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Purdue Boilermakers at Minnesota Golden Gophers: Preview, Predictions & Prognostications

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When: Sat. Nov. 5, 2016; 3:30 pm ET
Where: Minneapolis, MN; TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
TV: BTN
All-Time Series: Minnesota leads 36-32-3
Last Meeting: Minnesota 41-13 win, in 2015
Line: Minnesota (-17)

The schedule is about to heat up for the Gophers, who sit at 3-2 in the conference and could very well be tied for the West Division lead with a victory this weekend. Before reaching that closing stretch of Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin, a game against the Boilermakers awaits QB Mitch Leidner and his team. If those latter games are to matter in the grand scheme of the Big Ten race, the Gophers must continue to take care of business in a similar fashion as the past two weeks against Rutgers and Illinois. Well, maybe in a better fashion than the close call against Rutgers, but we digress…

Purdue played better initially under interim head coach Gerad Parker, but his team fell apart once again in the second half against Penn State last week. While the Boilermakers have played some good football at times in 2016, these lapses that occur for half a game at times just simply eliminate the chance to win. It will be interesting to see if Minnesota can pounce on such an opportunity, just like Iowa and Penn State have in recent games against the Boilermakers. Purdue is also playing for possible bowl-eligibility in this one, with three wins needed in the final four weeks of the season to reach 6-6.

This matchup also features two quarterbacks that fly a bit under the radar, yet both seem to have effective passing numbers. Will Mitch Leidner or David Blough have the better of this game? It’s hard to tell. Let’s take a deeper dive into the numbers to see which of these West Division teams will get an important win for moving the program and season forward on Saturday afternoon.

1 Burning Question: Can Purdue effectively stop the Minnesota running backs?

The Minnesota ground game is led by Rodney Smith (100 yards per game) and Shannon Brooks (79 yards per game), with these two players contributing 15 touchdowns on the ground so far in 8 games. With multiple options in the backfield, and a quarterback Mitch Leidner who can throw the ball efficiently at times, it can be difficult to wear down or stop the Minnesota offense from putting together long drives.

Purdue is surrendering 250 rushing yards per game, which is better than only Rutgers in the B1G. Against similar offensive fronts like Iowa three weeks ago and Penn State last week, Purdue has been gashed for a ton of yards and big plays. One would expect that Tracy Claeys and the Minnesota offensive coaches will be ready to exploit this apparent weakness with heavy doses of both star running backs.

The impetus will be on Purdue, and specifically the defensive line, to stop these rushing attempts. If that does not happen, the Boilermakers could be in for another blowout defeat going away in Minneapolis.

2 Key Stats:

— +10, and -12.  That’s the turnover margin for Minnesota (tied for 1st in B1G) and the turnover margin for Purdue (14th in B1G) in 2016, respectively.  A huge factor in why Purdue struggled for many years under Darrell Hazell (now fired) was the inability to protect the ball from opposing defenses. Even though Purdue has played better this season on offense, the Boilermakers still turn the ball over at an alarming pace. By contrast, Minnesota has forced more fumbles than anyone else in the Big Ten while not giving up the ball much itself. In a game where Purdue is trying to make up for a talent gap and a home field advantage, mistakes such as these cannot be made if there is to be serious hope for an upset.

— 304.6. That’s the passing yards per game for Purdue’s offense in 2016 (1st in B1G).  The Gophers are not statistically bad on defense against opposing passing attacks, but this secondary and the linebackers will be challenged by David Blough and his receivers early and often on Saturday. Purdue has had serious trouble running the ball this season, but that fact has not stopped the Boilermaker receivers and tight ends from finding openings in the defense for big plays and third-down conversions. This is one area of the game where Purdue can beat an opponent or stick close to them, so focus in the Gopher coaching rooms this week should be on developing appropriate coverage schemes and plays to stop the Boilermakers.

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3 Key Players:

DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue WR: Yancey has 30 receptions on the season, but 6 of these have gone for touchdowns to lead the team. Whereas his fellow receiver and teammate Domonique Young had received more of the workload earlier in the season, Young’s knee injury has opened the door for Yancey to become the new top target for David Blough. Purdue’s offense gets about 70 yards receiving per game from this top target, and Minnesota will need to blanket him with good coverage to avoid giving up the big pass plays.

