Instant validation wasn’t required to know that Jeff Brohm can coach, but the Purdue Boilermakers went to a bowl game for the first time since 2012 last season. To top it off, they won to secure their first winning record since 2011. Armed with nine returning starters on the offensive side of the ball, the Boilermakers are in a position to improve and maybe even win a bowl game in two straight seasons, which is something they haven’t done since 1997-98 under Joe Tiller.
The schedule is a pretty big hurdle to overcome, but Brohm has a much better idea of the quarterback situation on his team after David Blough came into the season as the starter and left it as the backup to Elijah Sindelar. Purdue’s defense was one of the most improved units in the country under defensive coordinator Nick Holt. The arrow is pointing up, but there is virtually no buzz about this team.
Purdue is a long shot to win the Big Ten, so we’ll avoid that portion of the article. They are, however, a decent bet to return to a bowl game. BetDSI Sportsbook shows 7 with +100 on the over and -130 on the under. BetOnline has 6.5 with even money on the over and -120 on the under. 5Dimes has 6 as the line, with -130 on the over and +100 on the under. Keep in mind that these win total odds do not include conference championship games or bowl games.
|Date||Opponent||BangTheBook Line||Expected Wins|
|10/27||@ Michigan State||+13||.17|
Expected Wins: 5.74
Having two reliable, experienced quarterbacks is a luxury that most Big Ten teams don’t have. Elijah Sindelar had an 18/7 TD/INT ratio last season with a 56.8 percent completion rate on 329 attempts. David Blough had a 9/4 TD/INT ratio with a 65 percent completion rate on 157 attempts. Both guys were beaten up over the course of the season, as Sindelar played on a torn ACL over the last four games and Blough suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Two Brohm recruits, Jack Plummer and Nick Sipe, the nephew of Cleveland Browns QB Brian Sipe, could be knocking on the door later in the year, although Plummer should redshirt. Brohm has a lot of talent and upside at this position and he knows that position as well as anyone, as a longtime NFL quarterback.
Overshadowed by the big turnaround at the QB position was that the running game produced three backs that had at least five yards per pop. Markell Jones led with 113 carries and 566 yards, but DJ Knox and Tario Fuller each had over six yards per carry. Purdue is young at wide receiver, but has a senior-laden offensive line that should help the quarterbacks go through their progressions. There really is a lot to like about this offense, even with the step up in class on the schedule.
This is the area of concern for Purdue. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt oversaw a remarkable improvement in 2017. The defense went from 38.3 points per game allowed to 20.5 points per game allowed. The Boilermakers shaved 0.9 yards per play off of their performance. They also went from -17 in turnover margin to +4, so better continuity across the board was a huge help. Purdue still only had 10 interceptions, so a lot of it had to do with a better offense, but still. Purdue got better in all areas, including a decrease of 1.7 yards per carry from 5.2 to 3.5.
The defense only returns four starters. Ja’Whaun Bentley is the most notable loss as the only player drafted from the defense. He had 10.5 tackles for loss last season. Josh Okonye is a big loss in the secondary after breaking up 10 passes last season. Markus Bailey does return as the team’s top pass rusher from his linebacker position and both safeties return, which is important in stopping the run. The Boilermakers had 28 of their 29 sacks in Big Ten play and the bowl game, so Holt and co-defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter whipped this team into shape in a hurry.
The non-conference schedule is very tough, as both Missouri and Boston College appear to be on an upswing. Starting with Northwestern right out of the chute is tough, especially for a rebuilding defense. One of the hard parts about forecasting Purdue’s performance for the 2018 season is that they have a significant number of coin flip games. Based on our lines, Purdue has six games with a spread of less than three points. That will define the season.
