By Collin Post
The Purdue Boilermakers enter the 2012 season after a 7-6 campaign in 2011, which was topped off with a victory over the Western Michigan Broncos in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
This season, the Boilers are shaping up to be one of the most interesting teams in the Big Ten due to nine returning starters on both sides of the ball.
For the first time in the Danny Hope era, Purdue enters this season without a question mark at the quarterback position. Caleb TerBush, who had been battling with Robert Marve the last few seasons, has been named the starter for week one. TerBush had a very strong 2011 season; passing for 1,905 yards with 13 touchdowns while splitting time with Marve.
Purdue also has some veteran skill position players returning, which can only help their cause.
Ralph Bolden is looking to return to the starting line-up after sitting out last year, but as of now Akeem Shavers leads the way for the running backs. He has seen limited playing time over his career, but he has shown flashes on special teams.
At the wide receiver position, Purdue’s top 5 receivers are either juniors or seniors who have all seen playing time in the past. Purdue also returns a veteran offensive line.
The Boilermakers defense is the piece of their team that stands out on paper.
Led by defensive tackle and potential first-round draft pick, Kawann Short, Purdue is poised to have the best defense since Hope took over the reigns in West Lafayette. Along with Short, fellow defensive tackle Bruce Gaston has shown flashes and should be a big contributor this season.
Leading the back seven is cornerback Ricardo Allen. Allen, who started as a true freshman two years ago, enters his junior year after showing gradual progression throughout his career. This defensive unit could be one of the better defenses in the Big Ten.
Purdue’s schedule is full of intriguing games.
After a week one win over Eastern Kentucky, the Boilers travel to South Bend for a match-up with Notre Dame. The Irish simply has more talent than Purdue so I have to pick Notre Dame here.
The next two weeks are against Eastern Michigan and Marshall, so I will pick the Boilers to be 3-1 entering Big Ten play. The following week, Michigan comes to town and I have to pick Purdue to come out with an upset win in this game due to their staunch run defense.
The following week, Purdue plays host to the Wisconsin Badgers. As I said in my Wisconsin pre-season overview, I think Purdue wins this game as well thanks to their defense. On October 20th, the Boilers travel to Ohio St. and will leave with a loss, leaving them 5-2.
I then feel that Purdue will lose a shocker to Minnesota the following week due to Minnesota coach, Jerry Kill, really starting to revitalize that program and outwitting Danny Hope and his moustache. Purdue will return to the win column with a win over Penn St. the following week.
I then see the Boilermakers splitting their final two road games of the season against Iowa and Illinois leaving them with a 7-4 record. To close out the regular season, Purdue will be victorious over the Indiana Hoosiers and finish the year with an 8-4 record.