The 2017 season is still several months away. But we never stop looking forward here at the Big Ten blog.
It may be ridiculously early, but we're examining what will be the must-win game and the potential trap game for each league team this fall. Up next: the Purdue Boilermakers.
Must-win game: Nov. 4 vs. Illinois. The Boilermakers’ lone conference win last year came against the Fighting Illini. In fact, it was the only road Big Ten victory of Darrell Hazell's tenure. Purdue needed overtime to win in Champaign last fall, but the game is in Ross-Ade Stadium this year and it could be a rebuilding season for Lovie Smith’s squad. New Boilers coach Jeff Brohm has a little history with the Illini, as he was quarterbacks coach there from 2010-11. If he wants his new program to stay out of the Big Ten West Division basement in Year One, this is likely a must-win contest.
Trap game: Sept. 8 vs. Ohio. Purdue opens against Louisville and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in Indianapolis. In week 3, the Boilers travel to Missouri. The Tigers were bad last year, but it’s still a road game in SEC country. And in Week 4, Michigan comes to West Lafayette. That’s a doozy of a first month, and nestled in there is that Week 2 game against Ohio. And it’s no gimme. The Bobcats played in the MAC title game a year ago and, while they lost 10 starters from 2016, this is always a well-coached bunch under Frank Solich. This sets up as a classic potential overlook situation, given the other notable names on the September slate. But the Boilers aren’t good enough yet to look past anyone, and a loss here could very well lead to an 0-4 start.