Last Time Out: Nov 3, 2007 – Coming off a humiliating blowout loss in a nationally televised night game at home to Ohio State, the Nittany Lions came into senior day at Beaver Stadium hung over like the day after an office Christmas party. Purdue immediately drew first blood by returning the opening kickoff for a TD and later in the first quarter with a 10-3 lead and on PSU’s 1 yard line, Purdue was prepped to make PSU’s hole even deeper when Sean Lee’s heroics forced a fumble at the goalline which PSU subsequently recovered. From there on, the tide turned in PSU’s favor as they managed to crawl their way back to a 13-10 halftime lead and would go on to win 23-16 in a sloppy, turnover-filled ballgame.
Offense: As always, expect Purdue to come out looking to throw in order to establish the run. This was a concept unheard of in the Big Ten before Joe Tiller graced it with his presence beginning in 1997 but in the decade since, most teams in the conference have now adopted some variation of the spread offense…Okay, history lesson over.
Curtis Painter has lacked the receiving weapons he’s had over the past few years, which may explain why Purdue’s offense hasn’t been quite as explosive but nonetheless can still put points on the board. However, Desmond Tardy and Greg Orton are not players you’d want to bat your eyes at, combining for a total of 19 catches for 265 yards and a TD last week at Notre Dame.
The real X-factor though will be tailback Kory Sheets and whether he will be able to get some quality holes to run through. If Sheets is able to establish himself as a running threat, then suddenly the Boilermakers will have an easier time moving the chains through the air since PSU will be forced to respect the run by stacking more guys in the box and will thus make themselves more vulnerable to the pass. Sheets needs to step up in a huge way in order for Purdue to even *think* about pulling the shocker in West Lafayette.
Defense: Abysmal, shit-tastic, vomit-inducing, non-existent. There’s a myriad of words you can use to describe just how much Purdue’s defense blows ass but I think the fact that Sunshine Clausen threw for 275 yards on them last week speaks for itself. Did I also mention that they rank 99th in the nation against the run? Hmmmmm, I think a certain a two-headed running back monster is about to rear its ugly head again.
In all honesty, the only chance Purdue has defensively is if PSU repeatedly trips over itself, fumbles the ball at least 6 times, and Daryll Clark starts suffering from “Anthony Morelli Syndrome.”
Special Teams: They sure are special…NOT! The Boilers average 29 yards per punt. I’ll repeat that: The average distance on a punt by Purdue’s punter this year has been a whopping 29 yards. Something tells me PSU will see its share of short field positions and it won’t necessarily be due to forcing lots of turnovers.
The aforementioned punter, Chris Summers, is also Purdue’s field goal kicker and while his stats are nothing to write home about (5 for 8, long of 45) it does at least look pretty damn good compared to his punting skills.
As far as kick returns go: Dorien Bryant, the guy who took last year’s opening kickoff 98 yards to the house is gone and it doesn’t seem as if anyone else has stepped up in his place. Kick coverage is uncertain, as there’s been no applicable data that I’ve found regarding such a thing.
Prediction: PSU will get off to its typical slow start on the road in a noon road game, Purdue will get an early TD or two and even lead for a bit. However, the combination of the Spread HD offense plus a defense that should be able to contain Purdue’s running game and thus, focus on the pass will prove to be too much as Painter will get more and more desperate the further his team falls behind. As a result, look for some key turnovers to crop up in the second half especially as PSU ultimately runs away with this one.
Penn State 41 – Purdue 21.