Notre Dame 2021 Schedule Countdown: No. 9, Purdue
This is the fourth in our 12-part series where we count down Notre Dame’s 2021 strength of schedule by how we view the degree of difficulty, from 12 to 1. At No. 9 is longtime rival state rival Purdue on Sept. 18 visiting Notre Dame Stadium.
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm — 49-35 overall (.583): Entering 5th season at Purdue, where he is 19-25.
Brohm was 30-10 in his three seasons at Western Kentucky from 2014-16.
Recruiting Rankings: 2017-21
2017 (68th), 2018 (49th), 2019 (26th), 2020 (30th), 2021 (76th)
2020 Record: 2-4
The abbreviated campaign began with promise after a 24-20 upset of No. 15 Iowa, and then defeating Illinois to start 2-0.
A 27-20 loss to No. 14 Northwestern was then followed by a controversial 34-31 setback at Minnesota in which a late Purdue touchdown was wiped out by an egregiously bad call. That appeared to take the sails out of the rest of the season with losses to Rutgers and Nebraska, two other teams that finished under .500.
Did You Know…
Purdue’s 26 victories against Notre Dame are the third most by any school, behind USC (37) and Michigan State (29).
However, since 1970, the Fighting Irish are 19-2 versus the Boilermakers at home. The two programs met annually from 1946-2014, with the Irish winning the last seven from 2008-14 before the series was halted when Notre Dame had to alter its scheduling model after joining the ACC as a partial football member in 2014.
2021 Capsule Summary
Over the past two seasons, Jack Plummer (who is not the son of former NFL quarterback Jake “The Snake” Plummer) and Aidan O’Connell have been in a time-share at quarterback, and will vie for the full-time starting role again.
Each started three games during the six-game season last year, Plummer completing 71 percent of his passes for 938 yards and eight touchdowns, while O’Connell completed his tosses at a 64.7 percent clip for 916 yards and seven touchdowns.
Whoever is tossing it, he will have one of the nation’s premier receivers in David Bell, who averaged 104 yards receiving last season with eight scores in six games. Had Rondale Moore not turned pro, Purdue would have featured one of the nation’s most potent 1-2 punches at receiver. South Bend native Zander Horvath returns at running back after averaging 105 yards total offense per game in 2020.
The line is veteran with four starters returning and adding three-year Western Kentucky starter and grad transfer Tyler Witt.
Where Purdue needs to establish an identity is the other side of the ball, where three new coaches have been hired. The most notable is co-coordinator Brad Lambert from Marshall, whose Thundering Herd led the nation last season in scoring defense (13.0 per game) during a 7-3 season.
Lambert replaces 2010-13 Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who was let go after only one season and six game while the unit permitted 29.8 points per game and 65.6 percent of passes completed. Brohm also hired defensive line coach Mark Hagen from Texas and Florida’s Ron English to mentor the secondary.
Headlining the defense is end George Karlaftis, who two years ago recorded 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks and joined Bell as a Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American. Last year he was sidelined with a game 2 leg injury before contracting the coronavirus.
Why 9th Among 12 In Countdown
This is a pivotal year for Brohm to demonstrate that in year 5 his program is on the right trajectory. His first two seasons began with a bowl win his inaugural year, and in his second season (2018) the Boilermakers crushed Urban Meyer’s No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes by a 49-20 count to win their fourth game in a row. It was OSU’s lone defeat during a 13-1 campaign.
But the Boilermakers sputtered to a 2-4 finish that year, finished 4-8 in 2019 and then had a late-collapse last year too, finishing with four straight defeats. A fourth straight losing season — 6-7, 4-8 and 2-4 the past three — would be most unsettling and often results in an ouster at a Power 5 school.
Purdue has a long history as the “Spoilermakers,” pulling upsets when least expected, from No. 2 Ohio State in 2018 to a long line of shockers against the Irish. It also signed top 30 recruiting classes in 2019 and 2020 which needs to come to the forefront. Could they be the ones to end Notre Dame’s current 24-game winning streak at home?
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