Boilers' brutal stretch could be valuable

Purdue faces three difficult challenges ahead, but each could bring gains for the program's future.

Here it comes. This is the stretch of games Purdue fans have long been dreading.

Nebraska.

At Michigan State.

Ohio State.

For any Big Ten team, this three-game swing brings a tremendous challenge. But for a young Purdue team in the process of regrouping, it's absolutely brutal.

True freshman Danny Etling will make his first career start against Nebraska's vaunted Blackshirt defense. The young Boilermaker defense must slow down the Cornhuskers' high-flying ground attack. After that, a trip to East Lansing awaits Purdue, bringing another tough road test. And everything about the Buckeyes sounds scary.

The recent arrest and subsequent suspension for top wideout B.J. Knauf means more reps for youngsters like Danny Anthrop and the newly-healthy Dan Monteroso. They'll join an offense which already features freshmen like Dalyn Dawkins, Deangelo Yancey and Cameron Posey.

Purdue's defense has already seen its share of challenges (see the stat sheet from the Wisconsin game if you're not up to speed). But a bye week—offering the chance to rest and regroup—could be very helpful. The Boilermaker ‘D' is still lacking the workmanlike values head coach Darrell Hazell hopes to see. Maybe an extra week can guide it closer toward those goals.

On this stage, the Boilermakers build for the future. Etling and Purdue's fresh core will have to be something close to perfect in order to hang around in these three games. But in a season which is now all about progress, this could be valuable.

In facing a few of the Big Ten's best, Purdue can measure its young talent against elite competition. Coach Hazell can hope his team gains from its next three games.

Each play offers a chance for growth. Go up against top tier competition and give your best. The key for the young Boilermakers is to take what goes right or wrong and learn from it. This can be valuable experience.

Sorry, but don't judge these games by the scoreboard. Being brutally honest, even one win out of three seems unlikely. Instead, watch the little details of each play. See Etling's mechanics, Dawkins' footwork or Posey's route running. These three games offer an opportunity that could be beneficial.

The big billboards all around West Lafayette say "Reshape. Rebuild. Return." Right now, we're watching the ‘Reshape' part of the process. The Boilermakers are working toward playing the kind of football their coach hopes leads to Big Ten titles.

In order to reach the ‘Return' stage, there will be more of what the Boilermakers have shown in their first five games. This is an ongoing process, which Hazell hopes leads to the top. Finally, the young guns have been let loose. It's time to see what Purdue has for its future.

This daunting stretch of games will be a great challenge for Purdue, but it could bring some important gains.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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