Purdue Football 2023 Opponents Ranked
The B1G schedulers did no favors to Purdue in 2023 as they look to replace one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Aidan O’Connell and a number of starters on the defensive side of the ball. Although Purdue gets seven home games, which are the most since 2019, it includes likely the hardest non-conference schedule in the B1G along with the three best programs over the last twenty years in Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Let’s go ahead and rank the 2023 opponents for the Purdue Boilermakers.
12 | Fresno State Bulldogs
The lone non Power 5 opponent in 2023 for the Boilers automatically lands the Bulldogs at 12th. Nothing to take away from one of the best G5 programs over the last twenty years but there are very few programs outside of major conferences that would rank above any other B1G programs. Fresno State struggled last season to beat anyone of consequence and appeared to lose 18 players in the 2 deeps on both sides of the ball next season. Traveling from the West Coast will also be incredibly difficult for Fresno State to adjust to, especially if the game kicks off at noon in West Lafayette. That being said, Fresno State is one of the best G5 programs you could face as a Power-5 Conference team.
11 | at Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern has taken a huge step back the last two seasons and it doesn’t bode well for the Wildcats next season either. The new landscape provided by NIL and the transfer portal just doesn’t seem to be making things easier for the usual plucky underdog. While programs like Purdue have taken huge advantage of the portal, Northwestern’s academic rigor seems like it may inhibit a lot of top quality talent from transferring to Evanston. Next season, I’m not sure there is a big step forward for an increasingly hot seat for Pat Fitzgerald.
10 | Indiana Hoosiers
Had it not been for the only non-power 5 team and a middling Northwestern team, I would have put Indiana as the easiest game. However, this is a rivalry game and we know how those things can turn out. Next season could very well be a turning point for the Hoosiers if they fail to get to bowl eligibility in 2022 (not likely with the tail end of their schedule being Penn State, @ Ohio State, @ Michigan State, and Purdue). Indiana’s recruiting this spring doesn’t show much fire in the program as the Hoosiers failed to garner a single commitment from their initial junior day in March. Could it possibly be a win or get fired game for the affable Tom Allen in 2023? Don’t expect the Old Oaken Bucket to be leaving West Lafayette in 2023.
9 | Syracuse Orange
Syracuse enjoyed a great 2022 season that saw them beat Purdue at home and come within a few plays of beating Clemson to become a legit CFP darkhorse. Syracuse won’t have RB Sean Tucker and QB Garrett Schrader missed the entire spring due to surgery on his throwing arm but this game at home means this is a must win game early in the season if Purdue wants to make a bowl game in year one of the Ryan Walters Era. The fact the Orange are at 9 on this list is a credit to how difficult Purdue’s 2023 schedule may end up being.
8 | Minnesota Golden Gophers
Finally getting a bit of the TCF/Huntington Bank Stadium ghost off of their backs, Purdue went up and beat Minnesota at their own game in 2022. Minnesota will be replacing a lot of pieces next season as Tanner Morgan, Mo Ibrahim, and Chris Autman-Bell move on along with as many as 16 other seniors or grad transfers. That’s a huge amount of turnover but considering the freaky ways Purdue has seemed to lose to the Golden Gophers and how competitive this series has been over the last few years, this will be a difficult game.
7 | at Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech has definitely taken a major step back since the days of Frank Beamer and when Purdue hosted the Hokies in 2015 (a loss for Purdue 24-51). Justin Fuente is gone after seeing early success of 19 wins in his first two seasons but struggling as the program continued to fall behind in the ACC. Brent Pry was just 3-8 in his first season and things don’t appear to be getting any better for Virginia Tech in the immediate time frame. However, the atmosphere at VT against a B1G team should be as intimidating as any Purdue will face in 2023 and they likely will enter that game 1-0 (ODU). ‘Enter Sandman’ will create a ruckus environment and Purdue has tended to fold in those environments in recent years. Will Walters be able to enter a hostile environment and grab an early season big win to his resume? It would go a long way to being bowl eligible. It kind of blows my mind that an ACC opponent on the road is 7th on this list but this is again a testament to how difficult this schedule could end up being.
6 | Illinois Fighting Illini
Who could have seen what the Illini ended up cooking in 2022? Will we see similar results in 2023? Not likely as transfer QB Tommy Devito has run his eligibility dry and RB Chase Brown leaves for the NFL. Illinois though seems to have found an identity under 2nd year head coach Brett Bielema that Purdue has struggled with (remember where Bielema came from). The backups at QB and RB have been a big drop off for Illinois so a big hit in the transfer market may be necessary. The game is this low because Purdue just seems to have Illinois’ number going 7-3 over the last decade and it doesn’t hurt Purdue hired the architect of that Illini defense that kept them in so many games. Here is to the Canon Trophy staying home.
