I am trying to think of something positive to say about the current state of the Purdue football program. Trying. Well, it is a fun campus in West Lafayette, Ind. The Boilermakers have a wins total of 4 on 5Dimes NCAA odds, with the 'over' a -115 favorite.
Hazell Staring At Make-Or-Break 2015
A few weeks ago, I wrote a story here at SBR about which coach was on the hottest seat in each Power 5 conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC). My pick for the Big Ten was Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, and honestly I only went with him because the Hawkeyes are still a fairly relevant program and were pretty good not that long ago. Football still matters there.
In reality, if I had to give odds on the Big Ten coach most likely to be fired first it would be Purdue's Darrell Hazell. He looked like a rising star coming over from Kent State. The Flashes went 5-7 in Hazell's first season in 2011 but then went 11-3 in '12. Kent State played in the Mid-American Conference title game, losing to an excellent Northern Illinois team in double overtime, and reached a bowl for the first time since 1972, losing to Arkansas State in the Godaddy.com Bowl.
Hazell was hired in early December 2012 to take over for the fired Danny Hope at Purdue, getting a six-year, $12 million deal. It looked like a smart move at the time. Hazell also had spent as the receivers coach at Ohio State under Jim Tressel, where he spent part of the time as the Buckeyes' assistant head coach. He had a great resume.
Alas, the Boilers are 4-20 under Hazell. In 2013, Purdue was perhaps the worst Power 5 conference team in the land with just one win and that coming over little Indiana State. All but one of Purdue's eight Big Ten losses were by double digits.
Last season, the Boilers "improved" to 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten. The two non-conference wins were over directional schools (Western Michigan) and Southern Illinois) and the conference win a 38-27 upset at Illinois.
Now while odds makers are not expecting many wins from the Boilermakers this season, that doesnt mean there is no money to be made by backing them with our College Football picks. Lets look at this year's team now and try to find a few lines that offer us some value.
Appleby Named Starter
Purdue is set to return 15 starters this year, eight on offense. That includes junior quarterback Austin Appleby, who was officially named the team's 2015 starter this week. Not really a surprise as he had been atop the depth chart since spring. He started Purdue's final seven games last year and while he was just 1-6, he did lead that Big Ten win over Illinois. Appleby had a season-high 176.3 rating in that one, completing 15 of 20 for 202 yards and a touchdown with no picks. He also had a three-touchdown game in a near-upset at Minnesota. Overall, Appleby completed 54.2 percent of his passes (135 of 249) for 1,360 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Don't just assume the job is Appleby's to keep. Hazell has changed quarterbacks after five games in his first two seasons because the starter struggled. Danny Etling replaced Rob Henry in 2013 and Appleby took over for Etling last season.
Purdue lost its two leading rushers from last year in Akeem Hunt (173 carries, 949 yards, six TDs) and Raheem Mosart (93 carries, 529 yards, three TDs). Hunt was also first on the team with 48 catches and second with 293 yards. Receiver Danny Anthrop, who led the team with 616 yards and four TDs and was second with 38 catches, is back. Look for the 2014 Indiana Mr. Football, Markell Jones, to be the primary ball-carrier this season.
As for the schedule, it's hard to see Purdue being favored to win more than twice: home to Indiana State on Sept. 12 and home to Bowling Green on Sept. 26. College Football odds have the Boilers opening as 7.5-point dogs at Conference USA team Marshall. A Big Ten team as more than a touchdown dog against a C-USA team? Tells you all you need to know. Purdue likely will be a double-digit dog in its other non-conference game, home to Virginia Tech on Sept. 19.
In the Big Ten, the Boilermakers do get to avoid Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State from the Big Ten East but will get pummeled Oct. 3 at No. 5 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener. Don't see a road win on the season.
NCAAF Free Pick: What saves Hazell's job? A bowl is out of the question. Would five wins do it? Boilers should beat Indiana State and Bowling Green. Their best Big Ten chances are at home: Nov. 7 vs. Illinois and Nov. 28 vs. Indiana. Those 4 wins listed above sure look like a push, but I'll go under and say it's another 3-9 campaign.