#23 Northwestern at Purdue (De Facto B1G West Title) Game Preview

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purdue boilermakers

“And then you may ask yourself, well, how I did get here?” is arguably the most memorable line in the Talking Heads classic tune “Once in a Lifetime.”

Yes, how is it this early (W-L record wise, not calendar wise) and the Big Ten West division title could be decided on Saturday, and that decision will be reached by either Northwestern (3-0) or Purdue (2-0).

If the Wildcats go to 4-0, pretty much no one will be able to catch.

purdue boilermaker train track

If Purdue goes to 3-0, they will be firmly in the driver’s seat, and position is 9/10 of the law, but especially so during a once-in-a-century pandemic when more games will get cancelled and with that, additional teams falling out of the running.

Let’s look at the rest of the division.

Wiscovidsin (like the St. Louis Covidinals) are 1-0, but just one more cancellation away from being ineligible. Minnesota (1-2) is now more or less “same as it ever was” after last season’s “once-in-a-lifetime” season.

Iowa (1-2) has the talent and depth to win this thing, but they’re in a deep hole now, having lost to the two teams that they need to usurp.

Nebraska (0-2) is just a mess, all that griping and complaining about not being able to play, and it was for this? Illinois (0-3) is most likely the worst team in the league. Yes, COVID has taken its toll on their offense, but what’s the excuse for their no show on defense. The Illini are, simply put, Tim Beckman era level bad this season.

In this year of a college footballlike substance replacing actual college football, we have one more plot twist here. On the other side of the league, we could see Indiana in the Big Ten title game! Yes, the Hoosiers are 3-0 and nationally ranked in the top ten!

Imagine this, Ohio State stumbles somewhere, then Indiana plays the Boilermakers on the final weekend for the Old Oaken Bucket and the division crown.

And then what if the two teams in the Hoosier state then meet the next week in the title game in Indianapolis? 2020 y’all.

#23 Northwestern at Purdue (De facto B1G West title) Game FYIs

Broadcast: WGN Radio AM-720; Big Ten Network

Kickoff: was 6:30 central, but now moved to 4, after Ohio State-Maryland was Covided out

Series: Purdue leads 51-32-1

Spread: Northwestern -2.5

Purdue Boilermakers Preview

For this we turn to our good buddies, the Purdue SB Nation community Hammer and Rails. Here are some interesting snippets from their game preview:

“We always know the “other shoe” is there. Yes, Purdue is 2-0, but it needed a costly Iowa fumble and a late defensive red zone stand against Illinois to get there. The Illinois game laid bare a lot of issues that have been around for a while. Instead of cruising to victory up three scores against a bad opponent we had to hold on for dear life.

Still, there are counterarguments there…In back to back weeks now the defense has made winning plays in the final two minutes…Purdue has to limit its mistakes like it did against Iowa. If it is as sloppy as it was against Illinois we’re in trouble.

There is also Rondale lurking. There is not solid information on whether or not he will play this week, but there is at least a chance. The last time we saw him against Northwestern he went absolutely nuts for more than 300 total yards. Now he gets to face them with David Bell. I will be quite honest: if we don’t see Rondale coming off of a bye week I have my doubts we will ever see him play in a Purdue uniform again…

pat fitzgerald

#23 Northwestern Preview

In the 43-3 season opening blowout of Maryland, Pat Fitzgerald won his 100th game as Coach of Northwestern. NU has won 540 games in their history, and Fitzgerald has been involved in 28% of them. He won 24 as a player, 26 as an assistant. The Cats tacked two more wins on since then, rallying at Iowa and shutting down Nebraska.

Coming off the worst season of the Fitz era in 2019, things have turned around overnight. That’s what happens when you have a new, solid, experienced, accomplished transfer QB in Peyton Ramsey, and a massive upgrade at offensive coordinator in Mike Bakajian.

For more on Northwestern, and the Big Ten West in general, listen to my segment here on KGYM, ESPN Radio Iowa City/Cedar Rapids.

Also, if you’re interested in how NU did during the last global pandemic season, of 1918, go here

Prediction: Northwestern 27, Purdue 21

If Northwestern wins on Saturday, then probably no one can stop them from returning to Indianapolis for the second time in three seasons

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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