Purdue football: Boilermakers are good as an underdog, but what about as a big favorite?
In the last couple seasons, Purdue has been great as a road underdog.
Three times this year, the Boilermakers have pulled off upsets, beating Minnesota, Maryland and Illinois, as their road success is one of the big reasons they’re in contention for a Big Ten West Division title and trip to Indianapolis for the league championship game.
Dating to last season, Purdue is 6-4 in games away from Ross-Ade Stadium as an underdog, beating Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee (in the Music City Bowl in Nashville) last season before toppling the trio of opponents this year.
But (more obviously) Purdue is good as a heavy favorite as well, like it will be Saturday when it hosts Northwestern. Purdue has won each of its last 6 Big Ten games when it was at least a 14-point favorite, dating to 2005, including being 4-1-1 against the spread. In the Boilermakers’ last 30 games as at least a 2-TD favorite, it won all but 1 — Eastern Michigan beat Purdue 20-19 in Jeff Brohm’s 2nd season in 2018, when the Boilermakers were a 15-point home favorite — and is 15-13-2 ATS.
As the Boilermakers get set to host Northwestern — Purdue is a 20.5-point favorite — let’s take a look back at the last half-dozen B1G games when they were at least a 14-point favorite:
Purdue 43, Nebraska 37
Oct. 15, 2022 • Ross-Ade Stadium • Line: Purdue -14
After leading by as many as 17 points late in the 2nd quarter of Purdue’s 7th game this season, the Boilermakers had to hang on as the margin narrowed to as few as 4 a couple minutes before the start of the 4th. But Aidan O’Connell’s excellence — the veteran quarterback turned in his 5th career 4-touchdown game — proved to be the difference late, as did the emergence of running back Devin Mockobee, who rushed for a career-high 178 yards. Although the Cornhuskers, who were under the guidance of interim head coach Mickey Joseph after Scott Frost had been fired, exposed the Boilermakers’ leaky pass defense by hitting on numerous big plays, Purdue still escaped with the victory despite not covering.
Purdue 44, Indiana 7
Nov. 27, 2021 • Ross-Ade Stadium • Line: Purdue -17.5
Indiana was forced to start a 4th-string walk-on at quarterback when it visited Ross-Ade Stadium to end the 2021 regular season, and the Boilermakers feasted. The margin was the largest in the series for the Old Oaken Bucket since 2008 in Joe Tiller’s last game in Ross-Ade Stadium. O’Connell was terrific, throwing for 4 touchdowns without committing a turnover for a 5th consecutive game, as he helped guide the Boilermakers to an 8-win season, their 1st since 2007. In hindsight, the Hoosiers probably should have been more than a 17.5-point underdog, considering walk-on Grant Gremel started at QB as IU was left limping along at the end of an 0-9 Big Ten season.
Purdue 29, Illinois 10
Nov. 4, 2017 • Ross-Ade Stadium • Line: Purdue -14
In Brohm’s 1st season in West Lafayette, the victory over Illinois in Week 9 proved to be a big one, in that it helped jump start the Boilermakers to winning 3 of their last 4 games to become bowl eligible. It was a memorable afternoon, particularly after starting quarterback David Blough was severely injured and taken off the field in an ambulance. His raising of his fists as he exited might have inspired friend and fellow QB Elijah Sindelar, who took over to complete the win, then guided Purdue to 3 more victories, including a win in the Foster Farms Bowl in San Francisco. The Boilermakers had a big day running the football, going for 209 yards on 44 carries against an Illini team that was winless in the Big Ten.
Purdue 45, Minnesota 17
Oct. 8, 2011 • Ross-Ade Stadium • Line: Purdue -14
Purdue’s defense led the way in a game against a Minnesota team that was coming off a 58-0 trouncing to Michigan, as the Boilermakers collected 3 turnovers, including a pick-6 from cornerback Ricardo Allen. The Golden Gophers, who dropped to 1-5 with the loss, had only 213 yards of total offense, 4 yards less than the Boilermakers had rushing. Coach Danny Hope’s 2011 Purdue squad was inconsistent, to say the least, with the victory improving the Boilermakers to 3-2 on the season; they’d go on to win 6 during the regular-season, then beat Western Michigan in Detroit’s Little Caesars Bowl.
Purdue 45, Minnesota 31
Sept. 22, 2007 • Metrodome • Line: Purdue -14
Desmond Tardy opened up the game with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, as Purdue rolled to an early-season victory against the Golden Gophers. The only road game on the list, the Boilermakers notched the victory as part of a 5-0 start to the ’07 season that ended with 8 victories, including a win over Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl. Curtis Painter ended the Minnesota game with 338 yards passing and 3 touchdowns, 2 of which went to dynamic receiver Dorien Bryant.
Purdue 37, Illinois 3
Nov. 12, 2005 • Ross-Ade Stadium • Line: Purdue -22.5
After 8 straight bowl trips to start Tiller’s tenure at Purdue, the Boilermakers fell apart in 2005. After the Orlando Sentinel had picked the Boilermakers as its No. 1 team in the country to start the season, Purdue won only 2 games before collapsing during a 6-game losing streak that saw the bowl-game streak come to a crashing halt. A highlight late in the season was the 34-point win over Illinois, which was a woefully bad Big Ten team that was still searching for its 1st conference win in Ron Zook’s 1st season in Champaign. Painter, then a redshirt freshman, was making his 4th career start, throwing for 201 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 57 yards and 2 more scores.