David Blough, Purdue QB: Despite some injuries and some turnover in the ranks, one thing has remained constant on Purdue’s offense, and that’s the quarterback. Even though Blough has needed to deal with pressure behind a developing offensive line, his quick reads and instincts help him deliver the ball and avoid any big negative plays. Blough leads the conference in total offense and passing yards per game, and it seems unlikely that the Gophers will completely shut him down. Of course, if numerous mistakes are made and more Boilermaker turnovers happen as alluded to above, Blough will likely not have enough in the tank to keep this game close enough to win.

Tai’yon Devers, Minnesota DE: What could help contain Purdue’s passing attack and David Blough? Well, a good pass rush for one thing. Devers has contributed right away in a big way as a freshman defensive lineman, adding three sacks and three forced fumbles in 7 total games on the season (he missed the PSU game with an injury). Look for this force on the front of the Minnesota defense to be disruptive all game, and perhaps come up with another turnover given how prone Purdue can be to making mistakes. Devers and his line need to play well to stop Purdue from keeping this game closer than it should be on paper.

 4 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Minnesota 38-10
Dave: Minnesota 34-23
Phil H.: Minnesota 37-17
Philip R.: Minnesota 38-24
Zach: Minnesota 35-14

Dave is a FWAA member and a Columnist focusing on Big Ten football for talking10. Before joining talking in 2014, he was a Featured Columnist for three years at Bleacher Report and previously wrote for seven years on SouthernCollegeSports.com. He was born in Hawkeye Country and went to college in Columbus, so there's plenty of B1G running through his blood. Dave is a patent and trademark attorney in his day job. If you have any questions in those areas or about his latest articles, please contact him on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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Jeff Brohm says no to Louisville, will Purdue be his long-term future?

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There was much rejoicing in West Lafayette, Ind. on Wednesday night. Head coach Jeff Brohm announced he was staying at Purdue and not leaving for the Lousiville job. 

After watching a dormant Purdue football program make a steady and fun rise back to relevancy in just two years under Jeff Brohm, there was real fear that Brohm would be gone.

Brohm’s ties to the Lousiville program are well known, and there’s no doubt he loves the program. But, just a few weeks ago we talked about how the situations of the two programs made the “inevitable” move not so inevitable after all. 

It appears that the heartstrings of the team he is building and the things Purdue have promised were enough to keep him from his “dream job.” 

“This is by far No. 1. The hardest ever. Not even close,” Brohm said about the decision to stay with the Boilermakers and bypass an opportunity to return home, via the Lafayette Journal and Courier

Now that that is settled, what does the future really look like for Brohm and the Boilermakers? In the short-term it appears that once again the Board of Trustees is set to increase Brohm’s salary and likely the pool of money for his assistant coaches. 

Purdue also has gone all-in on getting better facilities for the football program and those investments are starting to pay off in the form of better recruiting. 

Brohm has recruited the No. 25 ranked class in the country. Some of it is no doubt who he is and how his staff is built, but it’s also an equal part what the Boilermakers can sell to recruits once they are on campus. 

Top-notch facilities, a fun and honest coach and one of the most prolific offensive schemes in the country make this Purdue team exciting to young and old alike. 

All of it adds up to the formula for where Brohm can have long-term success right there in West Lafayette. 

Stepping stone to another job? More like here for the long haul. At least that was the signal I got from what this decision meant. 

Brohm said as much when speaking to the Journal and Courier on Thursday in that one-on-one interview. 

“Purdue’s been great and that’s no shot at Louisville. Louisville was great to me,” Brohm said. “I like it where I’m at and I think we have all the resources we need to continue to get better and improve and try to become a contender and a competitor in a great conference to play at a high level.

“Really, the last place I was at (Western Kentucky) I probably would’ve stayed there forever other than this is a step up in football and I need to do it right here.”

If Brohm wasn’t leaving Purdue for the Lousiville job or for the Tennessee job after last season, what would it really take to pry him away from the Boilermakers program? 

The good news for Purdue fans is that what Brohm signaled to the college football world is that it is going to take something really special to pry him away. 

We’re talking about Nick Saban retiring, Clemson idiotically running Dabo Sweeney off to the NFL or even the NFL itself calling on Brohm for him to leave. 

But the picture of Brohm becoming more like an institution at Purdue than a one-night stand is becoming clear. This could be the moment of clarity where Brohm sets aside any other jobs and focuses on what he has in front of him. 

Purdue stepped up to the plate and now Brohm has rewarded their efforts. It’s a marriage that both seem dedicated to for the long haul now. 

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Is Jeff Brohm to Louisville inevitable?

