what a great start for the Wildcats!  I bet no one, their players included, thought they may be the best team in the conference this season.  The passing game is efficient (with a two-headed monster that works, due to the different styles of play), and the running game put up almost 300 yards!  Boston College isn't a great team this year, but they aren't horrible either.  Put me on record now - Northwestern is going to start the year at least 7-0, with three Big Ten wins (Indiana, at Penn State, and at Minnesota) off the bat.

This guy scares me

2.   Nebraska (2-1) [4]:  Nebraska won an easy game against Arkansas State, but things got a little scary off the field when head coach Bo Pelini left with a medical issue, but he should be fine.  The only concerning thing on the field were the four turnovers for the Huskers, two which were on back-to-back series when Taylor Martinez was sacked.  Those two turnovers resulted in ten points for the Red Wolves.  Martinez better get some protection (and a tighter grip on the ball), or things could get ugly against bigger, stronger defensive lines.  Still, Nebraska moves up two spots thanks to other teams faltering.

An oldie but a goodie
3.   Ohio State (3-0) [2]: Ohio State should have lost at home to Cal, and they were out-rushed, out-passed, and if not for a trio of missed field goals, they would have been beaten.  But they won, and that's what counts, so it's hard to knock them down even further in the rankings when other teams haven't been as impressive so far.  Braxton Miller continues to be spectacular, throwing four touchdowns and rushing for another.  Can anyone fully stop him?  Maybe only Carl Monday.

4.   Michigan State (2-1) [1]: The Spartans lost at home to Notre Dame in a game where they didn't put up nearly the fight that Purdue did.  The offense was pretty bad (specifically the passing game, as Maxwell only hit on 50% of his attempts), and the much ballyhooed defense wasn't as good as Notre Dame's.  Another week with egg on the face of the Big Ten as the media darlings in our league continue to be unimpressive.  MSU has at least played some tough competition (beating Boise State), which is the only reason they didn't fall further in the rankings, but the bad home loss (when Nebraska lost to a ranked team on the road) is the reason they are this low.

5.   Purdue (2-1) [5]: Purdue blew out an over-matched opponent, showed a dominant running game, and kept up the strong season by the defense.  If Caleb TerBush can get on track, there's a lot of potential for the Boilermakers, but he needs to look better than he did against Eastern Michigan.  Purdue hasn't beaten anyone good, so they can't leapfrog MSU and their quality win against Boise State, despite playing far better against a common opponent in the Irish.

6.   Michigan (2-1) [6]: Michigan finally beat a team by a respectable margin, putting up 63 points on UMass for a 50-point win.  We mentioned how bad UMass was when Indiana crushed them last week, so this really doesn't tell us much about the Wolverines.  Denard Robinson continued to do it all for the offense, although Fitzgerald Toussaint finally had a nice return to relevance with 85 yards rushing.  Seriously, scheduling UMass this year is like scheduling a game against a junior high team.

7.   Minnesota (3-0) [7]: Minnesota continues to show me why, despite being 3-0, I can't move them up higher in the rankings.  The Gophers barely  beat a bad Western Michigan team (who Illinois easily handled in Week 1) 28-23.  MarQueis Gray hurt his ankle early in the game and will miss 2-4 weeks.  Maybe that's a blessing in disguise for Minnesota, as sophomore backup Max Shortell threw a pretty decent game.  But maybe that's just because his opponent stunk.  Maybe they can beat Syracuse next week, and maybe they'll steal a couple games during conference play (unfortunately for them, they don't get to play Indiana or Penn State), but I'm guessing that's the only way they see six wins this season.  More likely it'll be another year with a nice start by the Gophers against inferior opponents, only to be knocked back down a peg by the more talented Big Ten teams.

8.   Illinois (2-1) [8]: Illinois shutout, CSU...let's see, that stands for Charleston Southern.  Yeh, whoever they are.  Obviously I didn't watch a second of this game, and only would have if Illinois wasn't doing what it should in demolishing a team that loses by 35 points to other FCS teams.  Scheelhaase didn't play, and they won't likely need him to win next week, but we'll see if he can return for their Big Ten opener against Penn State.  That would be a horrible game to lose given how poor the Nittany Lions look this year.

