In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
[divider]RANKINGS: Top 100 FBS Teams for 2018
TRIVIA: Daily CFB Trivia Question
MORE: Best FBS Player for Each Jersey Number
MORE: Best FCS Player for Each Jersey Number[divider]
No. 57 Purdue
Purdue's unexpectedly successful season under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm was fun. But now let's be careful.
The Boilermakers are once again relevant and the roster is laced with Big Ten-caliber players but they are not fully back. Brohm is still in the early stages of a complete roster overhaul.
2017 Record: 7-6 (4-5, Big Ten)
Seven wins, four Big Ten wins, bowl game, bowl win.
As incredible as Purdue's season was, it could've been a lot better. They lost to Louisville, Wisconsin, Rutgers and Nebraska by a combined 18 points.
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm (2nd Year, 7-6)
Darrell Hazell needed 37 games to win seven games. Jeff Brohm needed 13.
Brohm matched their highest win total of the last decade and — after fighting off job rumors — signed a two-year contract extension after the season.
When asked how he'd react if told before the season that they'd win a bowl game and have a winning record, he said, "I would have told you that it would be a hard challenge to get to that point. I didn’t think it was impossible. But I would have told you it would be a hard challenge."
WR Gregory Phillips, WR Anthony Mahoungou, OT David Steinmetz, DE Gelen Robinson, LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, LB Danny Ezechukwu,
Anthony Mahoungou was their only player who caught more than 25 passes while averaging more than 14 yards per reception. His breakout season included a 17.2 yards-per-catch average and eight games with at least one 20-yard reception.
Defensively, Gelen Robinson was their only player on any of three All-Big Ten teams (offense or defense) and led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss. Ja'Whaun Bentley was their leading tackler and Danny Ezechukwu's five sacks ranked second on the team.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Elijah Sindelar, QB David Blough, RB Markell Jones, RB D.J. Knox, RB Tario Fuller, WR Jackson Anthrop, TE Cole Herdman, OT Grant Hermanns, C Kirk Barron
Amazingly, Purdue didn't win seven games because offensive guru Jeff Brohm led sweeping improvements to his side of the ball. While they were better in several areas — among them, red-zone opportunities (75 percent in 2016 to 87 percent to 2017), scoring (22.7 to 25.2) and yards per play (4.8 to 5.4) — they were miserable on third downs (45 to 33 percent) and failed to score 14 points in four of their nine Big Ten games.
Both of last year's starting quarterbacks — David Blough and Elijah Sindelar — spent most of the offseason recovering from major injuries (Blough dislocated his ankle in early November and Sindelar tore his ACL shortly thereafter, though Sindelar played through it).
"I think it’s got to be. We owe it to both guys," Brohm said in May when asked if the competition will be wide open this fall. "David Blough, he came back from his injury and is the best young man you’re ever going to meet. We’re going to give him a chance. Elijah, he finished strong. He had a great end of the season, did it with a torn ACL. He’s got a great arm. Both those guys can help us. We’ll let it play out."
They are loaded at running back, easily the best and most deep position on the team. Jones, Knox and Fuller struggled to find the endzone (Purdue had only 10 red-zone rushing touchdowns) but combined to average to 5.6 yards per carry. Jones (below) became the first Purdue running back to rush for at least 200 yards in a conference game since 2000.
“I didn’t have the season that I wanted to last year but toward the end I started to get into a rhythm and pick up my groove,” Jones said. “I started doing better toward the end the last couple of games."
They are not loaded at receiver, though Jackson Anthrop does return after leading regulars with a 70.1-percent catch rate as a freshman. Tight end Cole Herdman is one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the country.
Center Kirk Barron is one of four returning starters, three of whom are upperclassmen. Keep an eye on the development of left tackle Grant Hermanns, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound sophomore who started the first games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Returning Defensive Players
DT Lorenzo Neal, LB Markus Bailey, S Jacob Thieneman, S Navon Mosley,
That's a short list. Purdue's defense was hammered by departures.
Jeff Brohm earned the headlines and, with the two-year extension, is now guaranteed $29 million on the remainder of his contract. Co-defensive coordinators Nick Holt and Anthony Poindexter didn't get as many headlines but they also got raises, 24 percent and six percent, respectively.
Almost every number is staggering: 117th in scoring in 2016 to 24th in 2016, 123rd on third downs to 38th, 113th in yards per carry to 24th, 107th in takeaways to 52nd.
"We expected this," Holt said last November. "…[The players] trust the system. They trust the process. They trust their coaches."
Holt calls his defense — a 4-3 base unit, though they often use three-man fronts — a "linebacker-driven" and "linebacker-friendly" system that requires versatility.
"They need to be really multiple, as you see,” said Holt last year, referencing the linebackers. “They’re all over the place. They have to be really, really smart, very instinctual, fast, strong and be able to pressure the quarterback and make big plays for us. They’ve go to be sudden, explosive."
Enter Markus Bailey, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior who played strong-side linebacker last year but moved inside this offseason. He had 67 solo tackles, 1 tackles for loss, seven sacks and one interception and is their lone returning linebacker.
Up front, tackle Lorenzo Neal is their lone returning lineman with significant experience.
“It’s a sharp curve for them,” defensive line coach Reggie Johnson said of his non-Neal players. “Those guys work hard, they have the right attitude, they’re willing and they want to be good. They had some good examples from a year ago. We’ll get there.”
The secondary — even with potentially two freshmen corners (see Player Additions) — is in great shape after taking huge strides last year (8.2 yards per completion in 2016 to 7.2 in 2017. Navon Mosley was thrown into the fire as a freshman and, now a junior, is on the verge of taking the next step toward becoming one of the better safeties in the conference.
QB Nick Sipe, QB Jack Plummer, WR Rondale Moore, DE Giovanni Reviere, CB Dedrick Mackey, CB Kenneth Major
Purdue could start two redshirt freshmen corners in Dedrick Mackey and Kenneth Major against quarterbacks like Drew Lock, Brian Lewerke and Nathan Stanley.
"We have guys now that are physically comparable to what some fourth and fifth-year seniors were in our program,” cornerbacks coach Derrick Jackson said in March. “You have to be a physical cornerback to be able to play in this league. They’re showing they have the physicality like we hoped that they would.”
They hit the jackpot when four-star receiver Rondale Moore flipped from Texas to Purdue. He's not an early enrollee but could play immediately as they search for big plays.
With Blough and Sindelar sidelined, two freshmen — Nick Sipe (redshirt) and Jack Plummer (true) — led the first-team offense and though there were execution hiccups, from all accounts, both played well.
"Nick did a good job, was very productive. He had some moments early in the spring where he wasn't as accurate as we thought he would be but he overcame that," Brohm said. "Jack came in as a true freshman and has been very, very good. He's got great poise and can throw the ball deep."
Purdue starts with four straight home games but it's not an easy stretch as they look for a fast start.
They get Ohio State and Michigan State from the East and close the season with a trip to Bloomington.
|Thursday, Aug. 30||vs. Northwestern|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||vs. Eastern Michigan|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||vs. Missouri|
|Saturday, Sept. 22||vs Missouri|
|Saturday, Sept. 29||vs. Boston College|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||at Illinois|
|Saturday, Oct. 20||vs. Ohio State|
|Saturday, Oct. 27||at Michigan State|
|Saturday, Nov. 3||vs. Iowa|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||at Minnesota|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||vs. Wisconsin|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||at Indiana|