Trouble Spot 12: Purdue

Last season, Purdue played well, Notre Dame played poorly, and the game was close to the bitter end as a result. Ditto 2012. So why is Purdue the least likely "Trouble Spot" for Brian Kelly's Irish in 2014?

Game Day Situation

It's the third game for both teams with Notre Dame receiving a stiff home test one week prior against hated foe Michigan. Purdue will have played Western and Central Michigan, respectively. There's no lookahead situation looming for ND as the Irish will enjoy their first of two byes next season following the September 13 matchup with Purdue.

This neutral site battle is the first game away from home for both and that should be considered a huge advantage for the Irish as Purdue has occasional bite at home (2009 and 2013 vs. Notre Dame come to mind) while the Boilermakers are in no way intimidated in South Bend.

An NFL setting is ideal for an Irish team coming off a prime time matchup against Michigan, one that will include the eyes of the nation and per usual, take much from both teams emotionally.

In short, it's much easier for Notre Dame to suffer a letdown at home under such conditions than in Lucas Oil Stadium -- new fans, new uniforms, and 18- to 22-year-old kids fired up to play in a beautiful NFL Stadium.

Why This Could Be Too Low…

Because Purdue has taken the Irish to the wire in two straight and the Boilers tend to rise to the occasion at least once per season vs. superior foes.

Quarterback Danny Etling is an upgrade over Rob Henry who started last year vs. the Irish, and tight end Justin Sinz and running back Akeem Hunt both fared well vs. Notre Dame last fall. Senior speedster Raheem Mostert provides another dimension to the backfield to compliment Hunt.

Defensively, coordinator Greg Hudson has a few promising veteran pieces to work with in defensive end Ryan Russell -- slated to start his third career game vs. the Irish in September -- bookended by outside 'backer Jalani Phillips. Purdue could thus find a natural pass rush (without heavy blitzing) and Zack Martin isn't walking through that door to keep the blind side clean. (Hudson's game plan vs. Notre Dame was outstanding last season, to boot.)

A porous secondary returns three veteran starters that rank among the program's best players, but there's a dearth of talent in West Lafayette.

It's also noteworthy that Notre Dame's worst tackling game in both the 2012 (by far) and 2013 regular season (edging Michigan) came against Purdue.

They belong at #12 because...

The Boilers are sub par on offense, on defense, and after the graduation of standout punter Cody Webster, likely on half of their special teams (field goals, punting), too.

Projected to have a poor offensive line, Purdue doesn't possess the type of special playmakers that can make up for myriad shortcomings up front (does anyone?). In short, the Big 10's worst offense won't be markedly better. On the other side of scrimmage, the Boilers' best linebacker is a former quarterback and their best defensive back during Brian Kelly's time in South Bend, four-game starter and confident ballhawk Ricardo Allen, graduated to begin his NFL career.

The Boilermakers ranked 101st in pass efficiency defense last season and their rush defense was far worse.

It might be a bad break for Notre Dame that an annual rival is the "worst" team on its schedule, but let's face it, Purdue was 1-11 last year, beating only FCS foe Indiana State and scaring only Notre Dame thereafter.

Staked as 21-point favorites with the benefit of playing at a neutral NFL Stadium, if the Irish allow this mismatch to be close three weeks into the season, future trouble is afoot.

In most years, the PU/ND rivalry would automatically bump the Boilers further up our "Trouble Spot" list, but the 2014 schedule is hellacious. On paper -- and keeping emotion in mind -- this matchup is definitively the least of Notre Dame's potential problems next fall.


Vegas' early line for the contest favors the Irish by 21 points, by far the biggest spread in Notre Dame's favor among the 11 games listed. (Rice was not among them, but that line won't likely be more than two touchdowns in the season opener.)

If Purdue finishes this contest within two scores of the Irish, it's a bad sign for Notre Dame fans. There's no reason for the Irish to come out flat in prime time for the sixth annual Shamrock Series contest.

Up Next: Trouble Spot #11 and the great unknown for 2014 Top Stories