9.   Wisconsin (2-1) [9]: Now, Utah State is not a bad team, but when Wisconsin has to come from behind  at home to beat them by two measly points, will you all finally agree with me that the Badgers are not a good football team and the most disappointing story of the conference so far? Utah State should have won on a last second field goal, but it was missed (and taken from fifteen yards too deep, due to a very questionable offensive pass interference call), and the Badgers save face.  The Leaders division is more wide open than ever (yeh, so what if it's only been around one other season!).

10.  Iowa (2-1) [10]: Iowa beat Northern Iowa 27-16, proving they are at least better than one other team in their state. Vandenberg was a little better but still didn't throw a touchdown pass.  Iowa was only up four at halftime, and I still think this is one of the worst Hawkeye teams I've seen in the last decade.
11.  Indiana (2-1) [11]: The Hoosiers lost to Ball State for the third time in four years, two of those coming at home (and the third at a "neutral" Lucas Oil Stadium where IU was clearly the team with the largest contingent).  I guess we'll be replacing Indiana with Ball State for all future Big Ten football seasons. Seriously though, this was fun to watch as Ball State blew a big lead, but with only 49 seconds left, the Cardinals were able to complete four passes, including an amazing diving catch, to get in field goal range.  Kicker Steven Schott nailed a 42 yard field goal for the upset (really, I don't think we can call it that).  Quarterback Cameron Coffman left with a knee injury, and freshman Nate Sudfeld looked good replacing him, however Tre Roberson they are not, as Ball State has a pitiful defense.  Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, their defense is even worse.

Still pathetic, even when they win
12.  Penn State (1-2) [12]: Penn State finally gets a win, beating Navy at home 34-7.  They were practically gifted the game by Navy's four turnovers, but quarterback Matt McGloin passed for four scores albeit not too efficiently.  Navy is simply bad and not the tough-nosed team of years past.

Purdue - Eastern Michigan Recap: Winning Big When You Should

Good teams should easily beat bad teams.  On Saturday, Purdue took a much lesser opponent to task, just as they should, for the second time this season.  The Boilers started slowly but easily dispatched Eastern Michigan 54-16.  Since some of you may have changed the channel to watch more competitive games by the second half, time for some recap!

A 38-point win means something went right, but for the first nine minutes, I was a little concerned.  After a slow start and a couple punts, Purdue finally made the Eagles look like the team that lost by 17 points to Illinois State (an FCS team).  Fortunately, the Boilers got their act together offensively and made it to the end zone on five of their next seven series.  Sure, there were two turnovers on those other two series, but a rout was in progress before it was even halftime with the score 33-9.  Purdue scored a few more times during the second half and gave up a meaningless fourth quarter touchdown, but it really wasn't all that interesting. The Boilers were simply faster, stronger, and better than the competition in nearly all respects.

The Offense:
Let's start off with showing some love to the running backs for their amazing day.  Sure, Eastern Michigan had one of the worst rushing defenses in the nation, but the Boilers took advantage in a big way. 392 yards were gained thanks to 11 different ball carriers, with Akeem Hunt putting up 106 yards (on only four freaking carries!), and Brandon Cottom almost hitting 100 (95 yards) with only two carries on one series in the second quarter.  Hunt also had a "reception" for a 50-yard touchdown that was really a glorified lateral, so we should give that credit to the running game and great blocking.  I'm excited to see what these guys (and Akeem Shavers, who had a nice day as well with 56 yards) can do against the Big Ten.

Caleb TerBush got the start and didn't have to worry about Marve taking over any snaps in the second quarter.  I was planning to see TerBush fired up, with the monkey off his back, but the first two series were worthless.  Despite the play-calling being suspect and definitely too conservative, TerBush threw three passes on each series which each resulted in a three-and-out.  After those six attempts, the stat line read three completions for seven yards.  I couldn't have been the only one screaming "but he 'gives us the best chance to start of well!'" at my television, as my disappointment turned into anger.

Thankfully, TerBush got the funk out of his system (and I learned after the game he was apparently pretty sick the night before), and he went on to lead the team to a bunch of points.  Did that redeem him?  Certainly, but hopefully the offensive unit under TerBush took advantage of the time to gel and won't start so poorly in future games.  The final line was 16/24 for 158 yards, two touchdowns (and a third on a keeper), and one interception.  That was fine against a bad team on a day when our running game was unstoppable, but still a bit concerning, especially since the interception was a horrible pick six early in the second quarter.  Also, take away the "pass" to Hunt mentioned above, and you're looking at only 108 yards on 23 attempts.

