2012 Purdue Boilermakers Football Preview

 

The Purdue Boilermakers find themselves in a very odd position as 2011 gives way to 2012. A team that made and won a bowl game last season did absolutely nothing to suggest that it's ready to improve its standing in the Big Ten Conference or the larger world of college football. The program located in West Lafayette, Ind., proved that not all bowl-winning seasons are created equal.

Yes, Purdue went 7-6 last season, producing the first winning campaign for head coach Danny Hope in three years on the job. Beating Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl certainly ended 2011 on a happy note, making the offseason a relatively pleasant one. However, one of the things that can make college football relevance a fleeting and elusive entity is that the 12-game slate can mask deficiencies, and last season certainly did that for Purdue.



Purdue apparel The Boilermakers should be lauded for winning most of the games they were supposed to win, but they also endured a puzzling 24-22 defeat at the hands of Rice in early September. That's just the beginning, however. The central reason Purdue achieved what it did in 2011 was simply that the Boilermakers played a lot of mediocre teams. Only the bowl win over Western Michigan – a team that finished 7-6 in the Mid-American Conference, the tenth-best league in the 11-league Football Bowl Subdivision – gave Purdue a victory over a winning team last season. The Boilermakers' other six victims did not possess winning records. Even the Ohio State team the Boilers knocked off last November finished 6-7 after a .500 regular season, gutted by the departure of coach Jim Tressel and the suspensions of the so-called "Tat Five," a quintet of OSU players allowed to play in the previous season's Sugar Bowl game against Arkansas. Purdue did not register a single victory of appreciable consequence in a larger context. The Boilermakers lost to a vulnerable Iowa side and a Penn State team that was far from imposing. An upper-tier Big Ten team would have won at least nine times against the 13-team field Purdue played last season. If this program wants to prove itself to the rest of the Big Ten, the 2011 body of work won't cut it. That might be a harsh assessment, but the same school that reached the 2001 Rose Bowl and became a regular winner under former coach Joe Tiller has fallen a few notches. Danny Hope and the people who scrutinize him have yet to find out if this program can become the same force it was a decade ago. That's why the 2012 season is so important to the Boilermakers and their fan base.

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By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior College Football Correspondent

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