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Big Ten preview: Purdue Boilermakers

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Purdue's quarterback Austin Appleby (12) jumped toward the goal line for a touchdown in the third quarter as the Minnesota Gophers took on the Purdue Boilermakers, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Minnesota. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Purdue’s quarterback Austin Appleby (12) jumped toward the goal line for a touchdown in the third quarter as the Minnesota Gophers took on the Purdue Boilermakers on Oct. 18 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

2014 record: 3-9

Head coach: Darrell Hazell (third year, 5-22)

2015 record so far: 1-3

Record vs. OSU since 2005: 2-5

What’s happened so far in 2015: Purdue hung tough with a stout Marshall team, but the Boilermakers’ defense surrendered 41 points and junior quarterback Austin Appleby threw four interceptions in the 41-31 loss. Out for redemption the next week against Indiana State, the Boilermaker offense pumped out 540 yards in a balanced attack on the ground and in the air, winning 38-14. However, the next week against Virginia Tech, Purdue’s offense and defense sputtered, dropping their second game to the Hokies, 51-24. In Week 4, Purdue was bested by Bowling Green 35-28 after giving up more than 400 yards passing to Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson.

Key offensive player: Purdue is looking for an explosive playmaker on offense this season, and freshman running back Markell Jones might be the man for the job. A native of Columbus, Indiana, Jones posted eye-popping numbers. In his senior year in high school, Jones rushed for a state-record 3,565 yards. A workhorse in high school, the intangibles Jones possesses have gotten him off to a strong start, as he has 229 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

Key defensive player: Last year, then-freshman linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley was second on the team in total tackles with 76. With his immense playmaking ability, Bentley made it on the USA Today Freshman All-American team. Now a sophomore, Bentley is looking to once again make plays all over the field. The Glenarden, Maryland, product made an immediate impact last year, posting big games against the powerhouse teams of Wisconsin and Michigan State. Purdue struggled last year on defense, ranking 80th in the nation overall, but Bentley is on pace to improve on his numbers from last year with 26 total tackles already. If he continues his pace and builds off last year, he could be a big help to the Boilermaker defense.

Weaknesses: Defense will be the first place the coaching staff at Purdue will need to address. Opposing offensive units took advantage of the Boilermaker defense, putting increased pressure on the rest of the team. This year, three seniors and five juniors will be starting. Although the age and experience will be there, execution will be key for improvement and success.

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