Pick: Over 6 (-130, 5Dimes)
Even though our expected wins number is well below the market lines, that is because of the number of toss-up games for Purdue. They are a big underdog a few times, but the rest of their games are extremely manageable. Jeff Brohm is an excellent coach and Nick Holt will be coaching a Group of Five team sooner rather than later. The offense is in tact and that is the best attribute for this team. All of the teams on Purdue’s level in the Big Ten are flawed in some way, but the Purdue offense should generally be the best unit on the field in those games.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
The Purdue Boilermakers had to do something. Being a bad team in a Power Five conference is just demoralizing. If you’re in a Group of Five and uncover a couple generational players or two, you can make a run. If you’re at the bottom of a league with Alabama or Ohio State, it’s not a great situation. The Boilermakers have won nine games over the last four years. Several teams won nine games last season alone. Changes needed to be made.
That change was to bring in Jeff Brohm. The former NFL quarterback has had a lot of success in the coaching ranks, first as an assistant in Louisville and then all the way to his impressive three seasons at Western Kentucky, where the Hilltoppers went 30-10. The Big Ten and Conference USA might as well be different planets in the college football solar system, but if you can coach, you can coach, and it sure as hell looks like Jeff Brohm can coach. The Purdue administration and fan base certainly hopes so.
It will be a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers, who haven’t made a bowl game since 2012. The win total line at 5Dimes Sportsbook is just 2.5 with the over at -125, so Brohm walks into a no-lose situation with free reign to utilize his resources as he sees fit as he looks to get the program back to respectability.
|Date||Opponent||Projected Line||Expected Wins|
|9/2||Louisville (N – Indianapolis)||+20.5||0|
Total Expected Wins: 3.44
Purdue has at least one building block on offense. Junior David Blough has gotten a lot of starting experience over the last two seasons. The Boilermakers actually threw for 295 yards per game last season, which has to give Brohm some level of optimism. Blough threw 21 interceptions to go along with his 25 touchdowns, but he faced a lot of zone and prevent defense in the face of big deficits and the running game was extremely inefficient with just 3.2 yards per carry. Blough is a little bit undersized and will probably struggle with some increased tempo, but there’s a skill set here and it actually seems to fit what Brohm will want to do.
The running game wasn’t great, but Purdue has a bruiser in Markell Jones and a speedy scat back type in Brian Lankford-Johnson, who averaged 6.5 yards per carry on his 48 attempts. Injuries limited this group from reaching its full potential, and the coaching probably did as well during the Darrell Hazell and Gerard Parker days, but Brohm seems to know how to use offensive talent. This could be a really underrated group, especially if teams sleep on Purdue having played better opponents in the previous game or looking ahead to a better opponent for the next one. Former Houston head coach Tony Levine was an interesting hire as co-offensive coordinator that could pay dividends.
One would expect a guy like Brohm to be a miracle worker on offense, but the Western Kentucky defense was quite good as well. Brohm brought over Nick Holt from that WKU defense. Purdue needs a ton of work on that side of the ball. The Boilermakers allowed 38.3 points per game and over 446 yards of offense. It was even worse in conference play with 43 points allowed per game. The biggest concern about this team is the defense, especially if Brohm’s increased tempo creates more reps for a group clearly lacking talent.
Eight starters are back on defense, but it’s obviously debatable how much that helps given the performance from last season. TJ McCollum will be a big addition in the middle of the defense after following Brohm to Purdue as a graduate transfer. This is one of those cases where the only to go is up. It may not happen right away, and that’s the obvious concern, but it should happen on Brohm’s watch as he recruits better talent to West Lafayette. He’s got a lot of ties in the Kentucky and Cincinnati areas, where there are some very talented high schoolers.
There’s a great unknown about Purdue. A lot of teams in the Big Ten use tempo now, but Purdue will throw it around more than most of them. There’s a big risk-reward element with this team and they will probably find a way to win some shootouts. Avoiding Ohio State and Penn State is a big boost and the team has a surefire loss against Louisville to get out some of the kinks before a very winnable game against Ohio.
Win Total Pick: Over 2.5
If nothing else, Purdue is going to be more fun to follow this season than they have been since probably the days of Drew Brees. Jeff Brohm will inject some new life and a much needed shake-up into this program and imaginative hires like this are a breath of fresh air. At the very least, Brohm has an offense that he can work with. Whether or not the defense gets up to par is another story. The Ohio game in Week 2 is a must-win for those willing to dive in on the over, but we should see clear improvement throughout the year and that’s reason for optimism.