Purdue schedule ranking: No. 8 Vanderbilt
8. Vanderbilt, at West Lafayette, September 7
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It’s not often SEC teams visit Big Ten schools. But for Purdue, it will be the second year in a row, as Missouri came to West Lafayette last year when the Boilers lost a heart-breaker on a last-second field goal. And Purdue would like to forget last year’s season-ending 63-14 loss in the Music City Bowl vs. SEC power Auburn. So, Purdue will have played two of its last three games vs. SEC foes after the visit from Vanderbilt. Interesting.
In fact, the Boilermakers haven’t fared well vs. the SEC since the Jim Young era (1977-81). Purdue beat Tennessee in the Astro Bluebonnet Bowl in 1979 but lost to Georgia in the 2000 Outback and 2004 Capital One Bowls under Joe Tiller—both in OT. Purdue won at Missouri in 2017.
The Commodores have been a solid program under Derek Mason, who is in his sixth season since taking over for James Franklin. He took Vandy to a bowl last season, his second postseason game as Commodores coach. Mason has been to bowls twice in the last three seasons and toppled Tennessee three seasons in a row, but he's still looking for a winning season. And the defense--his bailiwick--has struggled.
The offense needs a quarterback with Kyle Shurmur--the school's career passing leader--gone. But there is ample skill talent for whoever ends up taking snaps. (Maybe Ball State grad transfer Riley Neal.) The Commodores have one of the SEC's top backs in Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who began his career at Illinois. Mason hopes more size and depth up front will make Vandy tougher on defense--especially vs. the run. Stay tuned.
Bottom line: The home opener is winnable for Purdue. Vanderbilt is a solid program with a lot in common with Purdue--right down to its school colors. Vanderbilt's defense looks vulnerable to what could be an explosive Boilermaker offense. And Purdue could have some glide in its stride if it's coming off a win at Nevada to open the season. Still, the Commodores will provide a significant upgrade from a talent standpoint compared to the Wolf Pack. And the Boilermakers better not take Vandy lightly.
Series: 2-0, Vanderbilt
Last Purdue win: never
Last Vanderbilt win: 1942, at Vanderbilt
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