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2017 Big Ten football preview: Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue senior linebacker T.J. McCollum (6) attempts a to sack Ohio University running back A.J. Ouellette (45). Credit: Courtesy of Purdue Athletics

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

2016 Record: 3-9 (1-8 Big Ten)

Head Coach: Jeff Brohm

2017 record so far: 1-1

All time record vs. OSU: 14-39

What has happened thus far in 2017:

Purdue was defeated 35-28 in its season opener by No. 16 Louisville and 2016 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Boilermakers were led by their defense, which forced three turnovers in this game, but were ultimately overmatched by the Cardinals’ high-powered offense. They went on to face the Ohio Bobcats Friday, winning 44-21. Running back Tario Fuller led the team to victory with 142 rushing yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. This marked the first win of the Jeff Brohm era in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Impact Player

Redshirt senior linebacker T.J. McCollum could have a major impact on the Boilermaker defense this season. He had 120 solo tackles — including 16 for a loss — in his three seasons prior to joining Purdue. The linebacker’s 18 tackles in his first two games lead the team. McCollum transferred from Western Kentucky with Brohm.

Strengths

Purdue’s strength will be the linebackers. The Boilermakers added McCollum to a linebacker core of sophomore Markus Bailey and senior Ja’Whaun Bentley. Bailey led the team in tackles last season with 97 while Bentley had 50 tackles last season, including seven for loss. Tight end is also emerging as a position of strength for Purdue. Junior Cole Herdman leads the team in receiving yards this season with 146 yards on six receptions and a touchdown, while backup tight end Brycen Hopkins has seven receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

Weaknesses

Purdue’s pass defense must improve if the team is going to contend against some of the better teams in the Big Ten like Michigan and Wisconsin, which it will face on Sept. 23 and Oct. 14, respectively. The pass defense has given up 602 yards and three touchdowns so far this season. The secondary added transfer safety T.J. Jallow, yet the starters in the secondary only had one interception last season. Overall, the defense looks improved from last season, but its ability to slow down the passing game could determine how far the team will go.

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