Well, this is new- as in, this year, new. The news came out in 2013 that we had signed to play a Home-and-Home with Purdue University, marking the first two times these universities have met to play football. We play away this year....they come a-callin' in 2023. Purdue is a fellow land-grant school in Indiana, established in 1869. West Lafayette is much like Blacksburg, in that it's a small town dominated by the university that occupies it, with Purdue being a slightly larger university than Virginia Tech is. Both have a heavy academic lean, especially toward the sciences and engineering. It has many famous alumni including astronauts Gus Grissom and Neil Armstrong, popcorn mogul Orville Redenbacher, multiple Nobel prize winners such as Edward Purcell and Ben Mottelson, and important figures outside of football in sports, including championship coaches like John Wooden and Hank Stram, NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, basketball players like Glenn Robinson, E'Twaun Moore, and Joe Barry Carroll (Infamously nicknamed ‘Joe Barely Cares', but that's another story for another article if the editor lets me wander completely off-topic into ‘great sports nicknames'.)
However, Purdue football hasn't seen its brightest days in a while. Gone are the quarterbacks, either of Hall of Fame caliber- Drew Brees (assumed), Bob Griese, and Len Dawson- quarterbacks, above average ones- Kyle Orton, and not so great ones- Curtis Painter (though his college career was solid). Indeed, their quarterbacks had thrown 1,311 touchdowns in the NFL in 2010 over the league's history. It has been a school to get NFL talent even up to now, as many current or recent players came from Purdue: Matt Light, Roosevelt Colvin, Rob Ninkovich, Bernard Pollard, Rod Woodson, Cliff Avril, Nick Hardwick, Mike Alstott, Dustin Keller, Ryan Kerrigan, Mike Neal, Shaun Phillips, and many others. At the top end, they have definitely had more success compared to Virginia Tech, much as it pains me to say it.
Right now, Purdue is in the Big Ten, and it has been in that conference since 1896, along with the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, Northwestern, and the University of Wisconsin- in another odd member of the past, the University of Chicago was formerly a member from 1896 until 1946. Functionally, the Big Ten hasn't changed much until relatively recently. Penn State was added in 1990, Michigan State was added in 1950, Ohio State in 1912, and Indiana and Iowa back in 1899. The conference also includes the University of Maryland and Rutgers University, along with the University of Nebraska, and...Johns Hopkins? Well, they're associates for lacrosse, but nothing else. Fundamentally the B1G hasn't changed in forever.
As for Purdue now, they're also one and one on the season, losing to Marshall- a good C-USA team- 41-31 - and beating Indiana State- a Missouri Valley FCS team- 38-14. I'd say that means we know just about as much as we do about them as we do about ourselves after a heartbreaker and boxing the ears off a clearly inferior opponent. This is Hokies' first test of someone more around the level of ACC competition and someone that will throw a tougher defense and a more competent offense at a new quarterback. That being said, Purdue is currently not in a great state. Their third year Head Coach, Darrell Hazell, is 5-21. He was previously the head coach for Kent State, hired after an 11-3 campaign with the Golden Flashes (another MAC team). Hazell was also formerly a wide receivers coach under Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Concerns of theirs include offensive line depth and linebacker, and a thin secondary.
Their quarterback, Austin Appleby, is their fifth starter in five years. Currently his touchdown to interception ratio is 5:4- though 4 of those touchdowns came in his second game against Indiana State, a more representative defense picked him off 4 times. Career, he's 15:15. He does do a little bit of running, as they run a spread option type offense much like many offenses around the country. They'll go five wide and run motion and all sorts of mix-and-move action. The thought will be that they'll attempt to use misdirection to open up the running game and challenge our interior corners one-on-one. Their starting offensive linemen are all upperclassmen, and their starting receivers are both tall juniors or a senior (6'-0", 6'-2", and 6'-3"). Their linemen aren't all that big, though, so it's going to be a lot of slide and influence blocking. We'll likely see both of their running backs, DJ Knox and Markell Jones.
Defensively, Purdue runs a 4-3, with three of their linemen heavily lined up further to the side of strength. They're going to rely on their defensive line to get pressure for the most part, but I'd think that they might be more inclined to blitz more against our offense. Their interior best player is defensive tackle Jake Replogle, a junior. He's taller and faster- somewhat like a taller Maddy- and will look to challenge Eric Gallo and Augie Conte up front, if not be the one they line up on Teller to try and disrupt the middle. They also return Gelen Robinson, a rush end that was suspended for two games due to an arrest.
At present, the Purdue fanbase morale seems rather low. But right now, Hazell is likely coaching for his job- you can't have a completely noncompetitive football team in the B1G with Purdue's history. Purdue is going to have to take this game to a scoring match, which they might or might not be able to win. Either way, it's time for the team to gear up and go out to face a sister school with considerable history and a disappointing present. Here's hoping it's a clean game and Tech comes out on top.