TBA, Nov. 12 TV: TBA Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind. (62,500)

Coach: Danny Hope, third season (9-15 at school, 44-37 overall in seven seasons)

Last year: 4-8 overall, 2-6 Big Ten (tie, ninth)

Returning stars

Cornerback Ricardo Allen had three interceptions and returned them for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Ralph Bolden rushed for 935 yards and was second-team All-Big Ten in 2009 before missing last season because of a torn knee ligament. Kawann Short had six sacks and 121/2 tackles for loss.

Newcomers to watch

Junior-college transfer Akeem Shavers will back up Bolden in the backfield and also could help on returns, as could speedy freshman receiver Raheem Mostert, who returned nine kickoffs for touchdowns in high school.

Keys to the offense

Staying healthy and in possession of the ball are high on Hope's priority list, but already the Boilermakers have lost starting quarterback Rob Henry for the season with a torn knee ligament. Purdue had 27 turnovers last season, second-most in the Big Ten, and lost Bolden and starting quarterback Robert Marve to knee injuries. Marve's other knee bothered him through camp, pushing Caleb TerBush and Sean Robinson to the front of the quarterback competition for the moment. The line has four returning starters.

Keys to the defense

Nine starters return, but one who won't is star tackle Ryan Kerrigan. The line was banged up during camp, but coordinator Gary Emanuel is optimistic about the back seven, including four returning starters in the secondary. More interceptions is a goal. The Boilermakers came up with 10 picks last season and gave up 23 touchdown passes.

Special teams standouts

Carson Wiggs is the "most exciting field-goal kicker in all of football," said Hope, who saw Wiggs make a 63-yard attempt in camp and just miss a 72-yarder. Wiggs made 5 of 6 attempts from 40 yards or more last season. Cody Webster averaged 43.3 yards per punt as a freshman.

Question marks

How good is the defensive front without Kerrigan forcing double-teams? Who's the quarterback, and how effective is he? Will the coverage and return teams be better?

Outlook

Hope blames injuries and inexperience (17 freshmen played) for the record last season and thinks it will benefit the Boilermakers in the long run. He hired a new director of sports performance in hopes of heading off another such run of injuries and thinks there is the potential for more firepower on this team. How does the talent compare, though, to the rest of the Leaders Division?