In less than 10 days, the Purdue Boilermakers will take the field against Eastern Kentucky. The Boilers, who qualified for their first bowl game in four years, look to repeat last season's success.
The road will not be easy, though. Several questions still need to be answered.
First, who will be the starting quarterback for the Boilers on opening day? Will it be either of the two seniors, Robert Marve or Caleb TerBush, or the junior Rob Henry? Henry was slated to be the starting quarterback last season, but tore a ligament in his knee before the season started. Both TerBush and Marve shared the quarterback role last season. And although TerBush was the statistical leader, coach Danny Hope seemed to go to Marve in crunch-time situations.
Second, does early season success relate to late-season success? The Boilers' non-conference schedule is difficult. In just the second week, they travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. Two weeks later, they face a tough Marshall team. It is crucial that the Boilers win these opening games in order to have any chance of competing in the Big Ten.
The third question relates to the coaching staff. How will this coaching staff handle the difficult decisions? Hope was given a contract extension in the off-season, and expectations have never been higher for the fourth-year Boilermaker boss.
With that said, let's breakdown the Boilermakers 2012 football schedule.
Eastern Kentucky holds a rich football tradition. The Colonels seek to repeat as Ohio Valley Conference champions (FCS). They would love nothing more than to make a statement on the national level by defeating the Boilermakers and former EKU player and head coach, Danny Hope.
Purdue's defense, led by All-Big Ten selection Kawann Short, will be very stingy. However, the offense will struggle.
Eastern Kentucky will put up a fight, but the Boilers will prevail, thanks to strong play in the fourth quarter by the veterans.
Purdue 27, Eastern Kentucky 17
Fresh off a trip from Ireland, in which they played Navy at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Notre Dame seeks again to mop up the Boilermakers in South Bend. However, this time they will face a much more competitive Purdue team.
The Purdue offense will be more mature and the defense will maintain the Irish until the fourth quarter. Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert will make key catches late in the game, and the defense, led by Manti T'eo will make crucial stops as the Irish hold the Boilers during a final drive.
Notre Dame 29, Purdue 26
Eastern Michigan, which has never been to a bowl game, will make things competitive, but Purdue will ultimately be just too much for the Eagles to handle. Purdue's defense will be strong as always, and the offense will be firing on all cylinders, giving the home fans a thrill on Band Day.
Sidenote: At this point in the season, it should be obvious who will be Purdue's starting quarterback for the rest of the way.
Purdue 35, Eastern Michigan 14
Marshall Head Coach Doc Holliday
This will be a difficult non-conference contest for the Boilermakers. Marshall, who defeated FIU in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl last season, will compete with the Boilers all game. Purdue will rely on its senior rushing duo of Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers to gain yards down the stretch.
The game will come down to a last-second drive in which the Boilers will score with just a few seconds (if any) left on the clock. It will be an exciting victory for Purdue fans on Family Day.
Purdue 28, Marshall 25
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Purdue opens the Big Ten schedule at home. Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, they face the Michigan Wolverines, who could be ranked in the nation's top five at this point.
The Boilers will try to make it competitive, but the Wolverines, led by senior quarterback Denard Robinson will destroy Purdue's defense.
Michigan 35, Purdue 16
Record: 3-2 (0-1 Big Ten)
Wisconsin RB Montee Ball
After giving up 62 points to the Badgers last year, Purdue looks to make this one a little more competitive. Unfortunately, the Boilers will not be able to stop the rushing attack of Montee Ball.
Purdue plays hard at home, but loses in front of the Homecoming crowd.
Wisconsin 35, Purdue 24
Record: 3-3 (0-2 Big Ten)
After a strong performance at home against Wisconsin, the Boilers travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes.
New coach Urban Meyer has this Buckeye team disciplined and primed to compete for a Big Ten championship. With the pass rush of John Simon, and the passing attack of Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes are a step above the Boilers.
Ohio State 30, Purdue 21
Record: 3-4 (0-3 Big Ten)
The Golden Gophers won only three games last season, and only one of those was against a conference foe. And while the Gophers will be a little better this season, this rebuilding team still has a long way to go.
Purdue will cruise to an easy victory on the road in Minneapolis.
Purdue 36, Minnesota 13
Record: 4-4 (1-3 Big Ten)
Penn St. Quarterback Matt McGloin
While everyone expects that Penn State will lose the majority of its games, I believe the Nittany Lions will do everything but play dead.
This was a team that won nine games last season and, although PSU is still picking up the pieces after the Sandusky/Paterno scandal, this team still has a lot talent on its roster, including quarterback Matt McGloin.
Last season, Purdue had a chance to beat Penn State, but let it slip out of reach. This year, the Boilers take care of business at home.
Purdue 25, Penn State 18
Record: 5-4 (2-3 Big Ten)
Every year, Iowa fields a strong and competitive football team. This year is no different. The Hawkeyes are difficult to beat at home.
Purdue will keep it close, but the Hawkeyes will pull out in front in the final seconds.
Iowa 29, Purdue 26
Record: 5-5 (2-4 Big Ten)
Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase
New Illinois head coach Tim Beckman takes over an Illini team that finished 7-6 last season.
Although the Illini are rebuilding, there is still plenty of talent on this team, including junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Illinois will play a great game at home, but Purdue will hold on to defeat the Illini for a second-straight season. With this win, the Boilers are also bowl eligible for the second-consecutive year.
Purdue 25, Illinois 18
Record: 6-5 (3-4 Big Ten)
The Hoosiers, who won only one game last season, will be slightly better this year. But the rebuilding Hoosiers have a few more years before they can hope to win the Old Oaken Bucket Game. However, that's not to say that the game won't be competitive. Indiana will keep the game within two scores.
Purdue 35, Indiana 21
Record: 7-5 (4-4 Big Ten)