Purdue will be making its return to the Big Ten this year after a year absence. The Boilermakers will look to bounce back from a rough 2018 season and make a splash in the conference. A lot will change over the course of the 2018 season, but one thing that won’t is the rivalry with Ohio State.
Things changed last year for the better for Purdue as it finished the season 8-4, its best record in five years, and earned a bowl bid for the first time since 2012. That said, the team really struggled without leading rusher Jarrell Martin, who will miss the 2018 season due to an ACL tear. But that’s the kind of thing that makes this game so special. You’ll be playing for a guy’s life and the opportunity to continue the rivalry.
The Rivalry Continues
Purdue played host to the 23rd annual Woody Hayes Trophy game earlier this month against the Buckeyes. The stadium was packed for a rivalry game between the two biggest schools in the state, as 52,000 people were on hand to witness one of the greatest rivalries in sports. And it was even more electric because it was a virtual home game for Ohio State, as their Hall of Fame coach Woody Hayes passed away last year. But even if you weren’t a Purdue graduate or a Big Red fan, you had to feel for the Buckeyes at the end of that game. You could tell that they were beaten up physically and emotionally from the relentless pounding that Purdue gave them all afternoon. But they fought back and played a great game all the same.
The two teams will meet again in 2020, with the Buckeyes heading to West Lafayette for a $100,000 bonus when they finish atop the Big Ten standings. The teams will meet again next year as well, with the location and date to be announced. This series will continue uninterrupted through at least 2025.
Getting Back To Basics
Purdue lost a number of key players to transfers and graduations last year, so it had to rebuild its roster completely. As a result, head coach Mike Bobo gave a number of his guys some time off to rest and get back into football shape. That took care of some of the problems, but the cupboard isn’t completely bare. In fact, the team brought in a number of blue-chip players, including offensive tackle Greg Taylor and safety Ronnie Stanley. Both are Day 1 starters for Purdue and should make an immediate impact on the Boilermakers’ offense.
Purdue will also look to build on the momentum from last year’s season and play better overall football than it did in 2018. The team will need to remain focused on execution rather than over-analysis if it wants to have a successful season, and that means a lot of basics, lots of running and tackling, and hopefully, a few more big plays than it had in 2018.
Purdue opened the season with a 34-14 win against FCS opponent Valparaiso. Since then, it has compiled a 1-1 record against low-level opponents, with victories against Division II opponents Mount St. Joseph (23-20) and Mount Vernon (31-17). It will play a pair of highly touted non-conference games in December, one against Penn State and one against Oklahoma.
Despite the rivalry with Ohio State, these are a pair of games that Wisconsin fans don’t want to miss. In fact, most Big Ten fans might just want to avoid the Penn State game given Nittany Lions quarterback Ryan Day’s contentious history with the conference, most notably from his time as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator.
A lot will change in West Lafayette in the coming year, but one thing that won’t is the rivalry with Ohio State. With Bobo now going into his third season, this will be the Boilermakers’ biggest season yet. Even though they lost a lot of experience from last year’s squad, the cupboard is still rather full considering how many highly touted players they brought in.
With Martin out for the season and starting quarterback Caleb Wilson missing nearly all of last year with an injury, the voids left by the former Buckeyes’ standout and Wilson’s absence will have to be filled. The team is looking for a potential No. 1 overall draft pick in freshman quarterback Justin Fields, so he’ll have to step in and lead the team sooner or later. But for now, Bobo has enough experience and high enough expectations to lead the Boilermakers to a good season.