Western Michigan (0-0) at Purdue (0-0) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ross-Ade Stadium (57,236) - Purdue, Michigan. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: WMU 0-0, Purdue 0-0. Away Record: WMU 0-0, Purdue 0-0. Neutral Record: WMU 0-0, Purdue 0-0. Conference Record: WMU 0-0, Purdue 0-0. Series Record: Purdue leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: The Purdue Boilermakers and Western Michigan Broncos kick off their seasons Saturday when they take the field at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Both schools are coming off one-win 2013 campaigns and might be in for continued tough times this years.
The Boilermakers, led by second-year head coach Darrell Hazell, are one of the youngest teams in the nation. Purdue ranks seventh in the country with 70 of the 101 players on the roster being red-shirt sophomores or younger. The Boilermakers could be starting as many as 15 underclassmen on Saturday, including sophomores Danny Etling at quarterback and DeAngelo Yancey at wide receiver.
Etling, the fourth different opening day starting QB in as many years for the Boilermakers, started the final seven games of the 2013 campaign under center. He completed 55.8 percent of his passes (149-of-267) for 1,690 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Etling's top target will also be key. Yancey led the team in receiving yards last season as a true freshman with 546 yards. His total was also good enough for 13th among FBS freshmen. However, keeping Etling upright could be a challenge. The Boilermakers have the ninth-least experienced offensive line in the country. Junior center Robert Kugler has the most starts 19, while sophomores Jason King adds six and Jordan Roos has five career starts. Sophomores J.J. Prince and Cameron Cermin are expected to be making their first career starts on the O-line. While that might be nice for the future, it could mean a tough going in 2014.
On the defensive side of the ball, the backfield is the most experienced for Purdue. Despite losing the No. 2 all-time interception leader in program history in Ricardo Allen to the NFL, the Boilermaker secondary is one of the most experienced units on the team. Junior safety Frankie Williams has 16 starts and four interceptions to his credit. Meanwhile, senior safety Landon Feichter has made 17 career starts, despite missing six games a year ago with an injury, and has five career interceptions. Feichter however, will miss the first half of the opener for disciplinary reasons.
Junior cornerback Anthony Brown has started 10 straight games and has appeared in 22 games during his first two seasons. Unfortunately, Brown led the team in tackles last year with 69 and that might not change this season, as the defensive front is still a young group for Purdue.
While the Boilermakers' program has struggle recently, they have won 10 straight home openers and 16 of the last 17. The 10-game home opener streak is the longest in program history, beating the nine-game streak from 1889 to 1897. Purdue has also won two of its last three season openers and eight of its last 10, going 86-36-4 in home openers and 74-46-6 in season openers all- time. The Boilermakers are 40-10-1 all-time against teams currently in the MAC.
Western Michigan's dismal 1-11 overall record in 2013 doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. In the first week of the 2013 season, WMU held tough with Michigan State for a chunk of the contest before falling, and trailed Northwestern 10-7 midway through the second quarter before the Wildcats broke open the doors for the win.
The offense averaged just 17.2 ppg and the defense surrendered 35.4 ppg to opponents, but head coach P.J. Fleck returns for his second season at the helm of the program, and will work with a contingency of returning starters to try and turn the program around.
Nine offensive starters return for the Broncos heading into the 2014 season, which is a fantastic start for a team looking to get off the ground. However, Western Michigan had the strongest recruiting class in the MAC, and pulled in some talent in the offseason. That could be reflected in potential starting lineup changes early on.
Returning quarterback Zach Terrell had 1,602 passing yards and eight touchdowns, but true freshman Chance Stewart may in fact get some work. The running back battle may be lost by an incumbent as well. Dareyon Chance led the Broncos last season with 729 rushing yards and added three touchdowns, but he's expected to get a heavy push from freshman Jarvion Franklin.
As of early this week, Fleck still hasn't announced his starters.
Defensively, only five starters are returning. Leading tackler Justin Currie is back, but he's one of just three players returning that made up the top eight in terms of tackles a year ago.
While these two schools don't have much of a history against each other, Hazell and Fleck have history together. Hazell and Fleck were on the same staff at Ohio State in 2006, with Hazell as assistant head coach and wide receivers coach, while Fleck was a graduate assistant. Hazell is also 1-0 as a head coach against the Broncos, beating Western Michigan while at Kent State in 2012, 41-24. That was Fleck?s first season at the school.
Purdue leads the all-time series against the Broncos, 3-0. The last time these two schools met was in the 2011 Little Caesars Bowl, which Purdue won, 37-32. Expect Purdue to continue it home opening win streak, but Western Michigan could make a game of it.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Purdue 35, Western Michigan 27.Game Date and Time
Saturday, August 30, 12 p.m. (ET).