Purdue was supposed to be a team that was capable of taking the most advantage of Penn State and Ohio State being ineligible for postseason play. With two of the big names in the Leaders Division automatically out of the running, Purdue was supposed to be the team that might have the best chance to slip by Wisconsin and represent the division in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game.
It was not supposed to be like this.
After a 3-1 start, with the lone loss coming in a 20-17 decision at Notre Dame in week two, the Boilermakers have lost four straight games and are one of two Big Ten teams looking for their first conference win (Illinois). The Boilermakers have battled quarterback problems from the start of the season and this week against Penn State will place Robert Marve back in the starting line-up. Remember that this is the same player who tore an ACL in his left knee in their loss at Notre Dame. Marve started the season in place of Caleb TerBush, who served a suspension. Now, with TerBush struggling and Purdue in a bind, a chance needed to be made.
“It has been a management nightmare from an injury standpoint for the guys to get the reps that they needed,” Hope said in a story by The Journal and Courier. “It’s unfortunate, at times, the media can spin it like it’s a quarterback controversy and our fans embrace that perception, if you will. It’s been competition all along.”
Last weekend at Minnesota Marve took over the offense in the second half and seemed to give Purdue a little bit of a spark against the Gophers, but by the time he entered the game it was too little, too late. As a result, Purdue is now in a mad scramble just to become bowl eligible, needing three wins out of their final four games to head to the postseason. The pressure may also be starting to heat up on Purdue head coach Danny Hope, who is now rumored to be on the firing line at some point.
“I’m not concerned about the direction the program is headed,” Hope said. “I’m concerned about the performance of our team with the two games at home against Michigan and Wisconsin and we didn’t play well (against Minnesota).”
For Penn State, this weekend could be a tricky spot, as it was considered to be before the season started. Purdue is now a desperate program in need of wins by any means necessary. Can they pull out every trick in the book needed to get the offense in sync and find some way to stuff Penn State’s offense?
Penn State is also looking to come off of one of the worst overall team performances of the year, a brutal physical game against Ohio State that saw the defense lose steam and the offense unable to pick up on the pace the Buckeyes defense was running with. It was a sloppy performance riddled with undisciplined play and frustrating penalties on both sides of the football.
Penn State appears to be a team more capable of bouncing back, but this will be a good test to see what kind of character Penn State is made of. The Ohio State game was an emotionally charged one, with the largest crowd of the season and a week’s worth of hype surrounding the program. Games like that are what Penn State needs to keep interest thriving. The way the game unfolded would be enough to essentially crush some programs, and the question remains what kind of resolve will this program have after a loss like Saturday’s?
Kevin is a national college football writer for quadrust.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be reached at email@example.com.