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Louisville Cardinals vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction

Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson

This game will have a bit of a familiar feel to it for new Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm.

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The former Western Kentucky head coach is a Louisville native who both played his college ball with the Cardinals and served as the program's quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach from 2003-08.

But as he prepares for his inaugural game coaching the Boilermakers, he has the task of stopping last year's Heisman Trophy winner and the sport's most electric playmaker in Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

This game, which will be played at the home of the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium, has the makings of a blowout, but if Brohm can bring any of the magic he had with the Hilltoppers, with whom compiled a 30-10 record in three years, maybe this could be a little more interesting than at first glance.

Louisville vs. Purdue (Indianapolis)

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Louisville -25

Three Things to Watch

1. Jackson's back

There's always a reason to tune in when Jackson takes the field, and it will be interesting to see what Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino has in store for him this season. Jackson, who piled up 30 passing touchdowns and 21 on the ground last season, still has room for improvement, believe it or not. His completion percentage was only at 56.2 last year, and he'd like to get that into the 60-or-higher range going forward. He will have to do so with a largely new group of receivers, but Traveon Samuel (230 yards receiving in 2016) and Jaylen Smith (599) will be targets to lean on early. Reggie Bonnafon is a multi-purpose threat who can line up in the backfield or out wide, so look for Petrino to mix and match to find the best ways to get Jackson's Heisman Trophy defense going.

2. The new Purdue

For a while, Purdue was humming along nicely. With Joe Tiller at the helm, the Boilermakers went to bowl games in 10 out of 12 years. But since he retired in 2008, the program has gone downhill and needed another facelift. Enter Brohm, whose up-tempo style at Western Kentucky yielded strong results, and he will be counted on to do the same for a team that has won just three Big Ten games since 2013. It may be a little much to ask for an upset against an opponent the caliber of Louisville the first week, but Purdue is basically in a no-lose situation here as a massive underdog. If the Boilermakers can even make it slightly competitive, it will be seen as a step in the right direction for a program that hasn't had many as of late.

3. Big fella

Many of Louisville's struggles last year came as a result of breakdowns on the offensive line. This year, Petrino hired Mike Summers, an assistant on previous Petrino staffs, to coach that unit and act as co-offensive coordinator. One of the big — literally — pieces of that group is prized true freshman left tackle Mekhi Becton, who stands at 6-foot-7, 340 pounds. It's a lot of pressure to throw a freshman out at that position to open the season, but the Louisville staff clearly has confidence in him. No doubt the Purdue defense will look to challenge him early. Brohm likes his front seven; Gelen Robinson, who had five sacks last year, will slide in from end to tackle but should provide pressure from wherever he lines up. The Boilermakers' best shot at making stops Saturday night will come from collapsing the Louisville offensive line, so Becton and Co. will have to be on their game right away.

Final Analysis

There is enough inexperience around Lamar Jackson on offense to warrant some concern as to whether he can be as effective as last year. However, Bobby Petrino has recruited well, and the skill positions should be fine. The question is whether Mike Summers has patched up the issues up front. Purdue won't see another quarterback with Jackson's skill set all year, and catching up to his speed will be an adjustment. Even though Jeff Brohm's offenses are set up to go fast, one does not necessarily want to get into a track meet with Louisville. That said, if the Cardinals are sputtering early with all the new parts, the Boilermakers might hang around for a while. However, the prevailing wisdom should win out here, and Jackson is probably going to get off to the kind of start that will keep him in the Heisman discussion for the rest of the season.

College football rankings: Louisville

Prediction: Louisville 52, Purdue 24

— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.