For the receivers, Antavian Edison was stellar, making some huge catches, turning receptions into big plays, and just looking like a stud who could out athletic anyone in the secondary.  It's really nice to see him develop into such a weapon, and with O.J. Ross being targeted on more shorter routes, it adds some complexity to the offense.  Thumbs down to Ross on his fumble that led to an Eagles field goal, but he was getting hit from a variety of angles I suppose.  It could have been very costly, as a touchdown would have given Eastern Michigan the lead, and it happened only two offensive plays after Terbush's interception, which took all the wind out of the Boiler sails.

The Defense:
How many more times can we say we love this defense!  After a great first game and then holding their own against a very good (I just threw up a bit in my mouth) Notre Dame team (better than the vaunted Michigan State D did this week), the defense put on another clinic.  Eastern Michigan got their only relevant points off of two turnovers (TerBush's pick six, and Ross's fumble that put the Eagles in field position), and the rest of the day, the defense didn't bend or break.  EMU didn't make it into Purdue territory on their own until late in the second quarter, which still resulted in a punt.  Frankie Williams, Josh Johnson, and Landon Feichter all had interceptions, none of which were in garbage time.

The defensive line looked big and physical and gave Eastern Michigan's quarterbacks a lot of trouble.  It only resulted in a couple sacks and a few tackles for a loss, but their presence was certainly felt.  Ryan Russell left the game early with an ankle issue, but it didn't look too serious.

Special Teams:
The good: some great punts by Webster that pinned Eastern Michigan inside the 15, and a blocked punt by Taylor Richards that led to a Purdue touchdown.

The bad: nothing really special out of the return game, and the Eagles did have some more impressive kick-off returns, although let's be honest, they had a lot of practice doing that thanks to all the points the Boilers scored.

The ugly: redshirt freshman and former townie walk-on Sam McCartney missed two PATs.  That's pretty bad, and including having one blocked against Eastern Kentucky, that's three missed on the season.  Freshman Paul Griggs made all five of his against both Eastern teams, so I wonder if the job is now his.  We can't let an extra point cost us a game this year, obviously.

Worst coaching decision: I can't believe Coach Hope started TerBush again over Marve!  OK, haha, I'm kidding (but also secretly crying inside for Marve).  I was probably most upset by the vanilla play-calling to start the game.  Sure, you don't want to give anything away against a cupcake and spoil some of your most creative attacks, but the game plan for those first two three-and-out series was frustrating.  The first six plays were all passes, against one of the worst rush defenses in the nation?

Best coaching decision:  Handing the ball off.  Not sure why we came out throwing on those first two series (especially if TerBush was sick), but the decision to take a lot of looks on the ground with a lot of different guys paid off huge.

Worst Call by a Zebra:
I honestly didn't see anything that upset me.  The Ross fumble was the correct call, and while there were some cheap shots by the Eastern Michigan players, most were caught by the refs.  You know it's a good day when you can't complain about the officiating.  I think I already said that this season, too, which is a nice change of pace from previous seasons.

Most Important Play:
I'm awarding this to the "pass" to Hunt in the second quarter that results in a 50-yard touchdown run.  This stopped the bleeding after giving up 9 points on two consecutive horrible turnovers, and it was all gravy from there on out.  A nice quick flip from TerBush, great blocking from the line and receivers, and Hunt was a speed demon running by tacklers along the sideline. It also capped a 99-yard drive.  I've enjoyed watching this on replay at least 20 times in the last 36 hours.

The "My sister could have executed that play better" Award:
The reason for the 99-yard drive referenced above was because Purdue had to start a series at their one-yard line.  Wow, that must have been a great punt that was downed at the one, right?  No, it was on a kickoff after an Eastern Michigan field goal.  How do you start at the one-yard line after a kickoff return?  By bobbling the ball in the end zone, and fumbling it out of bounds just pass the goal line. My sister could have done that better than Raheem Mostert by not even fielding the ball in the end zone.  Another time when running away from the ball like a little girl would have paid off.

The Biggest Missed Opportunity
Other than starting the game out with more offensive authority, there wasn't much Purdue should have done that they didn't.  Early in the first quarter, I think there was a long pass to either Edison or Ross, and TerBush just plain missed the receiver.  That would have been a much better way to start, and hopefully TerBush can hit those in the future.

Picks of the Week Update:
Erik and I both correctly picked Purdue to cover the spread, and cheers to him for nailing the margin of victory.  My sweet Ben Harper CD takes me $12 in the black, while Erik's love of indie rock nets him $8 on the season. Consider my lead insurmountable.

