I was wrong. I thought the Boilers would finish 3-9, or at best 4-8 after Burke let it slip that Hope would be let go after the Indiana game and the seniors responded by crushing IU for him. (Of course, they did that anyway ...) Instead, they're likely to end up 6-7 after finishing their season outside Big Ten country.
|Throwing at or away from Ricardo Allen? You decide.|
In a normal year, it wouldn't technically be outside the area: it would be in Ford Field against a MAC school that could hold its own against the Boilers. The good news is that the Kent State-Northern Illinois winner won't be taking apart Purdue's defense; the bad news is that it could be West Virginia doing the work.
Thanks to NCAA action against two otherwise bowl-eligible teams, and to Purdue and Michigan State realizing that you do need to win six games to go, the Big Ten will be sending seven teams to fill eight slots. (Sorry, Mr. Ilitch.) Of course the Big Ten has the rules for filling the spots hidden, so courtesy of Adam Rittenberg, here they are (note that the order in the link is from 2011):
- Conference champion to the BCS, in the Rose Bowl unless they're one of the top two teams (ha!);
- At-large teams to the BCS if they have won at least nine games and are in the top 14 (possible, but unlikely, with Nebraska 14th; a loss to Wisconsin would knock them out);
- Capital One and Outback Bowls can "drop down" no more than one win and one loss when selecting a team – if there is a 9-3 team available, they can take an 8-4 team but not a 7-5 or an 8-5 team;
- Conference runner-up can't drop lower than fourth selection after BCS teams.
First, let's dispense with the bowls we know Purdue won't be going to:
Rose: Nebraska. Please please please do not send a five-loss team to a BCS bowl. Yes, the Badgers have three OT losses and two three-point losses in regulation, but they have zero quality wins and an offense that makes their basketball offense look exciting. Nebraska will get the season sweep and return to the Rose for the first time since the 2001 season. (Should Nebraska fumble this away, Wisconsin goes here, Nebraska to the Capital One, and Michigan and Northwestern move down one spot each.)
Capital One: Michigan. The best remaining record is Northwestern's 9-3. The old Tangerine Bowl will look at Michigan's fan base and Northwestern's fan base and give David Brandon a call. (A win over Ohio State might have propelled Michigan into the top 14; they won't even be in the top 25 now.) That locks Northwestern into ..
Outback: Northwestern. The second appearance in four years for Pat Fitzgerald's crew. Given who's near the top of the SEC East, it'll likely be a tough matchup for a school that hasn't won a bowl since the 1948 season.
The remaining teams will have 7 or 6 wins, so Purdue could theoretically go anywhere in here. However, that's unlikely.
Gator: Wisconsin. The Badgers laid an egg at the end of the season, but still locked up the division thanks to Purdue's horrible conference start. They still travel well, haven't been to the Gator Bowl ever, and could only drop one more spot anyway. The Gator isn't taking a 6-6 team when it can take a 7-6 team.
BWW: Michigan State. Distraught to learn that the Hawkeyes would not be available this year, the Insight Bowl changed its name to the BWW Bowl. The Spartans have a handful of close losses (five by a total of 13 points) and just whacked Minnesota in Minneapolis; they'll be next to go.
Meineke: Purdue. There, I said it. Meineke and Heart of Dallas will arm-wrestle, with the winner getting first pick. Both bowls will intentionally try to lose. ESPN will cut them off in frustration and sort the teams alphabetically, except they'll do it backwards because that's how things go in Bristol.
|If you squint, you can almost see old gold and black in one of the end zones.|
Heart of Dallas: Minnesota. Sorry, that's what happens when you're lowest on the list: you get no choice.
Who will the Boilers draw in the Texas Bowl? It's hard to say, with the Big Notquite12 having one more week of games remaining, but it's entirely possible that West Virginia, after destroying Kansas, will be the sixth choice out of the conference. (Oklahoma's OT win over Oklahoma State keeps them alive for an at-large bid, so if they beat TCU, they could knock every remaining team up one spot.)
The other teams in the vicinity are Texas Tech, TCU, and Baylor – you know, the team that beat Kansas State. Should Purdue fall to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, they'll get the eighth-choice team from the Big 12: add Iowa State to the mix, as a Baylor loss to Oklahoma State would leave the Bears 6-6 with the Cyclones.
No matter who the Boilers draw, it'll be a tough matchup, especially for the defense. The guys forced some key turnovers today, but they gave up a lot of points as well ... and that's the kind of play that fits perfectly into the hands of the high-scoring Big 12.
I think it would be cool for Purdue to give Danny Hope a going-away present. Purdue has met disappointed teams from the Big 12 before and come away with wins: those Alamo Bowl appearances were the last time Purdue won bowl games in back-to-back seasons. Ironically, Oklahoma State, the first of Purdue's victims, could end up meeting them again ... and losses to rival Oklahoma and to Baylor would likely leave them just as disappointed as they were 15 years ago.