Jeff Brohm is in his 5th year leading a Boilermaker squad that finished 2-4 last season. They now stand at 2-0 this year after notching victories over Oregon State 30-21 in week one and last week over Connecticut 49-0.
6-5, 215 lb, Junior Jack Plummer took over at quarterback for the Boilers at mid-season a year ago and has been superb through two games this season. Plummer is completing his passes at a 73.8% clip good for 6 touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception.
Catching a lot of those passes has been pre-season all-American David Bell. Last week Bell caught 3 TD passes and he has already totaled 14 catches and 255 yards. Bell is the real deal. He was over 1000 yards as a freshman and in last year’s 6 game season he averaged over 100 yards per game and had 8 TD catches. TE Payne Durham is also a threat. He has caught 11 balls and scored 3 TDs through 2 games.
The Boiler running attack, that has not been particularly productive in recent years, took a hit last week when their first option, Zander Horvath went out with a broken leg. Picking up the slack was Junior King Doerue, who totaled 74 yards and a TD on 12 attempts. The Boiler offensive line is young, and has given up 3 sacks.
Defensively the Boilers have struggled under Jeff Brohm and they are on their 3rd defensive coordinator in 3 years. But look out for defensive end George Karlaftis. Brian Kelly said this week that he may be the best pass rusher in college football and considering the struggles, the Irish are having at the tackle position, Karlaftis will have to be accounted for on every play. To compliment Karlaftis, the Boilers have gone the transfer route and have added 4 SEC transfers to this side of the ball, an end, a tackle and two defensive backs.
The week one win over Oregon State by a score of 30-21 was a solid indicator of improvement by Purdue. Last week’s shutout against Connecticut is a bit harder to gauge as the Huskies are a program in disarray. A shut out however is a shutout and should not be discounted much.
The Irish front seven should have some opportunities to get to David Plummer against the Boiler offensive line, but Plummer and Bell are capable of hooking up for the kind of big plays that have caused ND’s first two games to go down to the wire. Limiting Bell’s yards gained after his catches will be an ND key.
Offensive success for the Irish will hinge on Tommy Rees continued creativity in dealing with a hobbled offensive line, and in how skillfully Rees and Brian Kelly employ the anticipated QB shuffle between Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner. If done right, the differing styles those two will bring may well give the Boilers fits.
TV coverage on good old NBC starts at 2:30 PM South Bend time. The over/under is 58.5 and the Irish are 7.5 point favorites.
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 34 Purdue 28