In Conclusion:
Purdue got the job done, and despite the slow start and a couple misfires, looked good.  The defense and running game were the reason for the big victory, and it looks as they should both be formidable once conference play begins.  Up next, the Boilers have a by week before taking on Marshall, so there's plenty of time to rest up and plan for the next game, to avoid losing a winnable non-conference home game.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Preview: Purdue vs. Eastern Michigan - September 15th - Noon - BTN

It's been a busy week on the Purdue front and it's keeping your favorite bloggers awfully busy.  It's keeping Kirk and I busy too.  It's time for everyone to take a break and have a cupcake.

Oops - wrong EMU. Sorry Jimmy Clausen.
Why Purdue wins
Eastern Michigan lost 31-14 at home against Illinois State and lost 36-27 at Ball State.  Ball State and Illinois State aren't the worst teams out there, but both of these games were over by the end of the third quarter.  I truly believe that this Eastern Michigan team would lose to Eastern Kentucky, and Purdue dominated that game.  With Robert Marve injured, Caleb Terbush has the perfect opportunity to gain confidence against a poor defense, although expect the running game to really get rolling.  Eastern Michigan has given up an average of 273 rushing yards per game so far, and I don't expect that number to drop after this week.

Why Eastern Michigan wins 
After losing to the Redbirds and the Cardinals, the Eagles clearly don't like other birds or the color red.  By the way, isn't a Redbird just another name for a cardinal?  I guess it could be a robin.  Anyway, Boilermakers are not birds and aren't red, so it's possible that the Eagles will have confidence that they didn't have the prior two weeks.  Other than that, I don't see any chance the fifth worst team in FBS pulls off the upset unless dual-threat Quarterback, Alex Gillett, goes for over 500 total yards himself.

Player we're most concerned about since their stock photo may break our TV
We have two selections this week:

1) #94 Devin Henderson looks like the kind of guy you just want to hug, pinch his cheeks and pat on the head - I mean look at that smile!  As a defensive end who gets some playing time, my worry is that Purdue's offensive linemen might feel the same way and not want to block him.  If he sacks TerBush, it's going to be tough to get mad when they flash his mug on BTN.

2) #71 Darien Terrell is a freshman that doesn't appear to get much playing time on the offensive line.  Thank goodness - that hair is the worst attempt at a mohawk since Something About Mary!  Whenever BTN scans the sidelines however, make sure to cover your eyes.  It's possible he may not have his helmet on!

Picks of the week
Purdue is favored by 24. This week, Kirk and I will be betting the value of the last physical cd that we purchased.

Kirk's Bet
The most recent CD Kirk purchased was "Give Till It's Gone" by Ben Harper.  Kirk only buys CDs from his favorite artist because he's cheap and needs physical pieces to add to his Ben Harper shrine.

Kirk takes Purdue with the spread. Purdue 41 - Eastern Michigan 10

Erik's Bet
The last physical cd I purchased was "Simple Math" from Manchester Orchestra for $10.  Great album from one of my favorite bands of all-time. 

I look for Hope and Company to try and get Terbush rolling and Henry involved with the offense. With a bye week and Marshall coming up, Hope has 3 weeks to adjust to life without Marve.  You never want to see an injury happen, but this was the best possible time for it.  Eastern Michigan will get either a defensive or special teams score to give fans something to gripe about over the bye week, but overall it should be an easy win.   Purdue 45 - Eastern Michigan 7

Three Final Things
1. Notre Dame is joining the ACC for all sports except football.  They're also required to play 5 football games against the ACC.  How will this effect the Purdue/ND football series?  It'll also be interesting to see if ND basketball continues it's participation in the Crossroads Classic since they'll be included in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

2. Keep an eye on Rob Henry's time.  If he doesn't play a substantial amount in this game, I doubt the coaches have enough confidence to put him in once Big Ten season starts.

3. Boiler Up!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Broadcast Recap - Notre Dame Edition

Make sure to check out our recap of Saturday's game!  Meanwhile, here are a couple of things you missed if you didn't watch the game on NBC...

Screenshot of the week:  Yes, we could use this section for legitimate screenshots to prove the refs are buffoons.  But what fun is that?  This week there are two screenshots of the week.

