After hearing the news that they were headed to Detroit, several Boilermakers expressed their displeasure on Twitter in playing in the less than glamorous Little Caesars Bowl after Ohio State and Northwestern were selected before Purdue despite similar 6-6 records.
Although their frustration is understandable, Purdue needs to understand having identical records to Ohio State and Northwestern makes it hard to argue for a better bowl, especially after being blown out on three occasions and losing to Rice.
The fact of the matter is that bowls want to make as much money as possible, so schools’ fan bases and national recognition factor into the selection, making the Buckeyes an easy selection over Purdue for the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.
The decision by the Meineke Car Care Bowl to choose Northwestern over Purdue is a bit more puzzling, but the Wildcats bring a high-powered offense in addition to a victory over Rice.
If the Boilermakers could have converted a field goal against a Rice team that finished 4-8, they’d be returning to Houston for the second time in five months for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The instant Wiggs’ kick was blocked, it was easy to see the disaster in Texas could end up haunting the Boilermakers – and sure enough it did.
Still, if it weren’t for Jerry Sandusky, Penn State would have gone to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Purdue would have been chosen over Northwestern for the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas, and the Wildcats would be headed to Detroit.
However, playing in Detroit rather than in Dallas might end up being a blessing in disguise for Purdue. A matchup in Dallas against Houston’s Case Keenum, the most prolific quarterback in college football history, could have resulted in a disastrous day for a Boilermaker defense that gave up 330 yards through the air to Middle Tennessee State.
The drop-off in competition from an 11-1 Houston team that was ranked sixth in the Bowl Championship Series only four days ago to a 7-5 Western Michigan that finished tied for fourth in the Mid-American Conference is pretty significant.
However, a lesser opponent hasn’t always been for the better in the Danny Hope era. One of the biggest criticisms of Hope is that he can’t win the games he’s supposed to win, particularly against the Mid-American Conference. Early season losses to Northern Illinois in 2009 and Toledo in 2010 have put Purdue at a 2-2 record, facing an uphill battle heading into Big Ten play.
A convincing win over the Broncos would go a long way in H ope quieting his doubters. If his players enter Ford Field on Dec. 27 with chips on their shoulders, motivated to seize an opportunity to finish with a winning record, there’s no reason that shouldn’t happen.