Purdue football: 10 bold predictions for November
Purdue reached its bye week at an opportune time.
The Boilermakers spent the extra week trying to get healthy — like many other teams in late October, they’re beat up. They’re also — focusing on rebounding from a disappointing loss at Wisconsin, when several of their mistakes in wins over previous weeks combined to become too much to overcome.
Purdue, at 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten, has a ton to play for in facing Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern and Indiana in November, including the possibility of winning the West division title. If the Boilermakers go 4-0, they’ll be the West representative in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. A 3-1 record would give them a chance, although they’d need help (particularly if the loss is to Illinois).
It’s hard to shake down exactly what will happen, but let’s take a leap and make 10 bold predictions about the Boilermakers in the final month of the season:
Before the season started, how many people would have predicted redshirt freshman walk-on Devin Mockobee could rush for 1,000 yards?
Probably not even Devin Mockobee himself, considering he exited training camp as the Boilermakers’ 4th-string running back. But the underclassman running back has taken full advantage of opportunity during the season, moving up the depth chart after injuries to starter King Doerue and backup Dylan Downing, now becoming a player who is irreplaceable to Purdue’s offense.
Mockobee has rushed for more than 100 yards in 3 of the last 4 games, including 178 and a touchdown vs. Nebraska when he was named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week. Through 7 games, the 5-9, 190-pounder has 561 yards and 6 touchdowns, after having barely played in the first couple outings this season.
He’ll finish with more than 1,000 yards rushing, an incredible accomplishment that no one saw coming. Mockobee would become Purdue’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Kory Sheets went for 1,131 in 2008.
Speaking of …
Hey, Purdue won’t finish last in the Big Ten in rushing offense, breaking a string of 3 consecutive years in which the Boilermakers were No. 14 out of 14 in the conference.
The big reason why? Mockobee, whose home run ability has made it much easier for Jeff Brohm to call running plays and at least give Purdue a bit of balance in its offensive attack.
As Purdue entered November, it ranked 10th in the B1G in rushing yardage, averaging 130.4 per game.
Sizzle at No. 1
Senior receiver Charlie Jones entered the bye week leading the country in receptions with 72.
He’ll stay No. 1 by the end of the season, finishing his season with north of 100 receptions, while also tracking for more than 1,200 yards and at least a dozen touchdowns. What a year for a player who came to Purdue as — mainly — a return specialist who was looking for a bigger opportunity as a pass catcher.
AOC finds groove
Quarterback Aidan O’Connell finished last season in an incredible rhythm, throwing for 18 touchdowns without an interception while averaging about 375 yards passing through the last 5 regular-season games.
As a 6th-year senior now, he’s not yet found that same groove, but he will over the last month of the year. Look for AOC to get dialed in, especially now that he can get fully healthy during the bye week, after suffering an injury — likely bruised ribs — earlier in the season. He’ll face solid defenses in Iowa and Illinois out of the break, although 2 opponents that he’s had success against during his career, before the last 2 weeks of the season, when he should light up Northwestern and Indiana.
Thompson fights back
Junior Broc Thompson entered the season as Purdue’s most-likely No. 1 target for O’Connell.
But 2 things happened: 1) Jones, aka Chuck Sizzle, quickly became a big-time, big-play option in the Boilermakers’ offense and 2) Thompson couldn’t stay in the field, as the knee and lower-leg issues that he was suffering at the end of last season wouldn’t totally go away.
But after missing October as he continues to recover, Thompson will get back on the field in November and will become the perfect complement to Jones and a big piece — once again — of the Boilermakers’ offense.
Lucky No. 15
Purdue will finish the season with 15 interceptions, and maybe more than that considering Iowa’s Spencer Petras, Northwestern’s Ryan Hilinski and Indiana’s Connor Bazelak, 3 of the 4 projected starting QBs for the opponents in the last 4 weeks, have combined for 20 interceptions this season.
The Boilermakers currently have 10 picks, led by safety Cam Allen’s 3. If Purdue hits 15, it’ll be the most by a Boilermakers squad in a single season since Purdue had 15 in 2002.
Purdue will be way too much for Indiana to handle a couple days after Thanksgiving in Bloomington.
The Boilermakers will cover, easily, the line of a couple touchdowns, easing by the Hoosiers and putting an end to a disappointing IU season. It might leave the Indiana program facing difficult questions in the offseason, such as whether Tom Allen has one more chance — it’s likely he will — to get the Hoosiers headed in the right direction again.
O’Connell will end his storybook Purdue career (aside from the bowl game) with more than 400 yards passing and 4 touchdown vs. the Hoosiers.
Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, the win over Indiana won’t punch them a ticket to Big Ten championship game.
Purdue will finish the month of November with a 3-1 record, beating the trio of opponents it’ll be favored against — Iowa and Northwestern at home and IU on the road — but falling in a hard-fought back-and-forth game in Champaign, Ill., on Nov. 12. That’ll prove to be the difference, even as the Fighting Illini lose the following week at Michigan, in the battle for a West crown.
An 8-win regular-season isn’t quite going to be enough to get the Boilermakers into the Sunshine State for a bowl game for the 1st time since playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando in 2006.
Instead, Illinois grabs the Citrus Bowl spot, leaving Purdue for a cold-weather destination in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 29 — grab your long johns — to play an ACC opponent, possibly NC State.
Will a trip to the Big Apple be acceptable to a Purdue fan base clamoring for a return trip to the Sunshine State? Probably not.
Speculation … again
It’s impossible to know what the future holds for Jeff Brohm, but this much is certain: Speculation about Louisville will run rampant again this offseason, as it seemingly has done every other season that he’s been in West Lafayette.
Brohm’s family ties run deep at Louisville, but will the timing ever be right for a move back south? Could that be this season? Only time will tell.