#1 - The Purdue coaching staff had a rough game with several plays coming in late in the play clock.  There are several theories for this, but NBC caught the true reason early in the second quarter - itchy balls!  It appears that one headless manager/assistant didn't apply his Gold Bond and spent a good five seconds readjusting.  One can only assume everyone on the sideline was having this problem, making it pretty amazing that Purdue kept it as close as they did.  C'mon trainers, where's the Gold Bond?  It matches the school colors too. (Note that my wife actually caught this.  I'm not sure whether to be proud or worried):

#2 - Check out Gary Bush right next to the NBC symbol.  He's a foot off the ground doing a perfect Touchdown Jesus as Edison scored the game-tying touchdown:

Announcer complaint: NBC's homer announcers are so infatuated with Notre Dame's players, they make it brutally painful to watch the game with sound.  Kirk reports that the crew treated Tommy Rees like some phoenix risen from the ashes during the drive (even before the score/redemption story).  The way the announcers drooled over someone who recently punched a cop was brutal.  Tom Hammond and crew also felt nearly every close call should have gone in favor of the Irish, and Hammond absolutely butchered Antavian Edison's first name multiple times after he scored the game-tying touchdown.  Unlike Kawaan Short from last week, I'm guessing Antavian didn't ask for the pronunciation to be changed this year!

Thing I learned from NBC: NBC's cameras are so infatuated with Notre Dame's players, they make it brutally painful to watch the game WITHOUT sound.  On a 4th and short in the 4th quarter, Purdue had a choice as to whether to go for it or not.  Unfortunately for people watching at a bar like myself, cameras focused for 30 seconds on a Notre Dame linebacker just standing there.  Show us what's happening!  There were also surprisingly few angles of the controversial touchdown/touchback play.  That's probably because three cameras were focused on Brian Kelly, two were fixated on the leprechaun, and one was eyeing the Purdue sideline's crotches.

Irrelevant Comment of the Week - Wife Edition:  "Do you know how embarrassing it is for you to be the only person running around a restaurant in downtown Detroit yelling at the top of your lungs?  Can't you just yell while sitting down?" - My wife immediately after the Josh Johnson fumble recovery late in the game.  Clearly she was never in the Paint Crew - you CAN'T yell while sitting down.

A shoutout goes to the Detroit Beer Company - the ONLY bar/restaurant open on a Saturday afternoon within a half-mile radius of Comerica Park in Detroit.  All beers are brewed onsite and they went out of their way to accommodate 2 Purdue fans even though Michigan and Michigan State played at the same time.  If you ever end up in Detroit, I definitely recommend them even though they provided no compensation for this recommendation and made us pay for all 57 or so beers that we downed.  At least it made the loss less painful!

Picks of the week update:  I forgot to update our standings after Week 2.  Both of us picked Purdue to cover the spread, and cover it they did.  Looks like we'll get a new pair of shoes!  Kirk goes back to even while Erik's less expensive shoes keep him $2 in the hole.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Feeling Bad for Marve

We've already documented the apparent curse against the ACLs of Purdue players.  That's a lot of tears to key players in just five years, and it's a little gut wrenching every time it happens.  For guys like Robert Marve (and previously Robbie Hummel), it saddens us even more, since it ruins not only the chance for a special season but also the potential careers of team leaders.

Marve has matured both on and off the field, and this latest news just plain sucks.  That's all I can say. We stand by Marve and are rooting for him no matter what, in everything he now does.  He's made us proud and glad he's a Boilermaker.

I try to look at the positives in a situation, and in this case there's only one - the quarterback controversy is likely over.  In my mind, that's only a positive to the coaching staff that was having trouble making a decision.   To all Purdue faithful, we'll miss seeing Marve on the field in the coming weeks.  Maybe something miraculous happens and he sees some action in the conference season.  I doubt it, but I'm rooting for it.

But we move on and continue to rally hard behind our Boilers.  Caleb TerBush is the man, and we don't doubt that he can still lead us to a special season.  Let's win for Rob.  I feel like I've had to say that a lot over the last few years, and it's always because of an ACL.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Big Ten Football Power Rankings - Week 2

Wow, the Big Ten sure looked bad this week.  Half the teams lost in non-conference play, mostly on the road, and my prediction that the conference would have a "thick, mediocre middle of the pack" looks to be coming true.  I guess the consolation there is that, even with a hard-fought loss, Purdue has shown it may have the mettle to compete for a division title this year.  But enough about the Boilers, on to the Power Rankings.  Remember, we don't give credit to preseason polls and historical prestige; we're evaluating based on what we've seen in two games so far.  We think that our process is far more judicious (and I'm sure all those people ranking teams like Wisconsin so highly last week wish they were as objective as us!).

