Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Purdue head coach Danny Hope holds a bachelor's degree in psychology, but he's not going to spend too much time trying to get inside the minds of the Oregon Ducks.
How Oregon responds from a poor performance against Boise State and an embarrassing incident after the game that led to star running back LeGarrette Blount being suspended for the season is the big question entering Saturday's clash with the Boilermakers (Fox Sports Net, 10:15 p.m. ET). Hope sees two possible outcomes.
"It can create some distractions with all the media interest and all the stuff that goes with it," Hope said. "And then a lot of times, it can cause you to bond together even stronger. I’m sure when we get to Eugene, they’ll have their A-game."
Purdue defensive coordinator Donn Landholm reviewed the Oregon-Boise State tape, but unlike most observers, he was more interested in what took place during the game than in the moments after the final gun.
Landholm doesn't think Oregon will miss a beat on offense without Blount, especially since the Ducks regularly stockpile running backs. He also expects Oregon to come out hot, though the Boise tape provided clues on how to shut down the potent spread offense. The Broncos held Oregon to 14 yards, no first downs and no points in the opening half.
"Any time you look at people that do similar things that you do defensively, you try to learn from those things," Landholm said. "So we certainly have been looking at the Boise game and trying to see what they did and what made them so successful against Oregon."
Landholm didn't have the benefit of tape last week against Toledo, which brought in a new coaching staff and changed the offensive system. Purdue shut down the Rockets' run game but missed too many tackles and allowed 31 points and 423 pass yards in a 52-31 win.
A more polished effort will be needed against Oregon.
"They're on the cutting edge of that system," Landholm said of the Ducks. "What makes it so tough is you have to be able to handle the dive and the quarterback and a pitch player, and then the passing game as well as all that. You do have to be good in space. Everybody has to be assignment sound, so they really do test you."
Purdue's defense held Oregon in check for much of last year's game in West Lafayette, a contest the Boilers had multiple chances to win. The big difference Saturday will be Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who didn't appear in last year's game.
"Very dynamic player," Landholm said. "Very good arm, runs the ball very well, and you can tell that he’s a heady player as well because he can get himself out of some jams and make plays when a play breaks down.”
Added Hope: "He can do it all."
Landholm will lean heavily on his veteran secondary Saturday night, and Purdue also must generate pressure on Masoli from seasoned defensive linemen Ryan Kerrigan and Mike Neal. Redshirt freshman tackle Kawann Short is one of the young defenders who stood out to Landholm in the Toledo game, and Landholm expects continued progress from his linebackers.
Last year's loss to Oregon took place in Week 2, but in many ways it set the course for a disappointing Boilermakers season. The players haven't forgotten.
"I don't want to talk about it," cornerback Brandon King said with a smile when we spoke last month. "It is what it is. They won, but we didn't finish. [If Purdue had won], maybe our mentality would be different."