Sunday, May 11, 2003

It's probably a little early to be struttin' and boastin' and talkin' trash (especially if it will all result in larger portions of crowthat I'll have to eat later on), but I can't help myself. Athlon Sports, publisher of college football preview guides, is daily revealing and then previewing their picks for the top 25 teams in the country. Well they've got Purdue as #19. They make a pretty good case that would seem impressive even to an unbiased fan.

For instance Athlon points out that Purdue joins Michigan as the only Big Ten team to compete in a bowl in each of the last six seasons -- not too shabby considering the likes of Big Ten powers like Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin who failed to achieve such consistency. Purdue also led the Big Ten in both Total Offense and Total Defense last year.

On offense Purdue has two fine quarterbacks in Kyle Orton & Brandon Kirsch who both took a significant number of snaps last season. John Standeford & Taylor Stubblefield were the Big Ten's top two receivers last season and they're both back. Last season Standeford and running back Joey Harris became the first tandem in Purdue history to produce over 1,000 yards receiving & rushing, respectively, in the same season (though, notably in Purdue's most recent trip to the Rose Bowl [2001], Purdue had a 1,000 yard receiver in Vinny Sutherland while running back Montrell Lowe wound up only two yards short of a thousand).

On defense the Boilers return their top three tacklers, their top two pass defenders and their whole front four on the defensive line -- including All-American candidate and Purdue career interception leader Stu Schweigert.

On the downside Purdue led the Big Ten in turnovers and lost several very close games. Possibly most important of all, Purdue's FG kicking was atrocious last season and would have put several of those close games on ice. If this isn't solved come fall--and it's not looking too good after spring practice--I'm afraid we'll continue to lose some more close ones this season.

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