Now that the Boilermakers’ brief flirtation with Big Ten West title contention is over, they can return to their most immediate objective: Get to 6 victories and end a 2-year absence from playing in the postseason.

That’s the goal, particularly now that Purdue lost to Wisconsin a week after beating then-No. 2 Iowa, leaving the Boilermakers with a 4-3 record with 5 games remaining. It feels like a must for Jeff Brohm’s program, with Purdue coming off 4-8 and 2-4 campaigns after it had been 13-13 — and played in 2 bowl games — during his first 2 seasons.

But can the Boilermakers get to 6 wins?

Let’s break down the remaining 5 games, listing the opponents from most beatable to least.


Nov. 27 • Ross-Ade Stadium

The Hoosiers are stuck in neutral right now, reeling after 3 straight losses by a combined 98-22, although each was to a top-10 opponent in then-No. 4 Penn State, then-10 Michigan State and most recently to then-No. 5 Ohio State.

But adding to the losses — OSU beat up IU, winning 54-7 in Memorial Stadium Saturday — are injuries. The Hoosiers have been without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who is out because of a bad throwing shoulder, and now are dealing with a foot injury to backup Jack Tuttle. Monday, coach Tom Allen said Tuttle is “week-to-week” after having to leave the OSU game early. It leaves IU to inexperienced backups Donavon McCulley and Grant Gremel, who combined to complete only 4 of 10 passes for 39 yards. Receiver DJ Matthews has been out weeks after a knee injury. And the secondary has been hit by injuries too, most notably to All-America cornerback Tiawan Mullen, who played only a few snaps vs. the Buckeyes.

The Hoosiers have little-to-no depth at quarterback, running back, offensive line and in the defensive backfield. Because of an inconsistent offense — the injuries have been only part of the problem, because Penix wasn’t playing well, nor was the offense very efficient, when he was healthy — too much pressure is being put on the defense. And it has not held up.

Maybe by Bucket week, the Hoosiers will be in a better place, but it seems unlikely 2-5 Indiana will climb out of his hole.


Nov. 20 • Wrigley Field

The Boilermakers might find a favorable matchup against the Wildcats when the teams meet in Wrigley Field a few days before Thanksgiving.

Northwestern has struggled mightily on offense, scoring less than 20 points per game, second-to-last in the Big Ten. Considering how well Purdue’s defense has played, that might play into the Boilermakers’ hands. But the Wildcats, at 3-4, might still have postseason to play for itself, if only it can pick up another win or 2 in the next few weeks. It won’t be an easy slate, as NU has back-to-back home games vs. Minnesota and Iowa before traveling to Wisconsin.

That, and Northwestern hasn’t been able to put together much of anything consistently. The Wildcats have rotated wins with loses this season, which would put them on track to lose to Purdue if the pattern holds.


Oct. 30 • Memorial Stadium

The Boilermakers will try to recover from their disappointing loss to Wisconsin with a road trip to Lincoln, where they are a touchdown underdog to the Cornhuskers.

At 3-5, Nebraska has became an expert this season in losing close, with its 5 losses coming by a combined 28 points. The last 2 games have been particularly frustrating; seemingly on the verge of turning a corner — finally — under 4th-year coach Scott Frost, the Huskers lost 32-29 to Michigan 2 and then 30-23 at Minnesota before hitting their bye.

Nebraska can be a dangerous opponent. Quarterback Adrian Martinez is averaging 250 yards passing per game, with 10 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, plus he has another 433 rushing yards with an additional 10 scores. He hurt Purdue a year ago in a Nebraska victory in West Lafayette, when he had 242 yards passing and 45 rushing with 3 total touchdowns.

Michigan State

Nov. 6 • Ross-Ade Stadium

Before the season, Purdue fans might have chalked the Michigan State visit to West Lafayette as an automatic — or at least near-guarantee — victory.

Not so fast.

The No. 8 Spartans might be undefeated when they face the Boilermakers, if they can get by No. 6 Michigan in a huge rivalry game Saturday in Spartan Stadium. If so, then MSU could have a ton to play for vs. Purdue, needing to stay undefeated before back-to-back games vs. Ohio State and Penn State to end the regular season. But for as great as running back Kenneth Walker III, quarterback Payton Thorne and its receivers have been, Michigan State might be vulnerable, too. When the Spartans last came to the State of Indiana, they were nearly upset by a wounded Hoosiers team. And despite being 7-0, they’ve survived a couple of scares, like the 5-point win at Indiana or the overtime home victory over Nebraska.

Ohio State

Nov. 13 • Ohio Stadium

Purdue hasn’t won at Ohio Stadium since 1988.

It seems unlikely the Boilermakers will be able to break that streak in 2021. That’s not as much a commentary on Purdue as it is a credit to the Buckeyes, who are rolling since a non-conference loss to Oregon. OSU leads the Big Ten in scoring (49.3 points) and passing (352.1 yards per game), and hasn’t scored less than 52 points in its last 4 games.

Purdue, which has scored only 13 points in 4 of its last 5 games, would need to find a way either to slow the Buckeyes down or try to outscore them. Either seems unlikely.