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Big Ten preview: Purdue Boilermakers

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Purdue then-freshman running back Markell Jones (28) runs the ball during the first half on Satutday, Oct. 3, 2015, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. The host Spartans won, 24-21. Courtesy of TNS

Purdue then-freshman running back Markell Jones (28) runs the ball during the first half on Satutday, Oct. 3, 2015, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. The host Spartans won, 24-21. Courtesy of TNS

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

2015 record: 2-10 (1-7 Big Ten)

Head coach: Darrell Hazell

2016 record so far: 1-1

Record vs. OSU since 2006: 2-4

What’s happened so far in 2016

Purdue ran to a 45-24 victory in its season opener against Eastern Kentucky. The Boilermakers were fueled by a strong performance from sophomore running back Markell Jones in which he racked up 145 yards on the ground on 24 carries, and 24 receiving yards on four receptions. Following the victory over the Colonels, Purdue met the Cincinnati Bearcats and fell 38-20. Though sophomore quarterback David Blough threw for 401 yards in the game, he was picked off five times.

Key offensive player

Though the easy answer is Jones, the real key player for the Purdue offense will be the man behind center, Blough. In his freshman season, Blough threw for 1,574 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per completion, and connected on 10 touchdown passes while throwing eight interceptions. Last season, Blough split time with senior Austin Appleby, limiting his playing time to only 293 attempted passes out of a total of 504 passing attempts from Purdue quarterbacks. But Appleby has since transferred to the Florida Gators, leaving the starting quarterback position to Blough. The pro-style quarterback already has 646 passing yards and three touchdowns this season.

Key defensive player

Last season, the Boilermakers ranked 108th in rushing defense, having allowed an average of 214.9 yards per game and a total of 2,579 rush yards. If they are to improve in that area this season, they will need senior defensive tackle Jake Replogle to step up. Replogle was one of 90 players named by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list, the award given out to the top defensive player in the country. He finished last season with 14 tackles for a loss, two sacks, 60 tackles and a blocked field goal and was one of the leaders on that defensive line. The Centerville, Ohio, native will be called on in his final season at Purdue to step up and help shut down the running game.

Weaknesses

If Purdue is going to improve on last season’s 2-10 record, there will need to be some major improvements out of its defense. Though it has a few highly respected names on the defensive side like Replogle, junior defensive end Gelen Robinson and talented junior linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, the Boilermakers have struggled against offenses, having already surrendered 910 total yards in their first two games, which were against against non-Power 5 opponents. Hazell no doubt is hopeful that the defense can step up with the talent it possesses, but it will need to start proving that the players are more than just once-promising recruits and start showing results.

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