Jeff Brohm was born and raised in Louisville and has followed in the footsteps of Bobby Petrino for the better part of a decade, so it only seems appropriate he would begin his new job at Purdue facing his alma mater and mentor. With the help of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, Petrino looks to make life rough for his former assistant Saturday when his 17th-ranked Cardinals meet the Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Brohm, who was the starting quarterback for Louisville from 1991-93, served as Petrino’s quarterback coach with the Cardinals from 2003-06 and again in 2013 at Western Kentucky, which went 30-10 in three years under Brohm following Petrino’s return to Louisville in 2014. His first assignment with the Boilermakers: figure out a way to slow down Jackson, who averaged 393.4 yards per game of total offense and accounted for 51 touchdowns in 2016 - both ACC single-season records - en route to becoming the youngest player to win the Heisman. The Cardinals’ offense fell off considerably late in the year, leading to a three-game losing streak, so Petrino and Jackson should be plenty motivated to recapture the same form that saw Louisville average 49.6 points during its 9-1 start. Brohm will be tasked with turning around a Purdue program that lost its final seven contests in 2016, has not won more than three games in a season since 2013 and posted only one winning record since 2007.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox. LINE: Louisville -24.5.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (2016: 9-4): Jackson has bulked up from 199 to 212 pounds, but he may have taken even larger strides mentally, according to quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino: “He made a commitment over the summer to improve on it and it’s shown out there. He’s seeing things out there that he never saw (before).” Junior Jaylen Smith and sophomore Seth Dawkins will be among the group of pass-catchers who will need to replace the 131 catches, 2,052 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns left behind by the departures of their top three receivers (James Quick, Cole Hikutini and Jamari Staples). Jeremy Smith (382 yards, six TDs) is set to replace second-leading rusher Brandon Radcliff and complement Jackson as Louisville attempts to improve on its 13th-place finish in rushing offense (242.2 yards per game).
ABOUT PURDUE (2016: 3-9): Brohm still has yet to name a starting quarterback, although junior David Blough - who returned to practice Sunday after missing two weeks with a shoulder injury - is considered the frontrunner after leading the Big Ten in passing yards per game (279.3) and passing touchdowns (25) last season. The Boilermakers lost top receiver DeAngelo Yancey to the NFL Draft in the spring, but they do boast a strong tight end combination of Cole Herdman and Brycen Hopkins, whose four receiving touchdowns in 2016 are the most for any returning FBS tight end. Grant Hermanns is expected to get the start at left tackle in the opener, making him the first freshman since Mike Otto in 2003 to do so.
1. The Cardinals rushed for a school-record 3,148 yards (including a school-record 1,571 from Jackson) and 37 touchdowns (21 from Jackson) last season.
2. Blough is one of only six FBS quarterbacks to throw for at least one touchdown in his last 12 outings.
3. The teams played to a 22-22 tie in their only other meeting back in 1987.
PREDICTION: Louisville 49, Purdue 14