Everything You Need to Know: Louisville v. Purdue
How to Watch: Kickoff at 7:30 ET (Fox)
Spread: -25 (Bovada)
Last Time: Only one game has been played between the Boilermakers and Cardinals, a 22-22 tie in 1987. This will be the Cardinals first game against an incumbent Big Ten member since 2001.
Purdue in 2017:
Once a solid football program that boasted elite quarterbacks, Purdue has fallen under hard times. The likes of Len Dawson, Bob Griese and Drew Brees all played for the Boilermakers, but now that history seems irrelevant. Purdue is back to a rebuilding project, after Darrell Hazell was fired in the middle of the season.
Needing a splash to bring life back into the program, Purdue hired WKU head coach Jeff Brohm to restore their former glory. Many will remember him as the former Louisville quarterback who led the Cardinals to a 1993 Liberty Bowl win, but he’s done a lot more since then. After spending eight years in the pros, he returned to his alma mater as a quarterbacks coach under Bobby Petrino, mentoring guys such as Stefan LeFors and his brother Brian Brohm.
Jeff Brohm then bounced around before serving as WKU’s head coach for three seasons, leading the Hilltoppers to back-to-back Conference USA titles and their first-ever ranking at the FBS level.
Players to Watch:
- QB David Blough or Elijah Sindelar
The quarterbacks have had a big role in Brohm’s offense, from LeFors all the way to Brandon Doughty. Fortunately for him, he inherits a two-year starter that led the Big Ten in passing yards. David Blough is an experienced quarterback that knows how to use his feet and make quick decisions, but had trouble turning the ball over last year (25:21 TD-INT ratio in 2016). As of today, Blough’s status is uncertain due to a shoulder injury throughout the month. If he can’t go, expect Elijah Sindelar to start. Sindelar hasn’t seen the field a lot, but will bring an intriguing storyline with his Mr. Football award in Kentucky in 2014.
- LB TJ McCollum
Brohm brought along most of his coordinators from WKU (such as his brother Brian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt), but one of his bigger hauls came in grad transfer TJ McCollum. McCollum led a Hilltoppers group that was second in the country in rushing defense last year, and will start at the weakside linebacker spot which has given Louisville fits recently. He’ll be paired with another solid backer in Markus Bailey, who will look to improve their rushing defense (115th in the country last year) against a vaunted rushing attack led by Lamar Jackson.
- TE Cole Herdman
With the Purdue offense replacing a bulk of their wide receivers, Cole Herdman will have significant value for them. He can act as a safety valve for Blough on checkdown routes, and that can be a good thing if Louisville’s defense can prevent Purdue from stretching the field. Herdman was voted All Big-Ten Third Team in the preseason by Athlon Sports.
What to Watch For:
- How Often Will Brohm Go All-In?
One unique point about Brohm’s teams aren’t just the deep throws downfield, it’s his play-calling acumen. Even against teams like Alabama and LSU, Brohm sometimes threw caution to the wind and utilized everything at his disposal. Brohm often calls trick plays, and will typically call them early to keep the defense honest. He’ll also call deep passes, which will test the likes of CB Trumaine Washington or true freshmen that could potentially see the field tomorrow. It will be important for new defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon to keep his defense ready at all times, and not allow too many splash plays to give Purdue some confidence.
- Who Wins the Turnover Battle?
Towards the end of the season, Louisville played down to their opponents, allowing the likes of Virginia and Wake Forest to hang around for four quarters. Part of that was defenses figuring out how to contain Jackson, but also Louisville turning the football over too much. Neither Louisville nor Purdue were exceptional at avoiding them last year, so the turnover battle will be key. Making Blough extend plays too long could allow sacks or force bad throws, giving Louisville some momentum on offense.
- Will Louisville’s Offensive Line Show Improvement?
It’s no secret that the offensive line has been one of the biggest stories for Louisville this offseason. There has been a ton of hype for new coach Mike Summers, but it will now be put to the test.
Nick Holt is basically the defensive equivalent to Jeff Brohm; a fiery personality that will take chances and instill confidence in his players to rise to the occasion. Holt will blitz often, which will test a Louisville group that had trouble picking them up to end the season. With two new starters and moving Lukayus McNeil to guard, it will show whether the O-line can make adjustments in protection and if they can open lanes for the running game.