3. THE TURNOVER:
Hazell knows his players must make ball protection a major emphasis. In 2012, the Boilermakers were one of only three Big Ten schools with a negative turnover margin to make a bowl game. They averaged 2.1 turnovers per game and finished with a turnover margin of minus-2. In the spring game, the struggles continued as Purdue’s offensive players threw three picks and lost two fumbles. A handful of other passes also were batted down. If that trend continues into the fall, the Boilermakers will be in big trouble.
4. DEFENDING THEIR TURF:
A year ago, Purdue thought a favorable schedule — seven home games — and having Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for postseason play might be enough to get them to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game. But after winning three non-conference games at Ross-Ade Stadium, the Boilermakers managed only one more home win, in the finale against rival Indiana. This year, they have seven more home games with an eighth game in Bloomington. But the Boilers have to defend more than their home turf — they must actually defend. The Boilermakers also allowed 31.2 points, 415.8 total yards, 181.9 yards rushing and 233.9 yards passing per game. The Boilermakers finished in the bottom four of the Big Ten in each category.
5. LEADING THE WAY:
Purdue has plenty of experienced players returning this season — Henry, Gary Bush, Gabe Holmes, Akeem Hunt, Ricardo Allen and Landon Feichter — to name a few. The question is who will emerge as this team’s leaders. Robert Marve and Kawann Short were the leaders over the past few seasons. Now that they’ve moved on, the hardest part may be trying to find replacements for guys that were well-respected within the locker room walls.
Predicted finish in the Big Ten Leaders Division: Fifth