Schedule analysis: Purdue Boilermakers

August arrives tomorrow, which means it's almost officially football season. To get you ready, we're analyzing every Big Ten team's complete 2013 schedule. Batting second in our series: the Purdue Boilermakers.

Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records)

Aug. 31: at Cincinnati (10-3)

Sept. 7: Indiana State (7-4)

Sept. 14: Notre Dame (12-1)

Sept. 28: Northern Illinois (12-2)

Leaders Division games

Sept. 21: at Wisconsin

Nov. 2: Ohio State

Nov. 16: at Penn State

Nov. 23: Illinois

Nov. 30: at Indiana

Crossover games

Oct. 12: Nebraska

Oct. 19: at Michigan State

Nov. 9: Iowa

No plays




Gut-check game: Big Ten season comes early for the Boilermakers this year, as they must travel to Wisconsin in Week 4. Purdue will have already faced two staunch challenges by then after going to Cincinnati and hosting Notre Dame, but it had better be ready to put forth its best effort against one of the top teams in its own division. The Badgers embarrassed Purdue 38-14 in West Lafayette last year in one of the losses that led to coach Danny Hope's firing.

Trap game: None really apply here, although if Purdue doesn't pay attention for its home finale against Illinois -- sandwiched as it is between road games against Penn State and rival Indiana -- that game could become tricky.

Snoozer: Indiana State gave Indiana all it wanted last year, but the Sycamores have a new coach this season. Compared to the other teams on Purdue's September slate, this game is a major undercard.

Non-con challenge: Take your pick. Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois combined to win 34 games last season, and two of them played in BCS bowls. All three present big hurdles, although the showdown at home under the lights against the Irish -- whom the Boilers haven't beaten since 2007 -- is the first real headliner game for Darrell Hazell.

Telltale stretch: From Sept. 14 to Nov. 2, Purdue will be under the gun every Saturday, aside from two bye weeks. How's this for a murderers' row of games: Notre Dame, at Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, at Michigan State, Ohio State. Every one of those six teams should be ranked to start the season except Michigan State, and the Spartans could easily be one of the most improved teams in the country. Whew.

Analysis: Purdue has without a doubt the toughest schedule in the Big Ten in 2013. The first four weeks are absolutely brutal, with games against Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, and things don't get any easier in October. A 1-7 start is a real possibility, and Hazell must make sure his team can simply survive the schedule until it lightens up -- a little bit -- in mid-November. Even the Bucket game will be difficult, as Indiana should be much improved and gets Purdue at home. The Boilers might only be favored in two or three games this season, so Hazell will have to pull off some surprises to keep his first year in charge from turning sour.

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