The Purdue and Michigan football programs are heading in opposite directions.
The Wolverines are a young group with a first-year coach. Purdue is an experienced team with a veteran coach who’s retiring after this season.
But there are similarities between the teams, too. Michigan is on a four-game losing streak. Purdue’s skid is at five games.
It’s a match made in Big Ten mediocrity.
But in the buildup to kickoff tomorrow at noon in West Lafayette, few seem to care about the two storied programs’ struggles. Most of the media coverage has centered on an offseason comment with no bearing on how the game will play out.
On National Signing Day in February, wide receiver recruitRoy Roundtree signed to play at Michigan even though he had verbally committed to Purdue. The late switch angered Purdue coach Joe Tiller, who was entering his finals season as coach of the Boilermakers.
“If we had an early signing date, you wouldn’t have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that’s what happened,” Tiller said to the Indianapolis Star.
Both Tiller and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez have had to answer plenty of questions about the statement this week, and both agree it’s been blown out of proportion.
“We had a good laugh about that at the Big Ten meetings,” Rodriguez said. “Joe and I had been friends and have gone on that apparel trip, his wife and my wife, for five or six years and always had a great time. We got a nice chuckle out of that at the Big Ten meetings.”
In his weekly teleconference, Rodriguez said he looks forward to seeing Tiller tomorrow, but doesn’t expect snake oil or either team’s disappointing season to come up in conversation. Instead, he said they will likely talk about their families.
If they were to talk about their team’s season, the conversation wouldn’t be very positive.
Michigan (1-3 Big Ten, 2-6 overall) ranks ninth in the Big Ten in total defense, and Purdue (0-4, 2-6) is dead last that category. The Boilermakers rank ninth in the conference in total offense, and the Wolverines are 11th of 11 teams at moving the ball.
On paper, it’s an even matchup, and Michigan players are expecting a tough game in what could be their best shot to pick up a win the rest of this season.
“I look for Purdue to come out fighting this game,” senior defensive end Tim Jamison said. “They’re a great, veteran team. Our back is against the wall, we come out fighting.”
Jamison said if Michigan finally puts four quality quarters together tomorrow and picks up a win, it could be the launching pad the team needs to run off four wins, end the season at .500 and have an outside shot at a bowl game. The reality is, the Wolverines are likely to be underdogs the rest of the way through the schedule.
The struggles have been difficult for players and coaches all season, but they may actually help Rodriguez this recruiting season.
“One positive in recruiting is that guys can see that, ‘Hey, maybe I can make an impact and help them get it turned around,’ ” Rodriguez said.
How’s that for snake oil?