5 | at Iowa Hawkeyes
Although the Boilers were the proverbial thorn in the side of the Hawkeyes during Jeff Brohm’s tenure, it doesn’t make playing at Kinnick Stadium any easier under a new head coach.. A functional QB would have made Iowa a clear favorite in the West Division in 2022 and you’d have to think they found that in Michigan transfer Cade McNamara. Although the defense will take a step back by losing a fair amount of starters, the offense will only need to replace TE Sam LaPorta and QB Spencer Petras. I don’t think many Hawkeye fans will disagree when I say replacing a TE will be the bigger challenge than a QB considering how pedestrian Petras has been in 2022. Iowa and Wisconsin are the gold standards in the West Division and away games are always difficult. Them being #5, again, is a testament to the difficulty of Purdue’s 2023 schedule.
4 | at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska will be kicking off a new regime after Scott Frost was fired midway through the 2022 season. Nebraska has been very pedestrian over the last 6 seasons so it will be very interesting to see what the Cornhuskers look like in 2023 under new Head Coach Matt Rhule. Nebraska is this high because there is a very good chance Nebraska is sitting at 5 wins and looking to get bowl eligible for the first time since 2016. The fact the game is in Lincoln makes any game against Nebraska a difficult one and Nebraska just continues to recruit at a high level, landing outside of 247’s class rankings top 25 just once (2022). There seems to be some talent but this new staff has brought in a lot of portal talent as well.
3 | Wisconsin Badgers
Rinse and repeat is likely the name of the game against Wisconsin until proven otherwise. Let’s be honest, we could easily put this game at number one considering the current streak of 18 straight losses to the Badgers. Wisconsin will have Graham Mertz coming back along with one of the best running backs in conference in Braelon Allen. Wisconsin went with a bit of surprise when they went away from Jim Leonard but they arguably made the best hire of the off-season by grabbing Luke Fickell. Fickell is recruiting at an even better level than Wisconsin was known for before but it is year to be seen if he’ll stick with the tried-and-true method of winning with road pavers and great running backs or if he’ll be more spread than what we are used to seeing. Even so, I just don’t see this Purdue team having enough this season to get past what should be the favorite in the B1G West division this year.
2 | at Michigan Wolverines
Playing at one of the elite venues in college football against one of the best historical programs is never easy, especially when it comes to playing in Ann Arbor where Purdue is a combined 6-30 historically. Michigan will return JJ McCarthy along with a laundry list of young playmakers at the skill positions. Like Wisconsin, this is a program that just seems to beat Purdue over and over again historically and UM seems to have taken that proverbial jump under head coach Jim Harbaugh that many were waiting to see. As long as Harbaugh is there, UM will be a contender for the B1G and a spot in the CFP.
1 | Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State would easily land at this spot for anyone in the country but when you take into consideration the return of WR Marvin Harrison Jr., WR Emeka Egbuka, and RB TreVeyon Henderson for an Ohio State offense that seems to reload every season, it isn’t a difficult decision. Even on defense, OSU looks to return as many as seven starters for a program under the leadership of Ryan Day that continues to operate as one of the most elite programs in college football. There are very few elite programs where you can slot them in for 10+ wins every season (Alabama, Georgia, Clemson) and Ohio State continues to show they are on a different level than all other B1G programs. This offense may challenge the B1G as one of the best ever with what appears to be three first round draft picks at Wide Receiver with the potential #1 overall pick for 2024 in Marvin Harrison, Jr.
Ryan Walters has really changed a lot of perspectives and perceptions surrounding the program at Purdue following the departure of Jeff Brohm to Louisville. Being able to grab a well regarded QB in the portal in Hudson Card grabbed a lot of attention nationally but there are still some major holes to fill on the offensive line, linebackers, cornerback, and running back to see if this team can compete for a West Division championship again. Largely, the starters are quality enough to get it done but there needs to be better depth at most positions and my guess is Purdue will lose 10-15 players in the portal once spring football is over on the 22nd. Lots of questions remain:
Can Purdue grab another good wide receiver to offset not getting Milton Wright back or is there a player on the roster who can be that player already?
Will Purdue be able to land a running back to pair with Mockobee and Tracy?
Is there a quarterback in the portal that wants to come and be Card’s backup because right now it looks like it may very well end up being local product Kyle Adams?
Purdue desperately needs help at the cornerback position. Can it get that?
Will this staff avoid the mind-numbingly bad losses Purdue seemed to have every season under Brohm?
My gut tells me that this season would be considered extremely successful if Walters can simply get his team to bowl eligible at 6-6. That would be a bit of a bummer following the program’s first B1G West Division title but progress can be made going 6-6 with this schedule and the advantage of additional practices for young guys and recruiting can’t be overstated. Here is where my prognostication is going right now:
Fresno State Bulldogs: W
@ Virginia Tech Hokies: L
Syracuse Orange: W
Wisconsin Badgers: L
Illinois Fighting Illini: W
@ Iowa Hawkeyes: L
Ohio State Buckeyes: L
@ Nebraska Cornhuskers: L
@ Michigan Wolverines: L
Minnesota Golden Gophers: W
@ Northwestern Wildcats: W
Indiana Hoosiers: W
Bowl Game:Pinstripe Bowl