Trouble Spot #8: Purdue

Two cross-Atlantic flights coupled with two football games in eight days, a home opener atmosphere, truncated practice schedules, and an improved defensive front from the foe make this season's matchup with Purdue a bit more troubling for Notre Dame than those of the recent past.

Click here for the introduction and an explanation of the series, as well as the foe ranked as Trouble Spot #12 for 2012.

Click here for Trouble Spot #11 (Wake Forest) and here for Notre Dame's 10th toughest game situation, Boston College and for the contest that finished 9th, a neutral site battle vs. Miami in Chicago.

Purdue Game Slotting/Situation

Let's just say its not ideal.

On Wednesday, August 29, Notre Dame will practice in South Bend, shower, and board a plane for Dublin, Ireland. They'll land on Thursday the 30th and likely get their legs loose after a long flight in an unpadded practice. Friday will be the walk-through, Saturday the game vs. Navy, an option team that specializes in cut blocks and effort, and Sunday will be lost to a second cross-Atlantic flight in less than a 90-hour span.

Monday is recovery and film, and then practice week for Purdue begins as planned on Tuesday. Four days later, they'll play again.

Two games, two cross-Atlantic flights, and just over nine days to complete the journey with a 2-0 start to the 2012 season…the first of the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame.

Purdue warms up at home against Eastern Kentucky.

Nope, not ideal.

Inside the Boilermakers

New defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, formerly of the CFL's Monreal Alouettes and previous, Kansas State, purportedly brings disguise and versatility among his personnel in an effort to disrupt pre-snap rhythm. But key to any scheme is the relative strength up front and Purdue's should feature its best D-Line since the 2003-04 squad's consistently won battles up front.

All Big 10 performer Kawann Short and junior Bruce Gaston would both log heavy minutes for Notre Dame's rotation, Short would likely start. Gaston was a Charlie Weis recruit prior to the team's change in regime. Short had 17 tackles for loss last season to rank 24th nationally. That's more than any Notre Dame player has registered in a single season since Justin Tuck totaled 19 in 2003.

Florida products Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson are confident, cocky cornerbacks that can play the ball -- the former was baptized by Notre Dame's Michael Floyd last fall, though asking the 5'9" Allen to cover Floyd one-on-one on nearly every snap was a scheme failure as much as a comment on Allen's talent.

Offensively, Purdue has three quarterbacks to choose from (sound familiar?), each of whom has played vs. the Irish over the last two seasons: former Miami transfer and dual-threat Robert Marve, 2011 seven-game winner Caleb Terbush, and run-first Rob Henry. Marve has torn his ACL twice, Henry once. Notre Dame's defense tore up TerBush last September in West Lafayette.

The running tandem of Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden will be productive if Bolden can return from a second knee injury in three seasons. Both O.J. Ross and Antavian Edison can do damage on the perimeter.

Purdue has some pieces in place, but quarterback and offensive line concerns keep them a middle-of-the-pack Big 10 squad at present.

The Irish and Boilers Week Two matchup will likely resemble the season opener in 2010: a low-scoring affair with a premium placed on turnover-free football and the ability to get the defense off the field on third down.

Outside Looking In: Lindy's Sports has Purdue ranked 42nd nationally and third in the Big 10 "Leaders Division." Athlon Sports has the Boilermakers a full tier lower, 53rd and 5th in their division. Phil Steele called Danny Hope's fourth team, "his best yet" though noted the Boilermakers schedule will make it tough to top seven wins.

Final Thoughts

Though Purdue has never fared well in South Bend (one win in its last 17 visits) but this time, the Boilers draw the Irish at the ideal time: six days after a return trip from Ireland and just prior to proving ground matchups at Michigan State and vs. Michigan. It's a trap, a rare Week Two trap, but a trap nonetheless.

In terms of personnel, Short and Allen would start in South Bend tomorrow. Gaston, Johnson, and linebacker Dwayne Beckford would be in the Irish defensive rotation. So there's a bit of talent on the Boilermakers defensive side of scrimmage, though like most mid-tier teams, depth behind them is lacking. That's not likely an issue in Week Two, when both teams should have most hands on deck.

Nevertheless, Bob Diaco's defense should again be able to control the Boilermakers attack, one that's managed one meaningful touchdown and just 12 meaningful points in two games vs. Kelly's Irish.

Purdue would rank behind Miami and possibly Boston College on my "Trouble Spots" list if not for the unique circumstances preceding this year's contest. A workmanlike effort will be enough to beat the Boilers in South Bend, but two offenses in need of guidance could keep this closer than most Irish fans expect.

Next in the Series: Trouble Spot #7, one based exclusively on its slotting on the Irish schedule, will be published Wednesday.


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