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2021 Big Ten Opponent Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Up in today’s preview is the Purdue Boilermakers, who Michigan State will visit on Nov. 6 for the first time in West Lafayette since 2014. The two programs last met in East Lansing in 2018.

Michigan State has had plenty of success against Purdue as of late, winning each of the last eight games. MSU is 36-28-3 all-time against Purdue. To help us learn more about the Boilermakers, Travis Miller, managing editor of Hammer and Rails — the quintessential website for all things Purdue — has provided in-depth answers about what to expect from the Boilermakers in 2021.

With that introduction done, let’s jump right into it.

List your team’s key departures:

  • Rondale Moore - WR
  • Lorenzo Neal - DT
  • Derrick Barnes - LB
  • Grant Hermanns - LT

List your team’s key returnees:

  • David Bell - WR
  • George Karlaftis - DE
  • Jack Plummer - QB
  • DaMarcus Mitchell - LB

List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact:

  • Tyler Witt - OG (Western Kentucky)
  • Joe Anderson - DL (South Carolina)
  • OC Brothers - LB (Auburn)
  • Damarjhe Lewis - DE (Indiana)

Brief overview of 2021 team:

In 2020, it was a great start with wins over Iowa and Illinois, but an ankle injury to George Karlaftis against Illinois, then COVID issues with him, derailed everything. The loss of him (he played sparingly in the last four games) meant Purdue had zero pass rush and struggled to get stops when needed. The offense stalled with multiple chances late against Northwestern in a seven-point loss. Purdue was absolutely robbed of a win at Minnesota on a horrendous call. Against Rutgers, Purdue was awful defensively in the second half and could not get a stop. Against Nebraska a terrible start and a dumb late penalty led to a fourth straight loss.

That said, Purdue was not far off in all four losses. Northwestern was a tight game. It beat Minnesota even if the scoreboard didn’t say so. Purdue was just awful in spurts against Rutgers and Nebraska and was still in it in the fourth quarter. I don’t think it takes a huge overhaul to win seven or eight games in 2021. All it needs is a little more running game and at least some form of a pass rush and it should be competitive most weeks. The only games I see where Purdue winning would be absolutely shocking would be at Notre Dame and at Ohio State (unless we can bring the Ross-Ade kryptonite and Rondale Moore to Columbus).

What’s your team’s biggest strength?

The passing game. Purdue led the Big Ten in passing last year and David Bell is one of the best receivers in the country. Purdue will be able to move the ball in the air and with more of a running game the offense will be lethal.

What’s your team’s biggest weakness?

Can the defense get stops? Purdue lost its last two games last year because the defense was terrible. It is being completely restructured with a new coordinator and a bunch of transfers. If it works, Purdue can win eight games. If not, it may struggle to win four.

How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?

It’s year five for Jeff Brohm and the last two guys did not make it to year five. It’s time to see progress. In 2019, the team was derailed by injuries, and 2020 was weird for everyone (really, Purdue wasn’t terribly far from 5-1 or even 6-0). There needs to be a bowl this year or we will be waiting for the buyout to go down.

Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?

Bell, because he is awesome. He is a potential All-American.

Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss:

Gonna go 7-5 with an “Everything goes perfect” ceiling of 9-3 and a “complete disaster” of 3-9. The best win will be at Iowa, where Brohm is a surprising 3-1 against Kirk Ferentz and Purdue always has a receiver go nuts (seriously, look at what Bell has done to their secondary). The surprise loss can be in game one against Oregon State. That is maybe the most critical game of Brohm’s tenure.

What else should we know about your team this year?

Don’t count out Zander Horvath as a solid running back. He was really good in spurts last year and the running game was fine aside from Northwestern and Nebraska (a grand total of nine yards in each). He is probably the biggest key toward making the offense multi-dimensional.

Thank you to Travis for giving us a great picture on the Boilermakers. You can follow more from Travis here, and you can follow Hammer and Rails on Twitter here, which is the quintessential one stop shop for Michigan news.