Conventional wisdom says tomorrow's Purdue contest is a trap game, sandwiched between Penn State's emotional home victory over Illinois and the always-difficult road test at No. 18 Wisconsin. I think there is the possibility of a let down, but I'm not buying it against this group of Boilermakers.
For one, the defense is shaky, sitting last in the Big Ten both in passing (244.8) and rushing (194.5) yards allowed per game. These aren't stats inflated by a small sampling of games. Purdue's defense is weak and lacking in playmakers (Although Cardinal O'Hara product Anthony Heygood is the closest the Boilermakers have to a big-play linebacker). The high numbers obviously have the Lions' offense (247.6 pass to 267.6 run) salivating.
The other knock against Purdue is that its normally explosive spread offense has been anything but. The best example came last week in the second half of the Notre Dame game. Quarterback Curtis Painter could do nothing against the Irish's so-so defense and was three-and-out, three-and-out and three-out. This taxed the Boilermakers' defense and Notre Dame ripped them for 24 points after the score was knotted, 14-14, at the break.
That's not to say the Lions can sleepwalk through this game and still win. Painter is extremely efficient and can get hot in a matter of throws. If it weren't for a blown call on a late Purdue drive last season, the Boilermakers could have pulled out a win in State College. The Lions could also be without leading wide receiver Jordan Norwood (hamstring) for the second straight game and there are rumors floating that running back Evan Royster is still a bit banged up.
All that being said, Penn State coach Joe Paterno seems to have Purdue's number, and thus, that of his good friend and coaching colleague, Joe Tiller. The Lions are 9-2 against the Boilermakers since joining the Big Ten and 7-2 against Tiller-coached squads. The 65-year-old will retire at season's end. Here's a salute to one of the better coaches in the conference over the last decade, a class individual and a great quote when you needed it.
Prediction: Penn State 34, Purdue 13