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Optimism at Purdue as Michigan looms

It says something about the recent state of Purdue football that a road victory over arguably the worst team in the SEC may have the program in the most optimistic place it's been in a decade.

But last week's 35-3 shellacking of Missouri has the campus buzzing with anticipation heading into this week's home date with No. 8 Michigan.

Purdue enters with a 2-1 record, the only loss being against a Louisville team that the Boilermakers had on the ropes throughout. The defense broke through with a dominating performance against a heretofore strong Missouri offense, and the Boilermakers looked polished and precise when it had the ball.

Most expected coach Jeff Brohm to come in and replicate the pass-happy offense he'd exhibited at Western Kentucky. But part of the reason for the Boilermakers' early success is the coaching staff's willingness to bend the game-plan to the talent he has.

"I'd love to be able to come in here and throw it every play. We're just not ready for that," Brohm said. "That's not our team right now. I think we're going to continue to get better passing the football, pass protecting, finding some go-to players."

The offense will have its biggest test of the season against a Wolverine defense that ranks fifth in the country in total defense. Brohm is under no illusions as to what he faces.

"Well, always early in the week you watch. You're like, Holy cow, how are we going to score a point? I'm at that stage right now," Brohm said.

"You've got to win some one-on-one matchups. That's not only getting open, but in pass protection. They're bringing a lot of guys, bringing them from all over. They're making it a little more confusing than in the past because they're more multiple in their looks. You got to hit some of them. You have to find a way to make some plays."

Purdue is expecting a sellout crowd on Saturday, a sign that the expectations surrounding the program have changed. After four seasons in a row with three or fewer wins, Boilermaker fans are starting to dream of an earlier-than-expected return to a bowl game.

"I think week one, probably played a little bit closer than a lot of people thought. I think our guys gained some confidence. We came out in the second week and had a good showing. Then the third week against a good opponent on the road, we raised up to the challenge and did a very good job," Brohm said.

"In these type of games (against Michigan), you have to go in internally believing that you can get it done. You've got to be willing to fight the entire game. You have to be able to do the small things and not beat yourself so that you can get in the second half and be close. Then if you can do that, a few things go your way, you never know."

--QB David Blough is coming off two strong games in a row. He was dominant in the first half against Missouri, completing 15 of 17 pass attempts with the only blemishes a dropped pass and a sack-avoiding throwaway.

--WR Jackson Anthrop, a redshirt freshman, has scored a touchdown in each of his first three games.

--CB Da'Wan Hunte's availability for the Michigan game is uncertain. He was injured in the Missouri game but is experienced enough that he may get snaps on the weekend even if he's limited in practice.

--RB Markell Jones missed his second game in a row with a knee injury. Though there is a chance he'll be able to play this weekend, the better bet is that he'll return for the next game against Minnesota, which follows the Purdue bye week.