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The last name Brohm and Louisville are about as synonymous as any could be with a single program. After all, Jeff Brohm’s father is the man who laid the foundation for the modern era at Louisville. 

So, with Bobby Petrino out as the head coach of the Cardinals it was only natural that speculation would run rampant about the hottest Power 5 head coach in the country — Jeff Brohm. 

Brohm has proven what a good leader and a good turnaround artist can look like in college football. But, would he really leave after just two seasons at the helm of the Purdue program? 

ESPN personality and Indianapolis radio host Dan Dakich seems to be under that impression. He tweeted out the following on Thursday: 

Just earlier this week, Brohm addressed the obvious connections and the speculation that would come with the Louisville opening. 

“I’ve heard the noise just like everyone else,” Brohm said during his regular weekly press conference on Monday morning. “I think unfortunately it’s important for me to not comment on any speculation right now. I have a job, and we’ve got work to do, and a lot of it. We’re going to put forth the effort to do that. We’ve got a tough opponent this week, and then we’ve got to go to IU, and we’re going to have to play well, and we’re going to have to play much better than we did last week, so I’m going to stay focused on that, and very appreciative of the job I have right now.”

While that is all well and good, Brohm didn’t exactly smack down the rumors for after this season. He didn’t make a definitive statement that he would be back in 2019 and end the speculation. He chose to say he would focus on the here and now and leave the other stuff open to interpretation. 

So, it’s hard to ignore when sources inside the state of Indiana are attempting to break a story about the Louisville-Brohm situation.

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that Brohm is also one of the most private coaches in all of college football. He doesn’t even have an agent to help handle contract negotiations for example.  

Given that, is it prudent to believe reports from one source of information as the gospel of what will happen?

After all, we’ve seen this song and dance with plenty of coaching searches in the past. Names were “hired per sources” or the “target of the search” per sources plenty of times in the last three years, only to find out none of it was even true. 

Perhaps these sources are angling for some piece of the pie should Brohm move or to stir the pot and force Louisville in a different direction? For those who have never sourced information before, the trick is figuring out the meaning behind the information you are given. 

We can also lean on the past to inform us if a rumor or report is true. 

In the case of Brohm all we have to do is look to last year to know that he is at least open to the idea of coaching elsewhere. There was serious flirtation between Brohm and Tennessee before Brohm chose to take his name out of the running. 

It isn’t as if he has the ties that bind him to Purdue in any meaningful way, and that’s what the Tennessee job flirtation told me. 

Additionally, are there multiple reports of this happening?

The good news is that it’s Dan Dakich and Dan Dakich alone making this claim. In the hour since his claim there is not another single credible report of the same information. 

Breathe for a moment Purdue fan, it may not be as over as you think it is. 

Purdue has money, new facilities in the works and a wide open division. Louisville? That money situation has really dried up, the program and athletic department have taken massive hits and it’ll mean another rebuild just two years after starting his latest project. 

Will the power of family connections win out? Maybe…but it isn’t nearly as inevitable as many in the media are leading people to believe. 

Until Jeff Brohm or Louisville make that announcement, skepticism remains the smartest option. 

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Purdue’s Moore puts Big Ten on notice in record-setting debut

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There are no moral victories in college football. So, don’t expect the Purdue Boilermakers to be happy about a 31-27 loss to Northwestern in the 2018 season and Big Ten opener. 

But, despite the loss at least one individual showcased an ability to tear up Big Ten defenses nearly at will. 

That person is true freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore. 

All that Moore did was go out and set a single-game record for the most all-purpose yardage with 313 combined yards. He broke Otis Armstrong’s school record, set in 1972 of 312 yards. 

It wasn’t just one part of the game that stood out either, as Moore did it as a receiver, a running back and a kick returner too. 

Just how impressive was Moore’s debut? He nearly broke the record in just one half of his college football debut. Moore had 302 of his 313 yards in the first half alone. 

That first half total broke down like this — 79 rushing, 98 receiving and 125 on kickoff returns. 

HIs big night almost looked like it wouldn’t get off the ground though. On the first drive of the game, Moore broke loose up the middle of the Northwestern defense, only to drop a good pass from Elijah Sindelar. 

Moore made up for it quickly though. He single-handily put his team back in the game after watching the Wildcats go up 14-0 quickly in the first quarter.

First it was a 32-yard touchdown reception and less than three minutes later it was a 76-yard touchdown run. The rushing touchdown was the longest by a Purdue player since an 82-yard effort from Akeem Hunt back in 2014. 

