If Purdue can sweep November, it will win the Big Ten West.

Simple as that. And yet hard as that.

The Boilermakers had won 4 games in a row before Saturday’s loss at Wisconsin, but even during the winning streak — and particularly during the loss — Purdue looked far from a refined product. It was able to overcome its shortcomings in victories over FAU, Minnesota, Maryland and Nebraska by making game-deciding plays in the final minutes, especially on offense. But the defense has shown limitations of late, giving up chunk plays in the passing game to the Cornhuskers and the Badgers the past 2 weeks.

The bye comes at a good time.

The Boilermakers need to get healthy, as a lot of teams do this time of year, but they’re in need of other fixes as well.

The passing defense has sunk to only 10th in the Big Ten, giving up nearly 243 yards per game. But it might be worse than that. The Boilermakers are among the worst teams in the country in preventing pass plays of more than 40 yards, and now offenses are starting to exploit the deficiencies in the back half. The offense isn’t immune either. Purdue is minus-2 in turnover margin, largely because the Boilermakers have turned the ball over 15 times, the 114th worst total (of 131) in the country.

Other things are going well, though.

Purdue has been excellent at stopping the run this season, ranking 6th in the Big Ten and 17th in the country at 110.3 yards per game. Quarterback Aidan O’Connell has had moments of excellence, especially in his partnership with newcomer receiver Charlie Jones. And Purdue’s running game, once an afterthought, has been revived under the power of walk-on running back Devin Mockobee.

But to win the West, most likely Purdue will need to win all 4 remaining B1G games. Let’s take a look at the challenges presented by the last 4 opponents:


By now, Iowa’s limitations on offense are well known.

But the Hawkeyes (3-4 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten) are still a formidable opponent — and one that can win on almost any Saturday (perhaps Ohio State weekend aside) — because of their defense. They’re giving up only 16.1 points and 278.3 yards per game, the 8th- and 6th-best marks in the country, respectively.

However, the Boilermakers have been able to expose man-to-man matchups in the secondary in their past several meetings against Iowa, with receivers like Anthony Mahoungou, Terry Wright and most recently David Bell going bonkers. They helped Purdue win 4 of the last 5. Maybe it’ll be an opportunity for Jones, a former Iowa receiver, to turn in a gigantic game.

If Purdue can score on Iowa, then it’ll win, because Iowa struggles to move the ball, let alone put points on the board. The Hawkeyes are averaging only 14 points per game, which is 128th in the nation, and are dead last at 227.3 yards per outing.

At Illinois

The Boilermakers have won 5 of the past 6 against the Illini, and 5 straight in Champaign dating to a loss in 2010.

But none of those games had the kind of feel as this one likely will. If the Fighting Illini get past Nebraska in Lincoln this weekend and then vs. Michigan State the following (and Purdue beats Iowa), then it sets up a showdown at Memorial Stadium for control over the West. Maybe ESPN’s “College GameDay” shows up at Champaign for the 1st time ever.

Illinois has been excellent this season, its lone blemish in the Friday night B1G opener at Indiana, and even that one was potentially taken away by an official’s blown call. The Illini might be the most well-rounded team in the West, from their stout defense that ranks No. 1 in the country in allowing only 8.9 points per game, to an efficient passing attack led by transfer quarterback Tommy DeVito, to one of the country’s best running backs in Chase Brown, who leads the B1G and the nation with 1,059 yards in 7 games.

Barring something unforeseen the next 2 weeks, Purdue will be an underdog at Illinois, but that shouldn’t scare the Boilermakers, who were road ‘dogs in victories vs. Minnesota and Maryland earlier this season.


Northwestern has been shockingly bad this season, winning only its opener in Ireland over Nebraska before proceeding to lose its next 6 games.

By the time the Wildcats roll into West Lafayette, they might be ready for the season to be over, if they’re not already at that point now. Northwestern doesn’t do much of anything well, ranking 118th in scoring offense (18.6 points per game) and 80th in scoring defense (28.1).

And Northwestern will be traveling to Purdue after back-to-back games vs. Ohio State and Minnesota, 2 of the more physical teams in the Big Ten. The Wildcats will seem ripe for being thrashed by the Boilermakers.

At Indiana

Rivalry games like the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket always bring an extra element, and could again this year, especially if it’s the only thing left for Indiana to play for, which seems likely to be the case as the Hoosiers have slid nearly out of the bowl picture.

Indiana’s biggest issue this season has been a lack of consistency, not from week-to-week but from moment-to-moment within games. It’ll play a good half, followed by an awful quarter, then a mediocre one, and lose by a score. Tom Allen might be on the hot seat by late November considering Indiana is again slumping through the backend of a season and still has games against Penn State and Ohio State to start next month.

Indiana’s offense has big-play potential in the passing game, as quarterback Connor Bazelak and receiver Cam Camper, both transfers, have developed chemistry this season, and Purdue has given up big plays. Maybe that, and turnovers, is an avenue that the Hoosiers could take for a potential upset of the Boilermakers.


Purdue wins the games it’s likely to be favored in — Iowa, Northwestern and Indiana — but falls in a close one in Champaign, when the Boilermakers can not contain Brown in the 4th quarter. A 3-1 finish makes for a good regular-season of 8 victories, although maybe a slightly unfulfilling one for Purdue fans hoping for a short trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game.

The Fighting Illini lose once, too, at Michigan the week following the big win over Purdue, but as the only team in the West with 2 losses, they’ll be the surprise rep out of the West.