The Boilermakers helped themselves on Saturday, eking out a narrower-than-expected win — but a win nonetheless — over Northwestern.

But they didn’t get the help they needed when Minnesota squandered opportunities late and lost to Iowa. In its quest not only for a share of the Big Ten West title, but a trip to Indianapolis for a league championship date with Ohio State or Michigan, Purdue now has to hope that Nebraska can upset Iowa in Iowa City on Black Friday.

Regardless, however, the Old Oaken Bucket tilt in Bloomington will still have implications for the Boilermakers, and the Hoosiers, too, especially after Indiana came alive to upset Michigan State in double overtime Saturday. For IU, the win gives the Hoosiers a bit of momentum as they head to the Bucket, then the offseason, and eases some of the misery of the last 2 years. Until Saturday, Indiana had won only 1 of its last 16 Big Ten games, a streak that had seen it lose 14 straight in the months of October and November.

But the real winner or loser Saturday will be Purdue.

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By kickoff, the Boilermakers will know the complete stakes, because if Nebraska has upset Iowa the day before, a Bucket win could mean a trip to Indy. But even if that’s not on the line, Purdue can still win a share of a West Division title, and that’s plenty to fight for, especially considering the Boilermakers lost their chance to control the outcome themselves with losses to Wisconsin and Iowa earlier this month.

A share of the title would mark a measure of validation for Jeff Brohm and Co. in their rebuild of the Purdue program.

When Brohm took over in 2017, he grabbed hold of a program that had been a laughingstock of the conference — and that’s probably not an overstatement — that had won only 9 games, and only 3 in the Big Ten, in the previous 4 seasons. Purdue wasn’t competitive then, and Purdue fans had lost interest, with Ross-Ade Stadium half-full, at best, toward the end of the miserable Darrell Hazell Era. Brohm, though, immediately brought a pulse to the Boilermakers, taking them to back-to-back bowl games in his 1st 2 seasons. Then after 2 straight misses — injuries killed Purdue in 2019 and ’20 (but does anyone really care what happened in the Covid year anyway?) — the Boilermakers have been back as strong as ever the last 2 seasons.

Brohm has energized the fan base and raised the expectation levels.

If Purdue gets Win No. 8, and then perhaps No. 9 in Indy or the bowl game, it’ll mark the best back-to-back seasons since Joe Tiller’s 1st 2 years in West Lafayette. It’s clearly an accomplishment.

But the Boilermakers should expect a fight from the Hoosiers in Memorial Stadium. Indiana might have landed on a quarterback, at least for right now and perhaps the future, in Dexter Williams II, who at least helped power IU to a comeback win over the Spartans on Saturday. The Hoosiers trailed by 17 at the half, then again with 6 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter before their rally. Big plays on special teams and the running game spurred the 39-31 double-OT comeback victory. Williams attempted 7 passes, and completed only 2, but he rushed for 86 yards, 2nd on the team to Shaun Shivers’ 115. And Jaylin Lucas had an 88-yard kickoff return for a TD, moments after MSU had taken a 31-14 lead in the 3rd, which was a gigantic spark.

It’ll probably take a similar effort against Purdue, which has to expect it’ll play better — and will need to — than its pedestrian win over Northwestern in Ross-Ade. The Boilermakers got an early lead vs. the Wildcats, then sat on it for most of the 2nd half in cold, blustery conditions in West Lafayette. It won’t be a game that’s written about for years to come. But a win is a win, especially this time of year.

And it sets the Boilermakers up for what they hope is a big weekend, especially if the Black Shirts show up on Black Friday.