SOC - Purdue
This is going to be a short one. I went to the exhibition game in Charleston, wrote my post afterwards, just got home to St. Louis, my eyes are heavy and it's almost 1:00 am. AND I was up late last night at a concert and woke up at 5:30. I'm about to crash.
KIND OF LIKE ILLINOIS FOOTBALL. We've played two decent games in a row - tied with Minnesota coming down to the final minutes; defense played very well against Wisconsin to keep it closer than expected. The offense isn't there yet but it's shown signs here and there. When you're this young, every game you should get a little better.
But when you're this young, you're inconsistent. The defense can appear like it has everything figured out and then, the next week, look lost again. The offense can limit the turnovers are start to explore expanding the running game and then revert right back to all the bad stuff.
This feels like a game where we revert back to the bad stuff. Purdue has lost their last three by a total of 11 points combined - all three one-score games, all three losses. So that feels a little "Purdue takes out their angst on super-young Illinois" to me.
And this game has always looked like a loss to me. I wrote about that in the preview. Hey - I know how to make this post appear longer. A big old cut-and-paste from the season preview. Here's what I wrote in August:
This fall might be rough. There's a chance we're the worst team in the Big Ten this year, even worse than first-year-coach Purdue.
Let's pause there, because some of you just record-scratched on "worse than first-year-coach Purdue." Wouldn't "2017 Purdue >>> 2017 Illinois" mean that Jeff Brohm is a "better" coach than Lovie Smith?
Not necessarily. I shall attempt to explain.
Darrell Hazell was mostly a disaster at Purdue. More of a disaster than Tim Beckman was at Illinois (wins-wise; the Beckman investigation and firing left a bigger crater, which we will discuss in a moment). Beckman clawed his way to 6-6 in his third season; Hazell went 2-10 in year three. Purdue's last four seasons: 1-11, 3-9, 2-10, 3-9.
So how might Purdue be better? Well, whatever Hazell was building (and it wasn't much) was set to crest in 2017 and 2018. Brohm has a pretty great QB for his system (David Blough, now a junior), two senior receivers, two junior tailbacks with experience, an offensive line that has four experienced juniors -- this was Hazell's attempt at an Indiana rebuild. Kevin Wilson went 4-8 in his fourth year at Indiana (with no bowls in the first four years) but kept his job, and we saw the program he was building with two bowl appearances in 2015 and 2016. So Hazell's attempt to resurrect Purdue was slated to crest this year and next year.
Beckman's attempt to rebuild Illinois was set to crest in 2015 and 2016. He made a bowl in 2014 and then was going to lean on his experienced defense (and 4-star transfer QB) to theoretically win a lot of games in 2015 and 2016. But even back then, 2017 looked like a rebuilding year. I wrote about that many times on the site, even back when Cubit was handed the interim reins in August 2015 -- 2015 has a solid enough defense to win some games, and the 2016 roster looks pretty good, but 2017 is a steep cliff.
As it turned out, what Beckman was building wasn't much of a structure. 2015 probably had the talent to bowl, but the mess of the investigation and program turmoil left them short at 5-7. I had high hopes of one year of decent before the Lovie rebuild began in earnest, but last season fell apart quickly. We could get into the reasons for that (eight opponents who went to bowl games, seven opponents who won at least eight games, two injured QBs dropped the team down to their third-string, freshman QB, etc., etc.), but really, in the end, I saw it more as the final chapter of Beckman/Cubit than the first chapter of Lovie. What was being built wasn't much.
That's similar to Purdue (what was being built wasn't much), but Jeff Brohm will get two Cubit-like seasons to find out. I could see Purdue being decent (not bowl-decent, but maybe 4-8/5-7 decent) for two seasons before Brohm has to start his full-on rebuild. For Lovie, the full-on rebuild begins right now.
I still feel the same way. Purdue is decent (probably not bowl decent, but decent), we're fighting for worst-team-in-the-conference status, and after a few solid games we're due for a setback. I think tomorrow, er, today, might get a little ugly.
Purdue 31, Illinois 10