With all the moves shaking up the Big Ten this offseason, the Leaders Division is up for grabs for four teams to win. However, due to a number of reasons, things are looking extremely bright for Purdue winning the division. In the following slides, I'm going to tell you why the Boilermakers will end up playing in Indianapolis this fall.
Kawann Short and the Boilermakers are looking to build on a promising 2011 campaign
Urban Meyer looks to flex his muscle in the Big Ten
Ohio State received a bowl ban this year, so they are ineligible to play in the Big Ten Championship Game. Under normal circumstances, Ohio State would be the runaway favorite to win the division. However, since they received a bowl ban this year, it leaves the rest of the division to duke it out.
Kawann Short and the Defensive Line are a major strength of the team
The Purdue defensive line will be a major strength of the team. They have Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston in the middle and Ryan Russell on the outside. The other defensive end spot is still up for grabs, but there are four players who can take the spot and do well with it. Short is arguably the best returning defensive lineman in the Big Ten and will constantly demand double- or even triple-teams. Expect constant pressure on the quarterback next year.
Ricardo Allen in 2010 attempting to tackle Terelle Pryor
Ricardo Allen, Josh Johnson and Normondo Harris are all extremely capable corners. Ricardo Allen, after his stellar freshman year, leveled out slightly during his sophomore year, but is still a great corner. Johnson and Harris are also both expected to compete for the second job and contribute to the team. When coupled with the strength of the defensive line, Purdue's pass defense should be extremely strong.
Caleb TerBush fires away against Wisconsin
Caleb TerBush is expected to be the starter from Day 1, but there are two other qualified quarterbacks on Purdue's roster: Robert Marve and Rob Henry.
Marve is expected to come in and take some snaps depending on the situation. The same is expected with Henry, to a lesser extent. This is the first time that all three quarterbacks have been healthy at the same time during their time at Purdue. It will be interesting to see how Coach Hope is able to utilize each of their talents.
Paul Chryst being introduced as the new Pitt head coach
There are many changes happening in the Leaders Division.
First, Wisconsin lost Russell Wilson, Nick Toon and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. Teams will now be able to defend them the way they usually defend Wisconsin, by stepping up and putting seven or eight men in the box to stop the run. Also, Chryst is a great coach, and Wisconsin will miss him.
Penn State is in a transitional period right now. With everything that went down with the Sandusky scandal, they had to find a new coach and lost many potential recruits.
Illinois won six straight games to start off the year, but the wheels fell off and they lost their last six. They did beat a struggling UCLA team in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to finish off the year. Ron Zook was fired and Tim Beckman, the former Toledo head coach, was hired to replace him.
Also, as previously stated, Ohio State cannot win the Leaders Division due to their bowl ban.
Robert Marve is healthy again
You read that right. For the first time in a few years, Purdue is healthy and Danny Hope can showcase his own recruits. He loves to recruit speed, so for a team that plays speed football, injuries can really derail a season.
Miami transfer Robert Marve, Ralph Bolden, Rob Henry and a few other key players are finally healthy. They can now all come back healthy and ready to go.
The Boilermakers will play Michigan at home this year
Playing in the Big Ten isn't easy. However, Purdue has a fairly easy schedule when it comes to their key games. They will be playing Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State at home, while their only away game that seems out of reach is against Ohio State. When the Boilers are winning, Ross-Ade Stadium can be an intimidating place to play. Purdue can reasonably expect to win eight or nine games this season.