1.   Michigan State (2-0) [Last week's rank: 1]: The Spartans easily retain the top spot after throttling Central Michigan on the road this weekend.  The defense didn't give up any points, and MSU looks very well balanced.  In honor of maintaining their place atop the Power Rankings, enjoy the most hardcore MSU fan in the country.

2.   Ohio State (2-0) [3]: Braxton Miller continued to be a one-man wrecking crew, running for almost as many yards (141) as he threw (155) as Ohio State beat Central Florida.  With the Buckeyes down to their third-string running back, a poor game by Miller (or even a mild injury making him less mobile) would be catastrophic.  But if he stays healthy, OSU should drive defenses mad.  They'll play Cal next week, and I expect them to win that one easily, too.

3.   Northwestern (2-0) [7]: Huge jump up the polls this week for the Wildcats!  Why?  Because they're undefeated and beat Vanderbilt in a close game this weekend.  Sure, Vandy is the punching bag of the SEC, but now they have a road win against the Big East and a home win against the SEC.  Not too shabby, and kudos for playing a tougher schedule.  I mentioned the quarterback controversy last week, and both Siemian and Colter both played decently.  Colter had some nice runs, but back Venric Mark had a great game with 123 yards.  The biggest plus for Northwestern was having no turnovers while forcing two key fumbles.

4.   Nebraska (1-1) [2]:  The Cornhuskers narrowly lost a tough game on the road against a ranked team that they could have beaten.  Sound like anyone you know, Boiler faithful?  Martinez had a horrible game passing, but he and Abdullah were solid in the running game.  The defense was abysmal and gave up over 650 years to the Bruins.  Tough non-conference loss, but expect Nebraska to be solid still during conference play.

5.   Purdue (1-1) [5]: Purdue played the toughest road opponent of all conference games this week and nearly got a huge win, but still looked very respectable in the loss.  The defense continues to impress, and while there were certainly missed opportunities, when the biggest flaw your team has is a debate about the starting quarterback (and both guys are fair choices), that's not a horrible situation to be in.  Of course, fixing the QB situation could be the difference from an above-average season and a special one.  Although if Marve is hurt, the situation has now fixed itself.

6.   Michigan (1-1) [4]: Michigan wins but drops in the power rankings?  Yes, because they barely beat a mediocre Air Force team at home.  Denard Robinson was the entire offense, which isn't exactly promising if you're rooting for the Wolverines to win the conference.  They need more, and they need better defense, as the stronger home team was, at times, pushed around by Air Force.  Michigan should crush UMass next week, but it will be an intriguing game when they play Notre Dame.

7.   Minnesota (2-0) [8]: Minnesota gets to move up slightly in the rankings thanks to starting out with two wins.  They easily beat FCS New Hampshire, as they should, and their passing was much more consistent.  Based solely on what we've seen on the field, maybe I should even bump them up a bit, because I'm probably holding them back because I expect Minnesota to suck.

8.   Illinois (1-1) [6]: The Illini went out west to Arizona State and got smacked around so badly that Tim Beckman now looks like Gary Busey.  I said the offense would be horrible without Scheelhaase, and it was just so-so, but I also said their defense looked great against Western Michigan, who was held to negative rushing yards.  That same defense couldn't stop the passing game and gave up 510 yards and 45 points to the Sun Devils, and it could have easily been more.  I guess Western Michigan is just that pathetic, and the Illini either don't travel well, or were just really disappointed by the lack of parties near campus.

9.   Wisconsin (1-1) [9]: You all laughed at my low rank for Wisconsin last week after they barely beat an FCS opponent, but now people are realizing what I saw.  Lots of hype, no running game (only 61 yards for Ball), and poor QB play as the Badgers fall on the road to Oregon State.  That's three Big Ten teams losing road games to the Pac-12 this weekend, and only one of the opponents was ranked.  Pitiful. Maybe Wisconsin will right the ship after firing their offensive line coach today?

10. Iowa (1-1) [10]: Playing at home against rival Iowa State, Iowa only managed six points and lost 9-6.  Their offense is impotent, and for a "veteran" quarterback, Vandenberg is the dregs, completing less than half his passes and throwing two interceptions.  Bullock couldn't even get going, only averaging a couple yards per carry.  At least the defense showed up, forcing four turnovers, but that still wasn't enough for the anemic offense.  Wow, impotent and anemic - sounds like Iowa needs a trip to the emergency room stat.

