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Syracuse football 2023 opponent preview: Purdue Boilermakers

Big Ten Saturday Night isn’t ready for the Orange

Purdue v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

This one might feel familiar. Syracuse Orange football will follow up their second home game against Western Michigan with the first road trip of the season. It’s against the very same opponent from Week 3 of last year. But while the team is the same, the people that make up it are not....

Purdue Boilermakers

School: Purdue University

Nickname: Boilermakers

Mascots: Purdue Pete (athletics); Boilermaker Special (university)

#BRAND Slogans: #BoilerUp, #TheTimeIsNow

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #BoilerDown or “Fool’s Gold and Black”

Recommended Blog: Hammer and Rails

Conference: Big Ten

History vs. Syracuse: As hinted at before, the Orange and Boilermakers clashed in 2022, and it ended up being SU’s game of the year. Garrett Shrader found Oronde Gadsden for a 25-yard touchdown with just seven seconds left in the 4th quarter, securing a literal last-minute comeback win 32-29. There was also a game in West Lafayette in 2004... but let’s forget that ever happened and move on.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 29 Michigan State at Purdue Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coach: Ryan Walters, First Season. For the second straight week, SU faces a true first-year head coach. Jeff Brohm went back to his alma mater of Louisville, so Purdue lured Walters from his Defensive Coordinator role at Illinois with a five-year contract offer. Prior to that, he spent seven years working with the Memphis defense, and also had stops in North Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Walters played free safety for Colorado, who helped begin his coaching career in 2009.

2022 Record: (8-6) (6-3)

Recapping Last Season:

Purdue fell just short of upsetting Penn State in the season opener, and after routing Indiana State, the Boilermakers again allowed a late TD drive in the loss to the Orange. A four-game winning streak followed against FAU, #21 Minnesota, Maryland, and Nebraska. After a couple speedbumps in Wisconsin and against Iowa, Brohm’s boys took down Walters’ defense in Illinois. They then closed out the regular season with wins over Northwestern and Indiana, securing the Big Ten West Title. It was short lived, however, as Michigan dispatched them 43-22 en route to what was surely a connecting-flight ticket to the CFP Finals. In the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, #17 LSU obliterated the severely depleted remnants of the team 63-7.

Charlie Jones was one of the most consistent targets in all of college football - only Houston’s Tank Dell had more than his 1,361 receiving yards. He was coupled with 6’5” “All I Know Is” Payne Durham at TE and senior arm Aidan O’Connell at QB in a very top-heavy offense. Sophomore Devin Mockobee fell just short of a thousand-yard rushing season while emerging as the clear bell-cow back. Take out the fiasco in game 14 and this unit generated an average of over 400 yards of offense - only Ohio State was better among Big Ten teams.

The defense had some big names in the secondary. Safeties Sanoussi Kane and Cam Allen kept opposing offenses from exploiting the middle of the field, with Kane having more solo tackles than anyone else on the team had in total, and Allen defending six passes and picking off three more. Corner Cory Trice broke up 10(!) passes and also had a pair of interceptions while earning Third Team All-Big Ten honors from PFF. The front seven were less impressive, generating less than two sacks per game. Mitchell Fineran was 18/24 on field goals, only making 4/9 from 40+ yards.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

2023 Season Outlook:

Purdue’s 2023 Schedule features home games against Fresno State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Indiana. Road trips to Virginia Tech, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, and Northwestern are also on the calendar. It won’t be the easiest path to six wins in recent years.

With the big three of O’Connell (Raiders), Jones (Bengals), and Durham (Buccaneers) gone, this offense will look very different. Hudson Card left his hometown Texas Longhorns to likely start here. Unlike his predecessor, who was as stationary as they come, Card was scouted as more of a dual-threat QB - he just didn’t get many chances to show that ability in Austin. His impressive deep ball should mold well with senior receivers T.J. Sheffield and Mershawn Rice, and FAU transfer Jahmal Edrine. Purdue lost some O-Line pieces, both to the portal and to injury, so that could hinder the passing game a bit.

The good news on defense: Kane and Allen are back for their final college seasons. The bad: Trice (Steelers) and lead linebacker Jalen Graham (49ers) were both drafted as well, so it will be up to Penn State defector Marquis Wilson and returning LB OC Brothers to pick up their production. Top edge rusher Jack Sullivan also ran out of eligibility, so the pass rush may take a hit.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 16

Location: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Indiana

Odds of Orange Victory: 65%

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

Maybe it’s a little gutsy to predict a road win in SU’s first real test of the season, but hear me out. There is a LOT of turnover among the Boilermakers. They’re a team I overestimated last year - still good, mind you, but boosted by playing in the far weaker half of the Big Ten. The Orange defense actually did a solid job shutting them down for around 45 minutes, and this time around, SU is facing a team that got worse at virtually every skill position.

Instead of the offensive explosion in the second half of last year’s game, I predict this one will be a fight for every yard, with LeQuint Allen and Mockobee leading the charge on the ground. Also expect Garrett Shrader and Card to use their legs plenty in an attempt to jumpstart their respective passing games.