Purdue Boilermakers vs Vanderbilt Commodores Game Preview, Prediction

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purdue boilermaker train track

As the SEC and their fan bases love to tell you- “it just means more.” Because hey, the southeastern conference is just that much more exceptional than the rest of the country. In all seriousness though, the Vanderbilt Commodores visit to the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday does have the air of a quasi-bowl elimination contention contest.

You might think it sounds crazy to say that about a game in week, but look at where both teams finished last season (6-6, lost their bowl game), where they’re projected to be this season (most outlets have them finishing in the 6-6 area again) and how the season began (neither side can really afford to fall to 0-2 here, given the conference grinds ahead).

They even have the same school colors, further adding to the similarities.

In the words of ’90s alt-rockers Soul Asylum:

“Black gold in a white plight. Won’t you fill up the tank, let’s go for a ride.”

Vanderbilt Commodores at Purdue Boilermakers FYIs

TV: BTN, 12:00 PM EDT

SPREAD: Purdue Boilermakers -9

All-Time Series: Vanderbilt leads 2-0

ke-shawn-vaughn

Vanderbilt Commodores Preview 

Will the Commodores have it Easy Like Sunday Morning after they Sail On at Ross-Ade Stadium? Or will they run into a mighty might Brick House in West Lafayette? The key to the game could be running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a day two level NFL Draft prospect, and one of the finest rushers you’ll see in college football, this side of Jonathan Taylor or Travis Etienne.

He is also a familiar face to all Big Ten West teams. Vanderbilt’s Vaughn is an interesting redemption story as his transfer out of Illinois left many unanswered questions. Vaughn began his Illini career in 2015 by winning the team’s offensive newcomer of the year award.

Then, as the transition from Bill Cubit to Lovie Smith began, he was poised to continue the legacy of the Illini running backs who wore #5 (Rashard Mendenhall, Mikel LeShoure).

He even said at 2016 Media Day (where Smith declared Vaughn his “bell cow” for the upcoming season) that he chose #5 due to the Illini legacy at the position.

Vaughn started the season prolifically, with two big games against Murray State and North Carolina.

mendenhall

Then in week three versus Western Michigan he had an awful game, as did the rest of the entire offensive unit.

What’s so odd though is how he found himself benched right away. Ke’Shawn wasn’t just benched either, he fell way down the depth chart, almost overnight.

It was very odd how Smith and his offensive staff gave up on their so-called bell cow so rapidly and quite easily, without any real explanation given. To be honest though, I’m not sure anyone even really asked them for the proper explanation.

It was a tough year in Champaign that featured very few explosion plays or chunk plays, but the few times that offensive highlights were made, it was Vaughn making a majority of them. Yes, even in spite of his diminished playing time.

Still, the then sophomore tailback fell way out of favor with the staff (for whatever reason) and thus his transferring out made perfect sense.

Now back home in Nashville, Vaughn leads the Commodores into WL as the main man Jeff Brohm and his staff must account for. The Dores have experience, talent and depth at the skill positions, but can certainly be beaten in the middle of the park.

Purdue has enough to overpower them on both lines, and controlling the line of scrimmage is the Purdue path to victory. The Boilermakers are catching them at the right time too, as they’re still licking their wounds from week one, when they had the ghastly assignment of opening with Georgia, who many consider the nation’s third best team behind Clemson and Alabama.

Vandy came to the state of Indiana, nearly a year and a week to the date and came very close to coming away with a victory; against a Notre Dame team that went to make the College Football Playoff.

vandy cheerleaders

Purdue Boilermakers Preview:

Speaking of openers that didn’t go well- Purdue truly found the banana peel on the floor and slipped badly over it. Considering the late start and time zone changes, a lot of Purdue Boilermakers fans went to bed with their team up 24-7 at Nevada in the second half, and woke up to the disappointing disaster of finding out their team had lost.

On a 56 yard field goal.

By a walk-on placekicker.

What happened?

purdue

Purdue is so banged up and young at running back that their offense was rather one-dimensional. They simply could not control the game enough enough on the ground to grind up clock once they had the lead.

You know there’s issues with the ground game when you’re calling designed runs for quarterback Elijah Sindelar, a not very mobile QB with a history of knee injuries.

Explained Brohm yesterday: “This year we do want to at least have a threat. I think it’s important there’s at least a threat of the quarterback running the football.”

“Really we got some good gains on the quarterback runs we called. Wasn’t much more than a quarterback draw with a lead blocker. When you sometimes get on that, in the running game their linebackers plugged the holes quick, and it came downhill.”

purdue boilermakers

“You have to be able to meet them in the hole and knock them back, not just meet them in the hole.”

Obviously, Rondale Moore against the Vandy DBs is a matchup Purdue Boilermakers fans will take all day, but you got to have balance to keep opponents honest. Brohm stressed this concept in his weekly presser on Monday.

“In general, you’d like to be as balanced as you can, have a consistent running game,” Brohm said.

“Even looking back on last year, if the running game is not your strength, you need to score, you don’t want to waste a whole lot of time doing things you’re not best at.”

The key to this game could be baby boiler DE George Karlaftis. He needs to make sure Vaughn and company can’t set the edge in WL.

jeff brohm

“I think George did a great job, gave us great effort,” Brohm articulated.

“Fought his butt off the entire game. If we can get everybody to play with that effort every single play, we’ll have a much better chance of winning.”

Prediction: Purdue Boilermakers 31, Vanderbilt Commodores 28

I’m feeling a Purdue Boilermakers win, but I’m just not very confident in a spread that’s near double digits.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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