11. Indiana (2-0) [11]: Another big congratulations to the Hoosiers for beating their first non-FCS opponent in two years!  Wait, it was UMass?  They have an FBS program?  Ah, only in name, this team would be lucky to finish in the middle of the pack in a JuCo league.  So until Indiana proves they don't suck by beating someone even remotely respectable, they're still relegated to the near-bottom of the power rankings.  The real bad news for the Hoosiers was the season-ending injury to quarterback Tre Roberson.  He's a real talent, and without him, I don't expect IU to win a conference game this season...again.

12. Penn State (0-2) [12]: Another Saturday, another sad, yet justified, Penn State loss.  This time the Nittany Lions fell by one point on the road at Virginia by giving up a touchdown with less than two minutes to go.  Penn State out-rushed and out-passed the Cavaliers, drew far fewer penalties, and won the turnover battle by a margin of four!  So how did they lose?  Karma.  And "Karma" is the name of the invisible gremlin that caused kicker Sam Ficken to miss four field goals on the day.  Bet they wish he had transferred.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Purdue - Notre Dame Recap: Almost...

I watched this game in a bar and missed what was surely a very fair, non-biased announcing crew.  I'm sure you'll all agree that the officiating was of the same quality.  It may have been heartbreaking, but isn't it fun to have close games like this that actually matter?

Purdue lost to Notre Dame 20-17 in a game that really could have gone either way.  Heading into the last possession of the game, stat lines were very similar, and overall it didn't feel like one team was dominating more than the other.  Unfortunately Tommy Rees (yes, the same Tommy Rees who has a suspended 30-day jail sentence from an incident earlier this year) came in on the last possession and led Notre Dame to a game-winning field goal. 

The Offense:
Caleb TerBush started the game and initial impressions were that he was playing well.  TerBush led the Boilers to several first downs in the first two drives but just wasn't able to come up with the big 3rd down play when needed.  The first drive went 13 plays but ultimately led to a punt. Robert Marve came in for the rest of the half and led an impressive 13 play drive that culminated in a big touchdown to tie the game at the end of the half.  The big play on the drive was a bizarre 4th & 4 play in which Marve somehow found a very covered Crosby Wright for a first down.  It appeared Marve was just trying to get Notre Dame to jump offsides - and he was actually successful - but the ball was never snapped.  With everyone thinking Purdue would take the delay of game, Marve took the snap with less than a second on the play clock and executed the classic pick-up football "everyone just run around and try to get open" play.

The big question at the end of the first half was whether to start Marve or TerBush in the second half.  While popular consensus was Marve, I actually thought going with TerBush was the right move.  Both were equally effective in the first half, neither had made a mistake, and barring a nearly miraculous 4th down conversion, TerBush actually would have had much better numbers.  However, the offense came out struggling in the second half and TerBush threw an awful interception on his second possession that led to a field goal.  Down 17-7, it was time to make a switch.  However, TerBush was granted another chance and proceeded to go three and out.

Marve was finally given the chance to lead the team again and immediately went on a scoring drive.  This SHOULD have been a touchdown, yet Marve took a very costly delay of game that most likely cost the team 4 points.  While it appeared Marve had the momentum, two 3 and outs followed before TerBush came back in to throw the game tying Touchdown pass. 

Overall, I thought the offense looked solid and did a good job eliminating turnovers.  The one interception was costly, but it really looked like the Boilers were much more focused on playing mistake-free ball than they were against Eastern Kentucky.  This offense can strike at any time and won't be playing many defenses better than Notre Dame's this year.  TerBush did throw a god-awful hail mary at the end of the game, so I definitely would suggest working on that.

The Defense:
The defense is going to keep us in a lot of games this year.  For this first time since 2004, it feels like the identity of this team is now an outstanding defense.  The line did an unbelievable job against the run while the secondary kept things manageable in front of them.  324 yards is a lot to give up through the air, but I counted one pass by Everett Golson that wasn't a catchable ball.  I thought he was very impressive for a freshman, and really seemed to be able to find his tight end, Tyler Eifert.

The forced fumble and recovery by Josh Johnson was a thing of beauty, as Johnson actually grabbed Golson's arm to keep him from recovering the ball.

Overall, I'm VERY excited to see this defense progress throughout the season, although a weakness may have been exposed with Notre Dame's success in throwing to the tight end.

