Penn State entered the season with a seemingly depleted roster, a first-time head coach and low expectations, at least outside the program.
Purdue entered the season with supposedly its best team in the Danny Hope era, a roster stocked with returning starters and the label of sleeper team in the Leaders Division.
Three-fourths of the way through the fall, the two programs are in opposite places. Penn State, despite all the turmoil, is surging behind coach Bill O'Brien, while Purdue is an absolute disaster. The only label the Boilers have earned is: Big Ten's biggest disappointment.
After falling last week against Ohio State, Penn State resumed its winning ways with a dominant performance in a 34-9 win against Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Lions reclaimed the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and powered their way to their sixth victory of the season, recording a season-high 506 yards of offense. O'Brien's team is still alive for the Leaders Division championship, although it needs to win out and have Ohio State drop its final two games.
Penn State (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten) allowed first-quarter points for the first time this season, but did little else wrong in West Lafayette, scoring the final 34 points. Despite playing without injured tight end Kyle Carter, the Lions' pass attack surged as wideout Brandon Moseby-Felder had a career performance with six catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. Matt McGloin (321 pass yards, 2 TDs) became the first player in Penn State history to record five career 300-yard passing performances. More important, a Penn State team that coudn't rush the ball against Ohio State received good production in the power game, as the Z boys (Zach Zwinak and Michael Zordich) combined for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Zwinak (134 rush yards, 21 carries) established himself as the team's top running back with an impressive day.
The defense lost star tackle Jordan Hill to a knee sprain in the first half (it looked a lot worse), but bullied a Purdue offense that couldn't stretch the field while the outcome was still in doubt. Linebacker Gerald Hodges punished Boiler ball-carriers throughout the game, and Purdue didn't reach the end zone until the final play. Boilers quarterback Robert Marve, making his first start in a league game since he led Miami's offense against NC State in 2008, completed 18 passes in the first half ... for only 106 yards, an average of 5.9 yards per completion. Purdue continued a troubling pattern of a strong opening drive followed by a lot of nothing. As bad as the offense was, a defense featuring several future NFL players continued to fall flat.
Purdue (3-6, 0-5) has been blown out in four of five Big Ten games. Three have taken place at Ross-Ade, which looked barely half-full for most of the game. Athletic director Morgan Burke issued a statement Monday indicating no decisions on Hope would be made until after the season. But Hope's status is very much in doubt entering the final three games. Purdue needs to win out to reach its second consecutive bowl, and while the slate isn't overly taxing -- Iowa, Illinois, Indiana -- the Boilers seem to have flat-lined.
Penn State, meanwhile, returns to the road -- where it has been brilliant in league play -- next week at Nebraska.