Outside of Ohio State, it’s hard to definitively say what’s real and what’s Iowa in the Big 10. The conference has had six teams ranked in the top 10 — Penn State twice, Iowa twice, Michigan and Michigan State — lose over the past five weeks. Two of those six upsets have come at (and due to) the hands of David Bell and Purdue.
This isn’t a Bell appreciation post, though it could be after you catch 22 passes for 447 yards total in two wins against top-3 opponents. This is about head coach Jeff Brohm, who is 6-3 this season and has his team ranked going into Columbus this weekend.
If that sounds like a lead up to a puff piece about how Brohm is an underrated coach and should be a candidate for a vacancy at a big time school, you’re goddamn right it is. I say that because after suffering through a decade of Big 10 football — the 10 a.m. starts, the 9-6 finals, the “O-H-I-O” chants — I know two things: the Buckeyes are the Bama of the Big 10, and Jeff Brohm can coach.
His overall record at Purdue (25-28) is most likely the reason USC isn’t considering him. Well, that, and I think people view Purdue with the same system-slant they view Texas Tech, only it’s the Drew Brees effect instead of the Mike Leach effect.
However, if you look at what Brohm has done beyond the record, you’ll see a coach who has developed talent when he’s been able to get it — rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore has shown flashes in the NFL this season, and defensive lineman George Karlaftis and the aforementioned Bell will get a chance to, as well. Brohm has beaten more top five opponents (3) than actual USC candidate James Franklin (1) and beaten them handily (113-56 point differential over those three wins), and generally scares the shit out of me when Nebraska plays the Boilermakers. If you’re looking for pregame pep rants, he’s got those covered, too.
There are plenty of former quarterbacks who haven’t made great head coaches (and Brohm doesn’t currently qualify as great), but he has displayed a tact for managing, promoting and putting the right guy, or guys, 5 yards behind center. He played three quarterbacks in the win against Iowa. The following game, a loss to Wisconsin, he more or less stuck with Aiden O’Connell and, despite three picks, stayed with him the next two weeks, during which they beat Nebraska in Lincoln and had Husker fans booing (something Ohio State didn’t do last week) and then routed No. 3 Michigan State.
Winning at Purdue is hard and recruiting at Purdue may be even harder, so imagine what Brohm could do with USC-level talent. When you can make O’Connell and David Blough look like Drew Brees for any amount of time, and Rondale look like Steve Smith Sr. during his Boilermaker time, I trust you to be a lot more creative than Franklin.
If you showed USC faithful film of Trace McSorley and Sean Clifford, they would have an allergic reaction. He couldn’t even get Saquon Barkley to the Heisman ceremony.
From an aesthetic point of view, hiring Franklin to come run USC would be like Brazil hiring José Mourinho to coach their national team. Similar to Samba fanatics getting mad when their team doesn’t win beautifully, the Trojan fanbase wants to win and make cell phone flashes pop in the process.
An introductory news conference featuring Franklin would have more buzz, more media and more sound bytes, but the on-field product would be more Big 10. Brohm would be a massive swing — and probably one another team will take.
That said, if Purdue can continue its trend of exposing the Big 10’s top 10, don’t be surprised if a few athletic directors come to the realization that Brohm’s coaching ability is the only other certainty in the conference.