Special Teams:
In the biggest turnaround from last week's game, special teams played mistake-free.  I can't think of one bad play they made.  Meanwhile Sam McCartney made his first ever field goal attempt (in a pressure-filled situation too!) and Raheem Mostert had a couple of nice kick returns.  The unit didn't do anything amazing throughout the game, but I'll take a mistake-free game like this every single week!

Best coaching decision:  As someone who gets very angry when timeouts are mismanaged, I was furious when Hope called a timeout on 4th and 10 with a little over 2 minutes left.  4th and 10 is tough to convert, especially when you're that close to the endzone.  The Boilers still had 2 timeouts and could get the ball back even if they didn't convert.  Instead, Hope called a time out and put all his eggs in one basket.  Sure enough, he called a great play and TerBush fired to an open Antavian Edison for the game-tying score.  It turned out to be a great time out and a great play call.  My bad.  Way to go Coach Hope!

Worst coaching decision: The coaches are getting a lot of grief after this one and rightly so.  Anytime a team loses with a questionable strategy (2 QB system), it will rile up the masses.  I already mentioned that I didn't have a problem with TerBush starting the 2nd half, but I DID have a problem with him coming out for the third possession after the break.  TerBush had made a very poor decision on the interception and Hope claimed he was in there for that very reason - to not make those mistakes.  TerBush went on to go 3 and out on the next drive. Coach, it was time for a change, but it came one possession too late.

Worst Call by a Zebra:
This could be a whole post in and of itself, but what else do you expect when heading up to South Bend?  Three plays stick out, but only one can be the worst call...

1) The touchdown/touchback replay review: Originally ruled down at the one, replays showed that Everett Golson's dive into the endzone in the first half should have either been a touchdown or a touchback.  However, it was almost impossible to tell which one was correct.  The rule in this situation?  The call on the field stands.  It would have been 4th down and Notre Dame would have most likely settled for a field goal.  Instead, the refs somehow thought the ball hit the pylon while in Golson's hands which is something I couldn't see even if I went frame by frame on my DVR.

2) The offsides call: On Purdue's first scoring drive, a Notre Dame player was running off the field, thinking he was the 12th man.  He really was the 11th, so there was no penalty for too many men on the field.  Unbelievably, though, he was a yard and a half OVER the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped, was on the field by several steps AND did it right in front of the referee!  No flag came out which ended up putting Purdue in a dicey 3rd down later in the possession.  Purdue ended up scoring anyway, but this was just awful.  See for yourself (bottom of the screen):

3) The delay of game call:  It's 3rd down on the game-winning drive, and Notre Dame still has the ball with zero seconds on the play clock.  This is about to be the game's second most boneheaded delay of game.  Except the refs didn't call it!  Notre Dame would convert the third down and the rest is history.  Again, see it for yourself:

I know you may all disagree, but the worst call was the offsides call.  It had very little effect on the game, but it was definitely the easiest call of the three and the one that was most blatantly missed.

Most Important Play:
Josh Johnson's forced fumble and recovery was the most important play of the game for a multitude of reasons.  It not only put Purdue in position to tie the game, but it also injured Golson just enough to convince Brian Kelly to put in Tommy Rees on Notre Dame's final possession.  Regardless of what he says.

The Biggest Missed Opportunity AND "My sister could have executed that play better" Award:
Third and Goal from the one yard line.  Down 10 late in the third quarter.  You have two chances to get one yard.  So SNAP THE FREAKING BALL BEFORE THE PLAY CLOCK RUNS OUT!  All Robert Marve had to do was snap the ball and hand it off.  They most likely would've gotten a touchdown.  My sister could've executed that really important missed opportunity better.

In Conclusion:
Purdue showed a lot of heart in this game, but you can't help but lament the chances they let get away.  Notre Dame played very undisciplined and Purdue really had a chance to steal one in South Bend.  The most important thing to take away, though, is that Purdue WILL be a contender for Indianapolis.  Wisconsin got beat by a so-so Pac-12 team.  Illinois got crushed by Arizona State.  Indiana is Indiana.  Could Purdue be the new favorite to go to Indy?  Tough to take that from a loss, but unless you thought Purdue was going to the National Championship game, this loss doesn't hurt that bad.  Let's take care of business over the next 3 weeks - then the real fun starts!

Stay tuned later this week for your favorite features including the always humorous Broadcast Recap and the always 100% correct Power Rankings!