Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers
Date and Time: September 7 at 11:00 AM CT, Big Ten Network
All-time Series Record: Vanderbilt leads, 2-0.
Last meeting: October 3, 1942, in Nashville; Vanderbilt won 26-0.
Last year: 6-7, 44th in S&P+
Head coach: Jeff Brohm (13-13, 3rd year)
It has been brought to our attention that some people did not appreciate essentially predicting a loss to Georgia in the first game of the season, because why should we try to make accurate assessments of our opponents? Therefore, the rest of this series shall be filled with sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows, because if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get.
Fortunately, the remainder of Vanderbilt’s 2019 schedule does not require straining credibility to think Vanderbilt can win them. The top five opponent out of the way, we move to the real barometer of the early part of the season, a Week 2 trip to West Lafayette, Indiana, for a matchup with Purdue.
In typical fashion, this game has become, to a large portion of the media, a game that will be very difficult for Vanderbilt to win. This is a silly proposition when you consider that Purdue had the same record as Vanderbilt in 2018, and actually was ranked five spots lower than the Commodores in S&P+. A 49-20 thrashing of then-No. 2 Ohio State on October 20 seems to have clouded the overall picture of Purdue’s season; when the Boilermakers were at their best, they were capable of that. But this was also a team that opened the season 0-3 (including a loss to Eastern Michigan at home), got inexplicably drilled 41-10 at MInnesota three weeks after the Ohio State game, and was utterly noncompetitive in a 63-14 Music City Bowl loss to Auburn; Gus Malzahn’s charges led that game 63-7 midway through the third quarter before calling off the dogs.
And that team ranks 103rd in returning production in all of FBS, and 124th on offense. Purdue does return exciting wide receiver-slash-return man Rondale Moore; they also have to replace their starting quarterback and their top two rushers from last season, along with three starters on the offensive line.
Things look a bit better on defense, where the Boilermakers have some holes to fill in the secondary, but return basically their entire front seven. On the other hand, this wasn’t a particularly good unit in 2018: Purdue gave up an average of 30.0 ppg and four different opponents scored 40 points, including three of the last four games on the schedule. For comparison, Vanderbilt’s defense gave up 26.6 ppg and only surrendered over 40 points twice.
I think Jeff Brohm is a good coach and I like what he’s building at Purdue, but I suspect a lot of the media predictions for this game are missing the “building” part and getting a bit ahead of themselves. On paper, this looks like a very winnable game for Vanderbilt, and perhaps an important game if the Commodores are to become bowl eligible in 2019.