August 15, 2008
I don't know what's going on in his personal life, but in terms of people saying nice things about him, Curtis Painter's had a pretty nice summer: Mel Kiper anointed him the top senior quarterback prospect in next year's draft; Phil Steele rated him No. 2, just behind the Tebow Child, on his list of the best quarterbacks in the country; and Big Ten coaches made Painter the triggerman on their preseason all-conference team, along with most of the national magazines. Painter's got the size, the arm and the raw numbers -- if you believe the hype, kid's a star.
Not surprisingly, Purdue's media staff certainly thinks so, or at least it wants you think so. Hence the launch of CurtisPainter12.com, to officially promote Painter's candidacy for that trophy (you know, the big one they give out every December for something or other). The site includes a video that hypes the Big Ten records within Painter's reach -- attempts, completions and yards -- and includes well-wishes from Drew Brees, who walked away from Purdue with all the records and led the Boilers to a Big Ten championship: "I hope he walks away from Purdue with all the records and leads them to a Big Ten championship."
Like most people who've actually watched young Curtis in a meaningful game, the rest of Drew's quote was probably something along the lines of "...but I'm not holding my breath."
On the records, maybe: Purdue throws, like, a lot, because its receivers can run by weak MAC secondaries outside of the conference and it doesn't have the talent on the line or in the backfield to make much out of the running game within the conference. So, yes, Painter will fling the ball enough to set new standards for number of balls flung, and for the yardage that goes with that distinction.
In context, though, the hype remains thoroughly mystifying. To say Purdue has struggled against decent teams is a gross understatement -- since October 2004, the Boilermakers have lost 16 straight games against non-MAC teams that finished above .500, by increasingly wider margins -- and Painter has been at the forefront of that trend:
Not only has he never started in a victory over a Big Ten team (or any team from a BCS conference) that finished with a winning record, but against any defense that even qualifies as "decent," Painter has been demonstrably awful. In fact, the numbers here are slightly skewed by late, meaningless touchdowns in the final seconds of last year's blowout losses to Michigan and Ohio State. Excluding those scores, the Boilermakers' relevant scoring the last two years against the Big Ten's "big four" -- OSU, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin -- has amounted to 3, 0, 0, 7 and 19 points, respectively, or just under six points per game. The only facet of Painter's game that's improved against competent opponents is his interception percentage, which suggests the offensive philosophy gets more conservative, i.e. it tries to protect him, which is not usually how otherwise overmatched teams operate when they can lean on one of the best passers in the country.
This year's schedule includes Northern Colorado and Central Michigan in the first three games and Northwestern, Minnesota and Indiana down the road, give or take a couple of wild cards (Notre Dame, Michigan State, possibly Oregon) that could go either way in the secondary. So Painter will get his numbers again, and should be the favorite to pace the conference again for yards and touchdowns. But with the Ducks, Irish, Nittany Lions and Buckeyes in the first six games, Purdue should be no better than 3-3 by mid-October, and maybe by then we can catch a break from Painter hype. But I wouldn't hold my breath.
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Photo of Painter via US Presswire.