The Purdue Boilermakers football team opens the 2010 season in South Bend, which has historically been one of the most difficult places for the Old Gold and Black to post victories.
In fact, Purdue has a grand total of one win in their last 16 appearances under the shadow of Touchdown Jesus.
But don't tell coach Danny Hope about past history.
"It's a mind over matter thing in some ways," Hope said of playing at Notre Dame Stadium. "They have very good players and it is a hostile environment, but if you don't mind, it doesn't matter so much."
Hope also pointed to momentum-building wins last year in Ann Arbor (where Purdue hadn't triumphed since 1966) and against the Ohio State Buckeyes at home (snapping OSU's 16-game conference road winning streak and Purdue's 19-game skid against ranked opponents) as examples of why his team could defy the odds this weekend.
"There have been some numbers out there that we've been able to overcome," said Hope. "Obviously, Notre Dame has dominated the series, particularly at Notre Dame (or more so at Notre Dame), but it's more numbers.
"[Saturday's game] is a heck of a challenge, but an outstanding opportunity for our football team."
The Boilers take a lot of inexperienced potential and talent into the 2010 campaign, led by highly touted transfer quarterback Robert Marve. The junior signal-caller said his team is excited for the challenge of facing off with the Irish.
"September 4 is coming and we're going to be ready," Marve told me earlier this month at Big Ten Media Days. "When that first opponent's a rival, and that first opponent's beaten you the last couple years...
"It's time for Purdue to get the respect back."
The Boilers will go as far as Marve's arm and a combination of unproven running backs will take them. Sophomore tailback Al-Terek McBurse has big-play skills (he returned a kick for a score in the 2009 season finale), but will have to step up to fill the void left by incumbent Ralph Bolden's ACL injury.
McBurse and senior Dan Dierking should get "the bulk of the reps" in the backfield, according to Hope, with fullbacks Jared Crank and Derek Jackson clearing the way at the line of scrimmage.
The Purdue coaching staff seems determined to embrace a balanced offense, but with veteran playmakers like Keith Smith and Cortez Smith on the outside (along with young Floridian speedsters Antavian Edison, Gary Bush, and OJ Ross), don't be surprised to see the Boilermaker attack tilt toward "Basketball on Grass, Part Two" as the season wears on.
On the defensive side of the ball, Purdue returns an experienced front seven (led by All-American candidate Ryan Kerrigan and a linebacking corps that is easily six deep), but will be trotting out four new faces in the secondary. Look for Charlton Williams and Josh Johnson to get the nod at cornerback (with a lot of playing time for true freshman Ricardo Allen), while Logan Link and Albert Evans should start at safety.
The young defensive backs will be thrown into the fire, making their first starts at Notre Dame Stadium, but Hope wouldn't have it any other way.
"For this 2010 football team, I think the advantage is for us to have Notre Dame at the front of the schedule," Hope said. "It created a sense of urgency for our football team to train hard throughout the course of the summer.
"The fact that we were opening up with Notre Dame got everyone's attention...I think in the end, we're going to be a better football team because of who we had on our opening schedule."
For more Purdue football coverage from Bleacher Report writer Tim Cary, follow him on Twitter at @TimCary.
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