10 bold predictions for Purdue in 2020
Coming off a disappointing 2019 season, Purdue needs to get back to its high-octane, risk-taking ways on offense. Odds are, it will.
The aggressive approach worked well — largely — during 4th-year coach Jeff Brohm’s first 2 seasons in West Lafayette, when he guided the Boilermakers to back-to-back bowl games. But it and they hit a wall in 2019 (4-8, 3-6), mostly because of injuries to Elijah Sindelar and Rondale Moore and an otherwise inexperienced offense.
Now, in 2020, with Moore opting back in, Purdue is looking to get back to its preferred form.
Let’s take a look at 10 bold predictions for Purdue this season:
1. Rondale Moore will lead the B1G in receptions and yardage
Now that the sophomore wide receiver has opted back in for what in all likelihood will be his final season in West Lafayette, he has a lot to prove — mostly that he’s healthy again following an injury-plagued 2019. Always ultra-focused, Moore comes back even more so now, knowing that he can improve his NFL stock with a performance that rekindles the magic of 2018. Purdue is going to find the strong, speedy slot receiver a lot, likely with a goal of getting him upwards of 15 (or more?) touches per game. Why not? He’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
2. Purdue will play 2 quarterbacks in the season opener
When Purdue opened training camp in late September, it did so without a clear-cut No. 1 starter at quarterback, but with 3 guys — Jack Plummer, Aidan O’Connell and Austin Burton, a UCLA transfer — who have experience. Plummer is the presumptive QB1, after coming back from a shoulder injury that sidelined him the last third of the season. But O’Connell, a former walk-on, showed himself better than anyone could have expected in his 4 starts, showing off a strong, accurate arm. And then there’s Burton, the former Bruin who might have benefitted most from the delayed start to the season, as he’s gotten more time to adjust to Brohm’s system. Plummer wins the job — he’s the best combination of arm and athleticism — but here’s betting O’Connell sees a second-quarter drive or two.
3. Purdue will have at least 2 quarterbacks start a game
In the last decade, it’s been rare that Purdue completed a season with one quarterback starting all its games. It’s yet to happen in Brohm’s 3 seasons, including in 2019 when injuries forced Purdue to start 3 QBs: Elijah Sindelar, then Plummer, then O’Connell. Sure, Purdue would like one guy to step forward, grab the job, stay healthy and lead the Boilermakers to the Rose Bowl. But it’s not going to happen.
4. George Karlaftis becomes the B1G’s most-feared defense end
The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder played well beyond his years as a true freshman last season, not only physically looking the part but mentally playing it, as well. Now Karlaftis has the Big Ten experience, and might get the respect of the officials too, and that doesn’t’ t hurt. About the only way he was stopped last season was when the opposing tackle held (and got away with it). Opponents are unlikely to get that luxury this year, as Karlaftis’ rep is likely to be beneficial. He’s feared. Although Purdue will play 3 fewer regular-season games this year, look for the All-American to pick up double-digit sacks, even out of new coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 front.
5. Purdue will tease with its potential
The Boilermakers showed their capabilities a couple seasons ago, when they knocked off then No. 2 Ohio State on their way to a second straight bowl game under Brohm. But the road since hasn’t been a straight line. Injuries — arguably Purdue was without its best two offensive players and best two defensive players for much of 2019 — cost the Boilermakers momentum last season. But with a favorable schedule, including only two opponents (Wisconsin and Minnesota) in the AP Top 25, Purdue will be a factor in the West race.
6. Trick-play palooza returns
Brohm has stated he’d like to run as many as 50 trick plays a season, a seemingly unachievable total but telling of the coach’s desire to throw the sink at the opponent. But the creativity didn’t materialize much last season, not with so much youth on the field. Purdue freshmen, you might recall, accounted for 19 consecutive touchdowns last year. But now, with those guys, such as David Bell and King Doerue, a year older, Brohm will be able to open up the playbook, and bring back the flea-flickers and option passes that made the offense so electric in 2017 and 2018.
7. The struggles will continue for Purdue’s running game
Purdue’s running game woes might be lessened in 2020, but they’re not going away entirely. The Boilermakers weren’t just bad at rushing last season, they were atrocious, and that might be putting it lightly. Purdue averaged 83.3 yards on the ground in ’19, not only dead last in the Big Ten but nearly 44 yards per game fewer than next-to-last Michigan State. Brohm is a pass-first play-caller, and at times he’s admitted that it’s difficult — painful even — for him to call running plays. But the Boilermakers want more balance and need to be able to pick up short-yardage 3rd and 4th downs.
8. The Old Oaken Bucket will return to West Lafayette
Indiana beat the Boilermakers in Ross-Ade in double overtime last season, the second time in the last three trips to West Lafayette that the Hoosiers left victorious. It’s not sitting well with the Boilermakers’ faithful, especially when you add in that IU has won 5 of the past 7 in a series otherwise dominated by the Boilermakers since the late 1990s. This year’s game, played in December for the first time ever (B1G Week 8, Dec. 12 in Bloomington), could have a lot riding on it, with jockeying for position for the Week 9 game and the postseason.
9. Dellinger won’t miss
Fifth-year senior place-kicker J.D. Dellinger redshirted two seasons ago, spending the time making himself stronger, both mentally and physically. It resulted in a year in which the North Carolina native hit 13 of his 16 field goal attempts, missing only once from inside 40 yards, and hitting 2 of 4 from 40 or more. He’ll hit them all this season.
10. Purdue will finish the season above .500
The Boilermakers were one of the Big Ten’s bigger disappointments last season, a campaign undone by injuries upon injuries. Now, Purdue is less likely to go off the rails, because it’s deeper and more experienced, at least at most positions. (Although, if Purdue has trouble on the offensive line, with injuries or performance, it could hamper an otherwise potentially explosive offense). Brohm needs at least a marginal bounce-back season, and 5 wins would do that, but the schedule sets up for Purdue to seek out more.