Head coach: Darrell Hazell
2014 Record: 3-9 overall, 1-7 Big Ten
2014 Bowl: N/A
2015 Returning Starters: 9 offense, 7 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +200000
Odds to win 2015 Big Ten Title: +30000
Regular Season Wins: Over 4 (-130); Under 4 (+100)
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Austin Appleby returns at QB but he’s going to have to have a much better year after struggling through a horrible November which saw the Purdue Boilermakers drop all four games that month to close the season at 3-9.
QB Austin Appleby had a good 2014, or at least half of it was.
Late in the season, Appleby became less accurate, throwing for better than 50 percent in just two of the final four Purdue games. If he gets off to a poor start this year, he’ll be duly replaced by one of Danny Etling, David Blough or Elijah Sindelar. That’s just at QB; at RB the Boilermakers lost its top two and are going to rely heavily on a freshman, Markell Jones. Jones won 2014 Mr. Football in Indiana and sophomore Keynote Green will be the secondary ball carrier, as someone who rushed for 199 yards last year as a backup.
Senior C Robert Kugler leads a starting line that also features a WR Danny Anthrop, who is one of the best WRs in the Big Ten if he stays healthy. He underwent knee surgery last Dec. but caught 38 passes for 616 yards in just nine games last season before the injury in Week 10. Purdue scored just 60 points in its final four games, and it’s going to have to be far better than that to get the ‘over’ on 4 wins this year.
Appleby may benefit from the new offense which will feature him airing it out more, and Anthrop is the type of target that this can be successful with. The line is the offense’s strength, and it will give the Boilermakers a shot at making plays. But those plays still need to be made, and Appleby just has to be more accurate in doing so.
On defense Sophomore MLB Ja’Whaun Bentley is one of the best tacklers in the Big Ten. He had 76 tackles last year and three fumble recoveries. He’s the heart and soul of the defense. At LB with him, Jimmy Herman and Danny Ezechukwu are returning to start which gives Purdue one of the best LB trios in the Big Ten. T Jake Replogle had 40 tackles last year and 10.5 leading to loss and he along with Sr. CB Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown will lead the Boilermakers in trying to make some defensive plays this season.
At end, the Boilermakers have questions to answer with Gelen Robinson and Evan Panfil seeking to replace Ryan Russell and Jalani Phillips. Purdue allowed 30 or more points in eight of its final 12 games last year, and this unit really has nowhere to go but up. If it does, Purdue has a shot at a .500 season. That’s probably a goal mark, though no program would pin its hopes on such mediocrity publicly; after just three wins last year it’s a little easier to do here on paper.
The special teams are one of Purdue’s few strengths. Sr K Paul Griggs hit 16 of 20 FG last year and punter Thomas Meadows averaged 39.8 yards per punt last season. Williams will handle the punt returns while Anthrop is the kick returner. Williams returned 10 punts for a 17.1 yard average and Anthrop has the speed to make some great kick returns. Purdue won’t hurt in the special teams.
Hazell hasn’t won a Big Ten home game in his two seasons and Purdue fans are a little uneasy after last year’s horrible conclusion. The defense could be much improved, and it will have to be to even muster last season’s four wins. The problem is that offensively outside of Anthrop, there aren’t a lot of major threats. He’s also coming off an ACL injury, so the Boilermakers will have to avoid overuse of him which could result in a re-injury.
There’s not much of a reason to expect Purdue to do more than finish at the bottom of the Big Ten again. If it can split the Wisconsin/Nebraska matchups at the end of October, it could knock on the door of five or six wins maybe, but that’s a dream scenario.
Prediction: 4 wins