Clearly the stats are impressive, but it was the how it happened that also matters. Moore had the Ross-Ade crowd oohing and awwing and on the edge of their seats every time he touched the ball. 

When was the last time that happened? 

Brohm being able to get Moore wasn’t just getting lucky with an underrated recruit either. Purdue won a major battle to get him on campus and he came to Purdue as the highest-rated recruit to ever done the black and gold.

He had just about every school in the country seeking out his talent, with Ohio State, Alabama and the like in the mix. Now, some believe those schools soured on him as he didn’t sprout up height wise over the final two years of high school, but that speed man. That speed. 

But, it was Purdue that overlooked his lack of height and saw his blazing speed as an asset that could be used. 

It was on full display on Thursday night against a quality Northwestern defense and special teams units.

Moore plus Jeff Brohm’s innovative offensive mind could be a very dangerous combo. 

It also put the rest of the Big Ten on notice — Purdue isn’t going to go quietly in any game this season. 

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Early Big Ten results remind us why bowl season matters

Don’t tell Iowa, Michigan State and Purdue that their bowl games and wins were meaningless, because they sure weren’t.

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Bowl season is usually a cruel, cruel mistress to the Big Ten. Let’s just say hopes always start high and results crash fans of the teams in the conference back down to earth quickly.

There are a myriad of reasons and excuses often given, and some of them are valid (or at least used to be). Examples usually include the fact that 90 percent of the games are played well outside of the Big Ten footprint and the old reliable of huge disparities in caliber of opponents (addressed a bit by the last change in bowl alignment).

So, as the 2017-18 bowl season got underway it was hard to expect much from the Big Ten. After all, the conference teams managed to go just 3-7 last year and only one of those three wins was very meaningful (Wisconsin over Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl).

Then the games were played and we here in Big Ten country have been reminded just how meaningful bowl season really is.

Purdue not only got to a bowl game, but it won its bowl game against another offense-first team in Arizona. Sophomore quarterback Elijah Sindelar overcame injury and threw for nearly 400 yards (396 to be exact) and four touchdowns, while running back D.J. Knox had 101 yards on 11 carries.

If you believe bowl games don’t matter, just talk to anyone on the Purdue or Arizona sidelines following that game. Going 7-6 in season one under Jeff Brohm was huge, but most importantly it sets new expectations for the program’s floor going forward.

When is the last time there were anything but dreadful expectations surrounding the Purdue football program? If anything, that should tell you just how meaningful bowl games are.

But, it was just Purdue’s three-point win out in the Foster Farms Bowl that showcased the importance of winning so-called meaningless bowl games.

Michigan State not only rebounded from a 3-9 season to go 9-3, but it just beat a fellow top 25 program in Washington State. Sure, you can point to Luke Falk being out of the game, but the Spartans looked like the Spartans that climbed their way to the College Football Playoff just two years ago again.

Dantonio’s crew pounded the ball down the throat of Wazzu’s smaller defensive line and that led to LJ Scott putting up 110 yards on just 18 carries. Meanwhile, the Spartans defense held the Cougars high-scoring offense to just 17 points in the 42-17 win in the Holiday Bowl.

Think MSU will be overlooked by bowl games in the future again?

Even Iowa, who had the most maddening up and down season of any Big Ten team, pulled off a win in the opening game for a Big Ten team this bowl season.

It wasn’t always pretty, but in a matchup of two 7-5 teams, what else would you expect? Most importantly, the game showed that Iowa could win a close game against a quality defense. For a team full of young players at key positions, it’s a win that builds momentum heading in to the offseason.

All three wins set up increase expectations for next season and there’s nothing better than expecting quality football and increased competition within the Big Ten at all.

Of course, the rest of the Big Ten teams in bowl games have some huge matchups to play in.

It’s a nice start to reversing the trend of horrible bowl seasons for the conference, but there’s a lot of work still to be done for the rest of the conference. With three teams in New Year’s Six bowl games, winning them puts the conference at the forefront of the offseason discussion and as much as we hate to admit it — perception is reality these days in the college football world.

That was the lesson we were supposed to take away from the College Football Playoff committee’s selection of Alabama over an actual conference champion, right?

With a snub from the College Football Playoff committee this season, a huge turnaround in bowl game results would mean a whole lot to the reputation – fair or not – of the conference going forward.

Let’s see if the early momentum can be maintained by the big dogs of the B1G.

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