Chicago — Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: Purdue is the only B1G team that will play 11 Power Five opponents in 2019. This year will also mark the third-straight year the Boilermakers have reserved two of their three non-conference games for Power Five foes.
It’s the only team in the B1G to do that, as well.
After a season opening trip to Nevada (Friday, Aug. 30), Purdue will host SEC foe Vanderbilt and Big 12 power TCU before entering conference play. With that kind of out-of-conference slate, the Boilermakers are getting credit for playing one of the more difficult schedules in the B1G.
Jeff Brohm and the Boilers embrace the challenging opportunities the schedule creates.
“That is one thing I think you’ll see at Purdue. We’ve always had 11 Power Five games,” Brohm said at B1G Media Days. “We’re excited about our schedule. We like to schedule the best opponents we can.”
Purdue’s schedule has presented plenty of challenges in Brohm’s first three years in West Lafayette. He began his tenure in 2017 with a game against his alma mater, Louisville, at Lucas Oil Stadium. A few weeks later the Boilermakers made a trip to Missouri.
Last year, Purdue completed the home-and-home series with Mizzou and hosted an undefeated Boston College. The Boilers are 2-2 in those non-conference Power Five games, with wins against Missouri (2017) and Boston College (2018).
Scheduling these types of matchups is becoming less appealing in the B1G, particularly with the nine-game conference schedule. With such a major emphasis on making the College Football Playoff, a lot of teams are taking an approach to rack up three wins during the non-conference portion of the season.
That’s not Brohm’s mindset, though. While playing those tough non-conference games presents plenty of challenges, the third-year head coach believes it also better prepares his squad for B1G play.
“Those games, I think, can help your team get prepared for good competition. That’s the way we want to do it,” Brohm said. “And I think our fans want to see great competition.
“Sometimes those games make it tough, where you got to figure out a way to win a few of those. But, in getting ready for B1G play, I do think that in the long haul we’ve had some success.”
Indeed, the Boilermakers have seen some benefits. Last year, Purdue was able to upset No. 2 Ohio State and No. 19 Iowa at Ross-Ade Stadium to help earn a second-straight bowl bid. But that’s not the only place the university is reaping the rewards of a challenging schedule.
Purdue is one of the few schools that hasn’t seen a decline in attendance, despite the trend across the country. Earlier this summer, the athletic department announced that season ticket sales increased by over 2,500 and was approaching its highest sales total in a decade.
Certainly you have to take into consideration that the Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell years didn’t draw particular interest from folks in West Lafayette. While Purdue’s improvement on the field is the biggest factor in increased attendance, playing better home games is an extra incentive for fans.
“The decline in national attendance, I think, as a little bit to do with scheduling,” Brohm said. “The great thing we do at Purdue — our attendance has not declined. We schedule great non-conference opponents…Fans want to see good competition.”
Scheduling tough non-conference opponents isn’t just a three-year aberration, either. Purdue’s non-conference schedule is locked up through the 2026 season. Over the next seven years (not including 2019), Purdue will play:
- Boston College (2020)
- Oregon State (2021, 2024)
- Syracuse (2022, 2023)
- Virginia Tech (2023)
- Wake Forest (2026)
- Notre Dame (2021, 2024, 2025, 2026)
Four times, Purdue will play two Power Five opponents or one Power Five team and Notre Dame. three seasons (2020, 2022 & 2025) there’s just one major opponent on the schedule.
Nonetheless, Purdue is taking an approach to scheduling that not many B1G programs have adopted. With an emphasis on winning games, it’s easy for athletic directors and coaches to agree to terms with more FCS and Group of Five opponents in an attempt to improve the win total.
That’s not exactly the direction Brohm wants college football heading.
“If you’ve got a few teams that are playing three teams that are not at their level every year on their 12-team schedule, I don’t think that should happen,” Brohm said. “As a fan, I wouldn’t like it.”
In a way, Purdue is spearheading a scheduling approach that more college football programs should adopt. Over the course of the next several years, B1G teams may start to follow the example set by the Boilermakers.
One thing is for sure, Brohm and Purdue have no plans of changing how they schedule opponents anytime soon.