Purdue had three tough non-league games nixed: Memphis and Air Force at home; Boston College on the road. (Krockover Photography)
Purdue and the rest of the Big Ten kissed good-bye to non-conference games last week. For the Boilermakers, that may not be a bad thing.
Purdue had one of the more challenging non-conference schedules in the Big Ten as it comes off a disappointing 4-8 season in 2019 in Year Three under Jeff Brohm. The Boilers were slated to open the season with a Big Ten game at Nebraska, the Boilermakers then were scheduled to play host to Memphis and Air Force before traveling to Boston College to complete their three-game non-league slate.
Now, Purdue and the rest of the Big Ten will play a 10-game, Big Ten-only slate in 2020. It’s hoped the truncated schedule will allow the league to better manage testing/safety protocols while permitting the league to be nimble if adjustments to the schedule are needed to be made.
While none of Purdue’s three non-league foes are college football bluebloods, they would have been a challenging trio with no lay-ups in the bunch.
Memphis is coming off an historic season that saw the Tigers go 12-2, win the American Athletic Conference and play Penn State in the Cotton Bowl. Yes, Memphis saw its head coach Mike Norvell leave to take the Florida State job, but the Tigers still are welcoming back a lot of talent for what’s a preseason Top 25 club led by star quarterback Brady White.
Air Force also is coming off a double-digit win season, going 11-2 with a Cheez-It Bowl win vs. Washington State in 2019 under Troy Calhoun. Purdue fans may recall that Calhoun was a target for the Boilermaker job when Brohm was hired before the 2017 season.
Any road game is fraught with danger, even a game vs. a Boston College team that is coming off a 6-7 season (went to a bowl) and underwent a coaching change (Steve Addazio to Jeff Hafley). Bottom line: The trip to Chestnut Hill, which would have been the first ever for the Boilermakers, was sneaky dangerous.
Which Big Ten teams are like Purdue, waving good-bye to a challenging slate of non-conference games? Which league schools had weak non-con schedules and wish they could have played the games?
Here’s my take. FYI: The Big Ten had 11 games scheduled vs. Power Five foes; 23 vs. Group of Five and eight vs. FCS.
Schools that wish they were playing their non-con games:
Illinois: Illinois State, UConn, Bowling Green
Indiana: Western Kentucky, Ball State, at UConn
Minnesota: Florida Atlantic, Tennessee Tech, BYU
Nebraska: Central Michigan, South Dakota State, Cincinnati
Northwestern: Tulane, Central Michigan, Morgan State
THE SKINNY: Wins are wins, right? They all count to bowl-eligibility … if there even are bowls this year. Let’s assume there are. The path to the postseason looks more difficult for these schools, whose cupcake non-conference appetizers are now off the menu. … Illinois has to be the most bummed, as it had arguably the weakest non-con slate in the Big Ten. All three games were home contests, and one was vs. a FCS foe. UConn went 2-10 last year, while Bowling Green was 3-9. No doubt, Illinois State coach Brock Spack wanted a crack at Illinois. Remember: He beat Northwestern a few years ago. … If Illinois had the weakest trio of games, Indiana and Northwestern are right behind. Getting to bowl-eligibility–whatever that looks like in 2020–just got harder. … Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska and Northwestern were the only Big Ten schools with no non-conference games vs. Power Five opponents. … Six schools were scheduled to play two non-league games vs. Big Ten opponents: Central Michigan (Nebraska and Northwestern); UConn (Illinois and Indiana); BYU (Minnesota and Michigan State); Bowling Green (Illinois and Ohio State); Northern Illinois (Iowa and Maryland); Ball State (Indiana and Michigan).
Indiana saw three very winnable non-conference games scrubbed from its 2020 schedule. (USA Today)
Schools that are happy they aren’t playing their non-con games:
Iowa: Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Illinois
Maryland: Towson, Northern Illinois, at West Virginia
Michigan: at Washington, Ball State, Arkansas State
Michigan State: at BYU, Toledo, Miami (Fla.)
Ohio State: Bowling Green, at Oregon, Buffalo
Penn State: Kent State, at Virginia Tech, San Jose State
Purdue: Memphis, Air Force, at Boston College
Rutgers: Monmouth, Syracuse, at Temple
Wisconsin: Southern Illinois, Appalachian State, Notre Dame (at Green Bay)
THE SKINNY: Sure, the nation would have loved to have whetted its appetite with games like Ohio State at Oregon, Michigan at Washington and Penn State at Virginia Tech. But, those three primo non-conference tilts are out the window. The Buckeyes are the biggest winner, getting to avoid playing in Eugene and avoiding a potential loss vs. arguable the Pac-12’s best foe that could have damaged the Buckeyes’ legit national title hopes. … It would have been fun to see Notre Dame play Wisconsin in iconic Lambeau Field in Green Bay. … First-year Michigan State coach Mel Tucker gets a big break in his debut missing BYU and Miami (Fla.). The Spartans are the only Big Ten school that had two games vs. Power Five foes. … And who doesn’t like the Cy-Hawk game between Iowa and Iowa State? Bummer to lose a rivalry game. … Iowa is one of five Big Ten teams that was slated to play all three non-leagues at home, joining Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Northwestern. Wisconsin’s lone non-league game away from Madison was at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
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