A Vikings Fan’s Viewing Guide to CFB: Purdue Looks to Take the Next Step
Just like the NFL season is fast approaching, we are nearing the day where college football teams will arrive on campus and begin their own preseason work. As a self-proclaimed NFL Draft nerd, I get almost as excited for the college football season as I do for the NFL season. Because of that, I am putting together guides for many of the notable college football programs ahead of the 2022 season. Whether you’re a seasoned college football viewer, or just getting into it for the first time, there is something here for everyone.
We’ve already gone through many of the major contenders in the AAC, and we just finished up with the ACC. Now, we’ve been working our way through a conference that hits very close to home for most Minnesota Vikings fans that dabble in college football: the Big Ten. We’ve just about completed our time in this conference, and the final team we will discuss before moving on to the Big 12 is the Purdue Boilermakers.
The Purdue Boilermakers broke through in multiple areas during the 2021 season. They recorded their first winning season and bowl win since 2017. They earned their first AP top-25 ranking since 2007. Finally, they recorded their most conference wins since 2003 by going 6-3.
All the while, Purdue wasn’t necessarily great at any one area of the field. Their offense scored 29 points per game, ranking 62nd in the nation. Meanwhile, their defense gave up 22 points per game, ranking 34th. They weren’t great, but they were consistently good. Last year, the Boilermakers tied for second in the Big Ten-West division with Minnesota and Wisconsin. In order to take the next step and win the division, they will need to be great.
2022 NFL Draft Prospects
- EDGE George Karlaftis, Round 1, No. 30, Kansas City Chiefs
- WR David Bell, Round 3, No. 99, Cleveland Browns
- FB Zander Horvath, Round 7, No. 260, Los Angeles Chargers
Notable Transfers In
- WR Tyrone Tracy (Iowa)
- CB Tee Denson (Kansas State)
- CB Reese Taylor (Indiana)
- DT Cole Brevard (Penn State)
Notable Transfers Out
- QB Jack Plummer (California)
- S Marvin Grant (Kansas)
- 9/1 vs. Penn State
- 9/10 vs. Indiana State
- 9/17 @ Syracuse
- 9/24 vs. FAU
- 10/1 @ Minnesota
- 10/8 @ Maryland
- 10/15 vs. Nebraska
- 10/22 @ Wisconsin
- 11/5 vs. Iowa
- 11/12 @ Illinois
- 11/19 vs. Northwestern
- 11/26 @ Indiana
Keys to 2022
Keep Winning Big Games
In 2021, the Boilermakers had one of the most difficult schedules in all of college football, playing top-12 opponents four times. They went 2-2 in those games, beating #2 Iowa and #5 Michigan State while losing to #12 Notre Dame and #6 Ohio State.
This year, they look to have a much easier schedule, avoiding all of Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. However, the road games at Minnesota and Wisconsin could prove very big on the road to the division championship. They’ll need to win these games to take another step this season.
Brand New Defense
Purdue’s defense goes through a massive overhaul this year. Not only do they lose star pass-rusher George Karlaftis to the NFL, but they also had to replace defensive coordinator Brad Lambert after one year of calling plays for the unit. Now, Ron English and Mark Hagen will serve as co-defensive coordinators in 2022.
As aforementioned, the Boilermakers were among the better defenses in the country last year, ranking 34th in points allowed per game. It will be interesting to see how this unit can improve this season.
My “Purple Player to Watch”
The Minnesota Vikings were connected on multiple occasions to pass-rusher George Karlaftis during the previous draft process, and I was personally hoping for a selection of receiver David Bell as he continued to fall down the draft board. Ultimately, the Vikings didn’t select any Boilermakers last year and haven’t done so since selecting Ray Edwards in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.
That may change in 2023 with the possibility of LB Jalen Graham heading to the NFL following this season. During Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s and Kevin O’Connell’s first draft this spring, the calling card continually was finding athletic, versatile defenders. Graham is a guy at LB that seems likehe would be a dream player for the new Vikings organization.
A former safety-converted-linebacker, Graham has plenty of ball skills in his pass coverage repertoire, but he also has the size to blanket bigger wide receivers as well as tight ends. Graham filled box scores last year, recording 64 tackles, four TFLs, a sack, a forced fumble, seven pass defenses, and two interceptions, including a pick-six.
Eric Kendricks has long been the anchor in the middle of Minnesota’s defense. After a down year in 2021, age may finally be catching up with the veteran linebacker. If the trend continues in 2022, Graham should be at the top of the Vikings draft radar in 2023.