Behind Enemy Lines: A Q&A With Hammer And Rails

Pat Lovell-US PRESSWIRE

Purdue's SB Nation Blog joins us for this week's Q&A.

Are you ready everyone? The biggest Big Ten game of the week, nay the year is coming up on Saturday. Can you feel the excitement yet? Can you?

To prepare for all the action, we are joined by Travis Miller, site manager for Hammer and Rails.

1. What the hell happened to Purdue this season? Everyone knew they would struggle, but they are worse than the 2012 Illini, and I didn't think that was possible.

The biggest issue is the offensive line, which from day 1 could not open holes in the running game or protect the quarterback. Even in the season opener at Cincinnati it was a 7-7 game just before halftime, but Cincinnati scored, got the ball to start the second half, scored again, the offense went three and out, they scored again, then had a pick 6.

It has been downhill ever since. Brandon Cottom and Akeem Hunt came into the season each averaging better than 7 yards per carry, but the line has done them no favors at all. Henry, a running QB, didn't fit the system, and Etling has had to battle freshman mistakes while running for his life. Since the offense can't move the ball, the defense wilts and wears down. Against Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Iowa Purdue was at least competitive until falling apart in the third and fourth quarters, mostly because the offense was doing nothing.

To be fair, Purdue has played five of the best defenses in the country (Cincinnati, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all are top 10 nationally), but Illinois has played four of them and still scored some points.

2. I think Darrell Hazell is a good hire; he just needs time. How patient can Purdue fans be with him. At Illinois, we had people calling for Beckman to be fired after one season. How about with Hazell?

I think there will be some patience, but when the majority of the players that went to a bowl game two years in a row were back and been so awful that patience will be tested. Yes, Purdue has possibly played the toughest schedule in the country because every FBS team it has played is bowl eligible, two are undefeated, and four could go to BCS bowls, but criminy, we expected to at least be competitive in those games.

The one getting most of the flack is John Shoop. The Bears fan contingent of the Purdue fan base has been like, "SEE! HE SUCKS!" all season long.

3. Purdue is actually one of the Big Ten schools I despise the most. I had a bad experience with the fans in 2011 when I went to the game, and Purdue chooses to employ Matt Painter. How do Purdue fans feel about Illinois?

We're pretty indifferent, probably because the schools have similar athletic success, battle for recruits, and the academic make up is similar. Yes, this is a rivalry game, but it is not as heated as Indiana or Notre Dame. We even hate Ohio State a little more, mostly because the bizarre hex we had over them before this year was fun to tease them with.

4. What players should we look out for on Offense? Defense?

We have players to look out for? That's news to me.

Well, I am going to choose Cody Webster, our punter who we have seen way too much of. It turns out he is actually pretty good and is a semifinalist for the Guy Award.

Freshman receiver Deangelo Yancey has been impressive as a deep threat for Purdue, while on defense Ricardo Allen is a man on an island. He is probably the best player by far on a pretty bad defense.

5. If two football teams play, but no one is there to see it, did it really happen?

I am going because hey, someone HAS to win. Both fanbases are pretty emo at the moment. One will feel better Saturday around 3:30. The other will be like, "We're so bad we lost to them?"

6. I am going to the game this weekend with some of my college buddies. Any places we should be sure to check out?

I have an entire extensive Game Day guide to West Lafayette you can use. The only place I would add for you is the Beef House at Exit 4 on the Indiana side of the border on Interstate 74. Get a nice steak and some rolls. You're welcome.

7. Prediction?

I think we're going to see a good competitive game where both teams are hungry for a victory. It might be one of those erase the records and from afar it actually looks pretty good because the teams are more evenly matched than the ones they have been playing. I think it is Purdue's best chance of winning a game, mostly because the Indiana offense against our defense terrifies me. That said, I have seen our offense. If there is one offense you guys can stop, it is ours.

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Thanks again to Travis for answering out questions. Be sure to check out Hammer and Rails for news on the Boilermakers for Saturday's matchup.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room and Like us on Facebook. You can follow Brandon Birkhead on Twitter at @BrandonBirkhead.

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