It's starting to become "put up or shut up" time for Jeff Brohm at Purdue.
No, I don't think his job is on the line this season especially with all that has happened outside of his control with this pandemic, but after a promising (for Purdue) start to his regime in 2017 and 2018, 2019 fell off hard.
Sure, there were tons of injuries for the Boilers last year - their best defensive player Markus Bailey went down after week 2, their starting quarterback and their best player and potential 1st-round pick in the NFL, Rondale Moore, went down in the same week ON THE SAME PLAY in week 3.
It was just one of those years.
Now after going 6-6 in 2017 with a bowl win, 6-6 in 2018 and getting demolished by Auburn in the Music City Bowl, and a 4-8 2019, it's time to continue building that momentum that we saw in 2017 and midway through 2018 after they upset #2 Ohio State.
The biggest question, besides the pandemic, this year for Purdue is who the hell is going to play quarterback?
They return Jack Plummer (no relation to Jake) who played seven games last year before getting injured and turning the job over to 4th string walk-on Aidan O'Connell. Not ideal, but in comes transfer Austin Burton from UCLA. Burton is 6'2, 200 lbs, and mobile. Him in Brohm's uptempo spread offense along with a healthy Rondale Moore and last year's Big Ten Freshmen of the Year David Bell could be really fun to watch, and I expect him to be the signal caller come opening weekend.
Health and consistent quarterback play, like so often in football, will be the main factors in deciding whether Purdue will sink like 2019 or start to swim again like the flashes that were shown in Brohm's first two years.
The schedule doesn't do them any favors - especially early. It's tough pickings, and they'll have a shot to make some early noise, or be buried in a hole they'll have to climb out of in the latter half of the schedule.
Week 1: @ Michigan, September 5th
As much as I'd like to say that the potentially explosive Boilers offense could jump ahead early then add a few knockout punches in Ann Arbor, it's just too tall of a task for the opening game. Michigan is just too deep compared to where Purdue is. Now, probably not having fans will be interesting to see how that impacts both teams. Not having 100+ making your life hell on 3rd & 7 will be helpful I'm sure, but not helpful enough for Purdue to pull off the upset.
Michigan 35 - Purdue 20 (0-1)
Week 2: vs. Iowa, September 12
Brohm has had Iowa's number since he took over in 2017. He upset them in back-to-back years in 2017-2018 then last year only lost by a score at Iowa with his 4th string QB playing. I think this one will be blow for blow in the first half with the Bell-Rondale combo hitting a homerun or two in the second half to pull away. Boilers win their home opener.
Purdue 28 - Iowa 24 (1-1)
Week 3: vs. Ohio State, September 19
The last time Ohio State made a visit to West Lafayette turned out to very well be the biggest win in program history. Rondale Moore's coming out party on national TV. Tyler Trent. It was magic. They dominated Ohio State that fall night in 2018. Again, like I said about the Michigan game, the crowd and environment was a huge factor that night two years ago, and that won't be available for Purdue this time around. Don't see an upset here. Justin Fields is just too damn good. Ohio State rolls.
Ohio State 45 - Purdue 24 (1-2)
Week 4: @ Illinois, September 26
After absolutely taking Illinois to the barn on the road in 2018, it was the exact opposite in 2019. It was a rainy, shitty, messy day in West LA last year when Purdue couldn't get out of their own fuckiing way getting it handed to them 24-6 in just a putrid performance. Illinois started building momentum under Lovie Smith in the second half of last season after upsetting then #6 Wisconsin then rattling off four straight wins before losing in the Redbox Bowl to Cal. They finished 6-7. A very Purdue feel to that one. A finally healthy Purdue team bounces back and gets some revenge from last year.
Purdue 30 - Illinois 27 (2-2)
Week 6: @ Wisconsin, October 10
I think there's a better chance that the season goes off 100% smooth than Purdue winning at Wisconsin. Last time they did it was 2003, and it won't happen in 2020.
Wisconsin 31 - Purdue 17 (2-3)
Week 7: vs. Rutgers, October 17
Homecoming game here. Virtual homecoming I guess? Who knows, but that's what it should be. Purdue starts a stretch of very winnable games with one they should dominate over Rutgers. They get back to .500.
Purdue 42 - Rutgers 17 (3-3)
Week 8: @ Minnesota, October 24
PJ Fleck owns Jeff Brohm. Purdue beat the Gophers in 2017 in OT at Ross-Ade, but the last two meetings since then have been absolute beatdowns both home and away. Don't expect much different this time with Fleck having his program rolling after an 11-2 season last year.
Minnesota 38 - Purdue 24 (3-4)
Week 9: vs. Northwestern, October 31
Halloween home game will be rowdy even without fans. Purdue went up to Evanston last year and somehow pulled off a win at the buzzer with it's 4th string QB and mostly freshmen playing skill positions. Like them to get a win here at home again. back to .500.
Purdue 31 - Northwestern 27 (4-4)
Week 11: vs. Nebraska, November 14
Scott Frost vs. Jeff Brohm. Two coaches with a lot of "turnaround" hype with just a little to none to show for it. Battle of "up-and-coming" teams and programs. Even without a home crowd, I think home field gives Purdue just enough of an edge to win their final home game in 2020.
Purdue 27 - Nebraska 23 (5-4)
Week 12: @ Indiana, November 21
What do you know. Purdue meeting IU in the final week of the season with bowl eligibility on the line, at least for the Boilers. Last year's game, as ugly as it was outside, was honestly an instant classic. A shootout down the stretch with Purdue tying it at the buzzer only before IU eventually punched it in to win in 2OT. Think Indiana is too much to handle still for Purdue's defense. Stevie Scott, Whop Philyor, Pennix if he's healthy will be too explosive. It'll probably be a shootout, but I think the Hoosiers claim the bucket for the second season in a row.
Indiana 35 - Purdue 31 (5-5)
I think that's fair. 5-5 give or take. The potential on offense if a guy like Burton can be half as explosive as who he is throwing to could swing a few games in Purdue's favor that I don't have down here. Let's just hope it happens this smoothly to even debate about this record prediction.