- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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We're winding down the best case/worst case series, which we know you've enjoyed tremendously.
As a reminder, these are by no means predictions for the season. They are meant to illustrate the realistic potential highs and lows for a team's season, and any game-by-game breakdowns are more of a means to an end than anything else. And we're trying to have some fun here.
Next up is the Purdue Boilermakers, who have experienced more lows than highs in recent years but have a chance to take a step in Year 4 under Danny Hope.
The roar returns to Ross-Ade Stadium as Purdue gets back to its winning ways. Hope's claims about having his best Boilers team prove true, as Purdue puts it all together for a surprise title run. The veterans step up, new stars emerge, the major mental gaffes stop (and so do the off-field issues), the fans return and Purdue bangs the Big Bass Drum all the way to Indianapolis.
Purdue opens the season by thrashing Eastern Kentucky 45-6, and it could have been worse had Hope not called off the dogs to spare his alma mater additional shame. The Boilers then head to South Bend and stun a Notre Dame team still jet-lagged from its trip to Dublin the week before. Cornerback Ricardo Allen records a pair of pick-sixes against Irish quarterbacks, and NBC cameras forget to bleep Brian Kelly as his sideline tirade goes viral. Purdue carries the Shillelagh Trophy out of Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since 2004.
Easy wins follow against Eastern Michigan and Marshall before the Boilers open Big Ten play against Michigan. The game swings back and forth, going into a third overtime, which creates the night-game setting many Purdue fans desired. Forced to go for two points and the win, Caleb TerBush finds fellow quarterback Rob Henry in the back corner of the end zone for a 36-35 win. Fans storm the field. Purdue enters the top 20. Purdue fraternities require their members to grow mustaches. The Purdue Exponent discovers that football players Ishmael Arisitide and Henry actually won the student government election in April.
Purdue hosts Wisconsin for homecoming, and Drew Brees, enjoying a bye week, addresses the team before the game. The Boilers then dominate the Badgers, as Akeem Shavers outshines Montee Ball and Kawann Short records three sacks and a forced fumble in a 31-17 victory. Although Purdue stumbles the next week at Ohio State, it rebounds with an easy win at Minnesota. The school announces its remaining home games have sold out, and a capacity crowd watches Purdue shut out Penn State 24-0. Defensive end Ryan Russell, named one of college football's most entertaining tweeters earlier in the week by ESPN.com, records four sacks.
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, mired in a winless season, tries to regrow his mustache to be like Hope, who lands an endorsement deal with Remington trimmers. Purdue sweeps its final three games, clinching the Leaders division title by crushing Indiana 48-3. TerBush, Henry and Robert Marve all throw touchdown passes in the win.
Boiler Nation descends on Indy as Purdue faces Michigan State for the Big Ten title. Although the Boilers fall short, they land an at-large BCS berth and head to the Fiesta Bowl, where they beat Texas in a thriller. Season-ticket sales for 2013 surge. Athletic director Morgan Burke agrees to install permanent lights. Allen returns for his senior season. Indiana finishes 0-12. Hope, after starring in Remington commercials with Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds and Ron Jeremy, lands a top 10 recruiting class, which is only one-third Floridians.
The Boilers fall apart both on and off the field, backsliding in Hope's fourth season. The major mistakes plague Purdue early and often, and the team has no answers at the quarterback position. Fans flee and start a countdown to basketball season in late September.
Purdue needs a dramatic fourth-quarter rally to outlast Eastern Kentucky in the opener. After the game, Hope drones on about the Colonels and his time at EKU as a player and a coach. Reporters roll their eyes.
Reality arrives the following week in South Bend, as Notre Dame crushes the Boilers by three touchdowns. The Irish double-team Short and run at Purdue's backup middle linebacker, filling in for the suspended Dwayne Beckford. Theo Riddick piles up 250 rush yards in the victory.
Purdue suffers a hangover the following week and falls to Eastern Michigan. All three quarterbacks throw interceptions and the Eagles pull away in the fourth quarter as fans empty out of Ross-Ade.
After squeaking past Marshall, Purdue gets blown out in the Big Ten opener by Michigan, as Wolverines wide receiver Roy Roundtree, a one-time Boilers' recruit, torches Allen for 200 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Former Boilers coach Joe Tiller, who cut short a fishing trip to attend the game, throws snake oil on the Michigan team bus as it pulls away.
More ugly losses follow against Wisconsin and Ohio State as Purdue drops to 0-3 in Big Ten play. Indiana, meanwhile, improves to 6-2 and receives some votes in the polls. Hope shaves his 'stache in an attempt to reverse the losing.
After dropping a heartbreaker at Minnesota, Purdue returns home and falls to Penn State before a crowd of 21,000. The Purdue band performs without the Big Bass Drum, stolen by Indiana students and taken to Bloomington. Marve, upset with his lack of playing time, launches a Twitter tirade against the coaching staff. That night, police arrest four Boilers starters at Harry's.
The Boilers drop their final three games, including a 35-10 decision to Indiana in the Bucket game, Purdue's second straight home loss to the Hoosiers. Wilson, now sporting a well-manicured 'stache, lands the Remington endorsement deal, and leads his team to an Outback Bowl win.
Purdue finishes 2-10. Burke, despite pressure to make a change, grants Hope a 10-year contract and convinces university president Mitch Daniels never to install permanent lights at Ross-Ade. Season-ticket renewals plummet. Allen turns pro. Russell deactivates his Twitter account. Notre Dame wins the national championship.
More Best Case/Worst Case:
We're winding down the best case/worst case series, which we know you've enjoyed tremendously.As a reminder, these are by no means predictions for the season.