The Five Spot: No. 5 — Purdue

August 4, 2015 by Derek Redd

With Marshall football practice kicking off Friday, it’s time to discuss some of the aspects of the 2015 season that could prove to become the most crucial to the Thundering Herd’s success. Let’s call it the Five Spot — five names, games, facts or figures to keep an eye on heading into the schedule.

So why not begin at the beginning?

I tried searching “Purdue football 2014 highlights” on YouTube, and couldn’t find any season highlight packages. Might that have a little to do with a 3-9 overall record, a 1-7 Big Ten record, an offense that ranked 98th in points scored and a defense that ranked 99th in points allowed? Perhaps. Head coach Darrell Hazell could use a better finish in 2015, considering his name has made at least one hot-seat list.

Marshall last faced the Boilermakers in Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. in 2012. Some will remember this being the game that two Rakeem Cato pick-sixes on consecutive drives proved to be the difference in a 51-41 loss. Others will remember this game as the one where Doc Holliday stood too close to the sideline and had a side judge bowl into him, cutting his face on a piece of the official’s equipment and making him look like Dusty Rhodes after a 60-minute draw with Abdullah the Butcher at the Omni.

RIP, American Dream. Give Roddy Piper a hug when he comes through the pearly gates.

RIP, American Dream. Give Roddy Piper a hug when he comes through the pearly gates.

This game is crucial for both teams. Purdue probably needs to win this game to keep the vultures from circling Hazell and scanning for buyout clauses in his contract. The Herd’s return to the conversation of Group of Five contenders for an access bowl likely hinges on this game.

As the Herd pulverized nearly everyone in front of it last season, it watched East Carolina and Boise State jump ahead of it in the CFP committee’s top 25. The constant criticism? A weak schedule. Marshall was supposed to host Louisville, but that game got pushed to 2016 and Rhode Island was scheduled in its place.

This Purdue game helps eliminate that argument, but the Boilermakers were picked last in their division in the recent Big Ten preseason poll, and received the fewest points of any team in the process. Sure, Marshall’s playing a Big Ten team, but this is one the Herd has to beat. Fall in the opener, and the Herd probably won’t break out of the Conference USA bowl menu.

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