NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl can welcome a Big Ten team for the first time in four years.
Purdue will play Western Michigan at Detroit’s Ford Field on Dec. 27. The bowl has a tie with the Big Ten, but it’s not always clear whether enough Big Ten teams will be eligible. Last year, Florida International of the Sun Belt Conference beat Toledo of the Mid-American Conference 34-32.
Western Michigan (7-5) represents the MAC this year.
“Both teams have significant fan bases and will no doubt bring that support with them to Detroit,” said Ken Hoffman, the bowl’s executive director. “We expect an outstanding game.”
The last Big Ten team to play in this bowl was also Purdue, which beat Central Michigan 51-48 in 2007. The Boilermakers haven’t played in a bowl since.
Purdue (6-6) has won two of its last three games, including a win over Ohio State.
“Our goal was to play one more game this year, and we will use this game against Western Michigan as a springboard into the 2012 season,” Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said. “We’re excited to return to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. There are nearly 200,000 Purdue alumni within a four-hour drive of Detroit, and this game will provide a great opportunity for them to get together, root on the Boilermakers and share some holiday cheer.”
Western Michigan last made a bowl when it lost to Rice in the Texas Bowl in December 2008. The Broncos (7-5) finished the regular season with a 68-19 win over Akron. Jordan White is the nation’s leading receiver — averaging 10.6 catches for a total of 127.
“We’re proud to represent the Mid-American Conference against a prominent Big Ten opponent in front of a national audience,” Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard said. “It is definitely a great day to be a Bronco.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)