The week leading up to the bowl selection was a wild one at Purdue, with rumors surrounding coach Jeff Brohm's future at the school as well as countless speculation at the possible bowl destinations. Ultimately, the Boilermakers got good news on one front, and mixed news on the other.
Brohm is staying at Purdue, which is the good news. He was rumored to be a candidate for the Tennessee job, and how close he came to taking it depends on which source you listen to, but ultimately that effort by the Vols failed. It's a big win for Purdue fans, since Brohm exceeded expectations in his first year at the helm, turning a Big Ten laughingstock into a bowl team. In doing so, he maintained his perfect record for postseason bids he earned a bowl bid in each of his three seasons at Western Kentucky, and now he's one-for-one at Purdue.
As to where that bowl is ... well, that's more of a downer in that it will mean increased travel bills for the Boilermaker faithful. Purdue will go to Santa Clara, Calif., to play Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl on December 27. It's a fun matchup, but a long trip for the Boilermaker faithful to make around the holidays.
"Bowl games are a lot of fun to play in, and without question it's a testament to the hard work that your team has put in," Brohm said. "Our guys will be excited about this opportunity. It's been a long time coming. We'll enjoy the time in San Francisco. Our guys will enjoy finding a way to go out there and compete at a high level on a big stage, and hopefully we can find a way to win."
Those fans who do show up in California should be in for a treat. Arizona plays a spread offense under Rich Rodriguez, and Khalil Tate can make noise with his arm and with his legs. But the Wildcats don't really defend anybody, and have allowed more than 35 points in five of its last six games. In its nine Pac-12 games, the fewest points the Wildcats allowed was 28.
Purdue's games have looked very different surprising given Brohm's history as a strong offensive coach. While his Western Kentucky teams were high-octane offenses, he doesn't have those kind of players at the start of his Purdue career.
As a result, the Boilermakers tend to win games by playing strong defense and doing just enough offensively to win. Elijah Sindelar split time at quarterback with David Blough until Blough's late-season injury, and the Boilermakers have a lot of depth in the backfield. Four different backs have 43 or more carries. But the wide receivers have struggled all year with dropped passes, and those kind of drive-killers will be tough to overcome if they happen against the Wildcats.
Watch for a more aggressive Purdue offense than was evident in the second half of the season. The team lost four of five midway through the Big Ten slate, and Brohm noted several times during that stretch that perhaps his offense was being a little too conservative, too focused on preventing turnovers and therefore missing opportunities. The wins over Iowa and Indiana not only got the Boilermakers to a bowl game, they showed that the offense can take more chances and still succeed.
The Boilermakers started their season against a high-powered offense, Louisville and 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Purdue lost that game, 35-38, but it served notice that this wasn't the same Purdue team that spent all of 2016 in the conference basement. It's poetic that the season will end against a similar team, with an opportunity to build more buzz for the program heading into 2018.