Purdue football: Canceling a game stinks, but Boilermakers now have better chance to win B1G West
Purdue wants to play Saturday.
It won’t have the opportunity.
Wisconsin canceled the game Tuesday afternoon due to its ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, now up to 27 cases since Oct. 24, including 15 student-athletes.
So the Boilermakers will sit idly this week, missing out on a national ABC broadcast at No. 10 Wisconsin. Purdue won’t try to schedule another game — it’s not going to try to roll Chattanooga into town for a Big Ten vs. Southern Conference beatdown — and the Boilermakers won’t bellyache about how everyone is out to get them.
It is what it is.
After the immediate sting of a lost game, in a season in which there are only 9 planned ones to begin with, Purdue might as well look to the positives.
This is the biggest: The Boilermakers drop the most difficult game remaining on their schedule.
Sunday, ESPN’s FPI updated its predictions for the remaining Boilermaker schedule, with it giving Purdue only a 6.3% chance of winning in Madison, by far the lowest chance of any of the remaining opponents. Purdue, according to ESPN, is favored in its 3 of its now 5 games left (at Minnesota, 60.5%; vs. Rutgers, 73.6; vs. Nebraska, 54.2), with a 34.9% chance of beating Northwestern in Week 4 and a 28.0% opportunity to win at Indiana in the scheduled season-finale.
Beyond that, it’s Wisconsin. While Madison is a funhouse for Badgers students and fans, when they can attend, it’s been a house of horrors for the Boilermakers. Purdue has lost 14 consecutive (home and away) to Wisconsin, dating to a 26-23 win in Madison in 2003. That following year’s game in 2004 is one of the continued nightmares for Boilermaker faithful. With ESPN’s College GameDay in West Lafayette for the first time, undefeated and 5th-ranked Purdue led No. 10 Wisconsin late, when Heisman Trophy front-runner Kyle Orton fumbled on a rollout that, if successful, would have nearly sealed the victory. With Purdue appearing to be set to improve to 6-0, ESPN was rumored to be prepping to stick around for next week’s game against Michigan; instead, Purdue lost, Orton was hurt and the Boilermakers went on to lose 4 straight games.
(Pause here for a second to let Boilermakers’ fans catch their breath again, perhaps wipe a tear from their eye.)
Purdue has been particularly atrocious in Madison. In the 7 games there since 2003, the average margin of loss is 24.3, including a high of 45 (in 2011) with only 1 game ending within a possession (and that was an 8-point margin in 2017). Last year, the Boilermakers lost by 21 in Madison.
So did Purdue potentially catch a break with today’s announcement? Yes.
Maybe it’s an unusual payback for the disaster that happened in 2004, which even 3 head coaches later, Purdue has not yet recovered from. Purdue can’t do anything about that game 16 years ago and it can’t do anything about this weekend. Wisconsin opted out for the 2nd straight week, after the team outbreak that mirrors the greater statewide issues.
Moving on, the Boilermakers are sitting in good shape. At 2-0, they’ll use the surprise bye week to help get a few injured players more healthy, like defensive star George Karlaftis, who left the Illinois game with an apparent ankle injury. Two starters on the offensive line are out, although the extent of those issues is unknown. And there’s the matter of Rondale Moore, the All-America wide receiver who missed the first 2 weeks. Purdue has been coy on the reason, but if it’s injury-related — Moore missed most of last year with a hamstring injury — then perhaps the extra off time speeds his return.
It makes the Nov. 14 primetime visit from Northwestern gigantic. If the Wildcats beat Nebraska on Saturday, it’ll set up undefeated vs. undefeated in Ross-Ade Stadium, with control over the Big Ten West at stake.
Why not Purdue? Through 2 games, the Boilermakers have shown they have an opportunistic offense — with a great wide receiver in David Bell — and an improved defense that’s giving up yards but also taking the ball away. And maybe Moore comes back and gives the Boilermakers another boost.
Losing a chance to play stinks, but it also gives Purdue a better chance to win the West.