* Last Year, Bowl: 7-5, lost to Arizona State in the Sun Bowl. Big Ten: 4-4/fifth (tie).
* Coach: Joe Tiller (ninth year at PU, 62-37; 15th year overall, 101-67-1).
* Returning Starters: 20. Offense (7): LT Mike Otto, LG Uche Nwaneri, C Matt Turner, TE Charles Davis, WR Kyle Ingraham, WR Ray Williams, RB Jerod Void. Defense (11): DE Ray Edwards, DE Anthony Spencer, DT Brent Grover, DT Brandon Villareal, LB George Hall, LB Bobby Iwuchukwu, LB Stanford Keglar, CB Brian Hickman, CB Paul Long, SS Bernard Pollard, FS Kyle Smith. Specialists (2): P Dave Brytus, K Ben Jones.
* Big Ten Championships: 8, last shared title in 2000.
* Rose Bowls: 2, last appearance in 2000.
* BCS Bids: 1, 2000 (Rose).
* National Championships: None.
* Series Vs. Ohio State: Although the teams do not meet this year, we will note that OSU holds the all-time edge over Purdue 35-12-2. The Buckeyes have won nine of the last 11 in the series, although PU took a 24-17 win in West Lafayette last year.
* Schedule: Sept. 10, Akron; Sept. 17, at Arizona; Sept. 24, at Minnesota; Oct. 1, Notre Dame; Oct. 8, Iowa; Oct. 15, Northwestern; Oct. 22, at Wisconsin; Oct. 29, at Penn State; Nov. 5, Michigan State; Nov. 12, Illinois; Nov. 19, at Indiana.
* Outlook: The Boilers were 5-0 and on top of the world before enduring tough home losses to Wisconsin and Michigan. Late season wins over Ohio State and Indiana put Purdue in postseason play, though.
"All in all, we feel pretty good about our football team," Tiller said. "I hate to put all of the pressure on any one person, but that is kind of the nature of the game. We'll go as the quarterback position goes this year.
"If we can perform well at that position, we feel we could have a better team than we had last year."
Junior Brandon Kirsch takes over for Kyle Orton at quarterback. The 6-9 Ingraham (51 catches, 7 TDs) will be a primary target.
"Brandon Kirsch started four games as a true freshman," Tiller said. "Then, we redshirted him to try and get some separation between he and Kyle Orton. We rolled the dice a little bit. Last year, he started a couple of games when Kyle was hurt. He's been in the arena. As a result, we feel he has some game savvy."
Purdue's defense could be lights out with everybody back after finishing third in the Big Ten in scoring defense last year. Edwards (8 sacks) brings pressure up front.
"On the defensive front we may have 10 guys who can play," Tiller said. "That will give us the luxury of substituting even more. The linebacker corps is a good group. We feel we have five guys who we can line up with and win with in the Big Ten."
The Boilers will benefit from not having to play Michigan or Ohio State.
"We've got Michigan and Ohio State right where we want them," Tiller joked.
* Jerry Rudzinski Says: We have all heard the statement, "Make hay when the sun is shining." Well the sun is shining in West Lafayette. There is pressure when you have OSU and Michigan on your schedule. There is even more pressure when they are taken off. "Hurry up, let's win this thing before we have to play those guys again."
Tiller is yet another coach that can make life difficult for the folks in Columbus and Ann Arbor. Yes, the records still swing in our favor, especially at home, but everyone knows you better pack a lunch when the Boilers roll into town.
The starters are back and the stars (or schedules) are aligned for Purdue to flirt with a championship. I believe Michigan and Ohio State have two of the best teams in the country, but only one team can win that game when they play each other. Purdue's defense has shown up for a few years now. The offense has always been there. Losing all those close games last year created some character. I don't think this program has plateaued. I believe they are still climbing.
* Steve Helwagen Says: Things could get pretty interesting in November if Purdue is flirting with the conference lead and columnists take note of the fact that the Boilers got off easy this year by not having to face Ohio State and Michigan.
It certainly does shed some light on the argument that the Big Ten should adopt round robin scheduling or, at the very least, look at past history and jumble things up when it comes to assigning "no plays." I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at things and see that Michigan has 42 Big Ten titles and OSU has 29. How one school misses playing both of those tradition rich powers in the same season is beyond me. But that discussion is for another time.
OK, Purdue was good defensively last year and should be just as strong or stronger with all 11 starters returning. Ray Edwards, a Cincinnati native and pass rusher extraordinaire, would sure look good in Scarlet and Gray.
Kirsch had to sit in the back seat the last couple of years as Orton got to drive the car. Now he has the keys and we'll see if he is up to the task.
I look at Purdue's schedule and I wonder who will beat the Boilers. They play Notre Dame and Iowa at home. They do have to visit Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin. Past history dictates that Tiller will have this team in the race. But that track record also shows that his Boilers will lose one or more games they could or should win by a tight score. I like Purdue to go 9-2 (6-2 in Big Ten play) and play in a New Years' Day game.