Originally posted on The B1g Time  |  Last updated 10/3/12
In the race for the Leaders division common thought heading into the season was that it was Wisconsin and Wisconsin only that will represent them in the Big Ten Championship game. Sure, some had Purdue as a dark horse candidate, but they weren't the choice to win it by the vast majority of media and talking heads like us. Fast forward to Week 6 of the season and perhaps it's time to look at Purdue as a front runner and not an afterthought in the race for the Leaders division, let alone representing the division in Indianapolis on December 1st. So be warned, sleep on the Boilermakers at your own peril. This team is good, damn good. Yes, that's right, I'm saying Purdue could be the best team in the division regardless of who is or isn't eligible to go to Indy in December. Sure, you could say that's a bit presumptuous of me, especially since they haven't played a single game of football in the Big Ten. But, that's how the schedule has played out so far. We can only go by what we've seen on the field and what I've seen from Purdue tells me this is one heck of a good football team.  Yes, Ohio State is undefeated, but they've been hanging by a thread, mainly the health of Braxton Miller, for quite some time now and at some point the insane amount of punishment he's taking will cost that team a game. It's nearly happened for three straight weeks now.  Purdue does have a loss, but it's a loss to a very strong Notre Dame team and it was on the road, so I'll give them a pass for now on that test. However, taking a look at Purdue in 2012 and you'll see a team that has the hallmarks of a team capable of winning the conference in what could easily be described as a down year. The biggest reason is unlike the vast majority of teams in the Big Ten, they can actually score a ton of points. Through 4 games this season they are averaging 42.5 points a game, 2nd to only Nebraska's 44.8 average in the conference. On average this is a team outscoring it's opponents by 22 points a game, or just over three touchdowns a contest. I don't know about you, but that's quite a bit of leeway to play with if you're the Purdue defense.  Also this team ranks 4th in total offense (463.5 yards/game), 4th in rushing offense (201.5 yards/game), and 2nd in passing offense (262 yards/game).  Lest you think this team is just offense - the defense is pretty decent as well. They are giving up just 20.8 points a game, and are 4th in rushing defense (105.2 yards/game). Even in the 20-17 loss to Notre Dame the Boilermakers didn't play bad. Sure, they gave up a ton of yardage passing (324 yards) but they also were forcing three fumbles (recovering one) and the yards passing had to be high because the Irish weren't running the ball on Purdue either, going for just 52 yards on the ground. Perhaps the biggest reason why this team is successful so far and why they could well be the biggest challenge to Ohio State for the top spot in the Leaders division is the play of quarterback Caleb TerBush.  TerBush was just about everyone's favorite punching bag when talking about the Boilermakers coming into 2012, myself included, but boy has he stepped it up big time so far. He's completed a respectable 63.8% of his passes for 531 yards and 7 touchdowns in his three games started. The only thing that's killing him is the fact he's also got 4 interceptions. But, that's who TerBush is, he's a high risk, high reward kind of QB. Purdue is a team full of names that aren't household but should be in Akeem Hunt, Akeem Shavers, O.J. Ross, and Antavian Edison and that's just on offense. Defensively they feature perhaps the best defensive lineman in the conference in Kawann Short (9 tackles, 7tfl's, 4 sacks) as well as names like Will Lucas, Ricardo Allen, and Josh Johnson - all names you should know and not sleep on. The question is do we really know a lot about this team after a less than difficult non-conference schedule? What we do know is that Purdue makes their Big Ten debut and they can make a big statement one way or the other as they take on Michigan. Win and Purdue validates the thinking of some, lose and it's just another case of a bad non-conference schedule fooling us all. I don't see it being the later as what I have seen is vastly different from last year to this year, so sleep on Purdue if you want, but don't be surprised to see them down in Indy come December 1st, 2012 playing for the Big Ten Championship.
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THE B1G TIME

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