Let's dive back into our series analyzing the 2012 schedules of every Big Ten team. Today, we take a look at the Purdue Boilermakers, who hope to make a move in a chaotic Leaders Division:
Nonconference opponents (with 2011 records)
Sept. 1: Eastern Kentucky (7-5)
Sept. 8: at Notre Dame (8-5)
Sept. 15: Eastern Michigan (6-6)
Sept. 29: Marshall (7-6)
Leaders Division games
Oct. 13: Wisconsin
Oct. 20: at Ohio State
Nov. 3: Penn State
Nov. 17: Iowa
Nov. 24: Indiana
Oct. 6: Michigan
Oct. 27: Minnesota
Nov. 10: at Iowa
Gut-check game: Wisconsin is the overwhelming Leaders Division favorite, so Purdue will have to knock off the Badgers at home to have a shot at winning the division. Problem: the Boilers have lost to Wisconsin each of the past three years by a combined score of 133-30. They'll have to reverse that trend if this is to be a special year.
Trap game: Minnesota might not be a powerhouse, but the Gophers did win two Big Ten games at home last season and should be improved this year. The Boilermakers go to TCF Bank Stadium a week after playing at Ohio State and before going to Penn State. You don't need Admiral Ackbar to tell you that's a trap.
Snoozer: Danny Hope will be facing his alma mater in the opener against Eastern Kentucky, a place where he served as head coach before coming to Purdue. That might make for a few nice quotes leading up to the game, but few outside of West Lafayette will care about it.
Non-con challenge: Purdue hasn't beaten rival Notre Dame since 2007 and got blown out 38-10 last year at home in a hyped game. The Irish are beatable, and the rest of the nonconference schedule is very manageable. If the Boilers can pull out a victory in South Bend, they'll likely get off to a much-needed great start to the season.
Telltale stretch: Without a doubt, it's the three-week stretch to open October, as Purdue faces Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State in successive weeks. The good news is that the first two games are at home. The bad news is that Ross-Ade Stadium hasn't been the most inhospitable place for visitors in recent times. This could very well be a make-or-break stretch for the season right at the beginning of Big Ten play.
Analysis: All things considered, Purdue couldn't ask for a much better schedule. They should be favored in three of their nonconference games and will have a chance against Notre Dame. They get Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State at home and don't have to play Michigan State or Nebraska. Hope will roll out his best and deepest team this fall and will have an opportunity to make some noise in a division where only four teams are eligible for the postseason. But Purdue will still have to raise its overall level of play to compete with the Big Ten's big boys.
More B1G schedule analysis: