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June 14, 2013

Predicting Purdue









Purdue players are taking different approaches to the preview magazines that are starting to churn off the presses and show up on newsstands this month.

Some, like sophomore starting center Robert Kugler, have not even the slightest bit of curiosity at what is being written.

Others, like starting linebacker Sean Robinson, like to see the chatter, if, for nothing else, than to use it as motivation.

That'd be probably the only benefit to reading this year's crop.

With a new head coach, one of the nation's most challenging schedules and some inexperienced options at key positions, the Boilermakers largely are being predicted to finish at the bottom of their division and as one of the worst teams in the Big Ten overall.

"It's the same thing they did about Northwestern last year. Everybody disrespected Northwestern and look how they ended up coming out," Ricardo Allen said of the preseason predictions and the Wildcats, who finished 10-3 and won the Gator Bowl. "It's easy to be one of those guys (who predicts) because all you have to be is a hypocrite and just change what you want to think. But it really doesn't matter what they say because we know what we're going to do."

Of the four mainstream preview magazines - Athlon Sports, The Sporting News, Lindy's and Phil Steele - all but TSN have Purdue in the bottom two in its division. Technically, Lindy's has Purdue at No. 5 in the Legends Division (oops), but that's also the mag that ranks the Boilermakers 11th overall out of 12 conference teams.

"I guess we've gotten that rep that we're going to be a mediocre team," Kugler said, "but that's not what we think of ourselves. That's not where we want to be. That's one of our big things this year - we're a team that can compete in the Big Ten and that's what we want to prove this year."

It appears few outside the program believe it can happen against a group of non-conference teams that combined to go 41-10 last season and then landing Nebraska and Michigan State as cross-division games in league play.

Lindy's took a "good news, bad news, our call" list of each team. Of the Boilermakers, it said the "good news" was a strong spring with Hazell's "positive, realistic approach." The magazine's bad news: "The road schedule is brutal. The home schedule even worse." That left it making a final call of "Hazell is a good coach, not a miracle worker. This will take time."

That magazine also lists Purdue's schedule as the third-toughest in the league behind IU and Iowa.

Lindy's also ranks each position group. The Boilers' best: No. 8 as a defensive line.

Athlon had Purdue finishing fifth of six - ahead of only Illinois and just behind Indiana - in the division. An interesting tidbit in that magazine was its "Scouting the Boilermakers" blurb that included quotes from an unnamed opposing coach. Here's some of what that coach had to say:

"I don't think this team is that far away. The games that were close, they just didn't make that many plays. They played lousy against Minnesota. They went to Minnesota like they didn't care. That might be the reason why Danny hope got fired. But give the kids credit, after a disappointing loss, they responded with some victories. … They aren't really scary in any area. … It can solve a lot of problems if they get the right guy (at quarterback)."

Phil Steele had Purdue fifth in the Leaders.

TSN was the most optimistic about the Boilermakers' first season under Hazell, picking them not only to finish fourth in the division ahead of Indiana and Illinois but also tagging them to participate in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The magazine doesn't say specifically what it projects Purdue's record to be.

That prediction may be the only one that matches the players' belief.

"We realize we are going to play some good teams, but we think we have the talent on our team to be a really good team as well," Rob Henry said. "I'm really looking forward to the season. Especially looking at the at schedule we have and knowing there are a lot of great opportunities week-in and week-out for us to show how hard we've worked and really kind of solidify our opinions and … really show people the things we said and the expectations that have been placed on us, they are actual real. We have the talent. It's not just us saying we have the talent. But we actually do have it. So we're all really excited."






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