DETROIT (AP) — The Motor City is no Pasadena in late December. That’s just fine by this year’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl participants.
Purdue and Western Michigan should draw a crowd on Dec. 27.
The in-state Broncos can get to Ford Field in about two hours, while thousands of Purdue engineers have jobs in the Detroit area with the Big Three automakers and their suppliers. Organizers are hoping to approach the record crowd of 60,624 that showed up in 2007 to see the Boilermakers edge Central Michigan in the game’s second pairing between the Big Ten and Mid-American Conference.
“It’s really great for us,” Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said. “We have a lot of alumni here and it’s easy for our student body to get here.”
The Broncos (7-5) are seeking the school’s first bowl victory and bring with them the Football Bowl Subdivision’s leading receiver. Sixth-year senior Jordan White has the most catches (127) and yards receiving (1,646) in the nation, driving an offense that ranks eighth in yards passing per game (328.2).
Junior quarterback Alex Carder threw for 3,434 yards and tied for the most touchdown passes in the MAC (28) to help Western Michigan score 35.6 points per game, good for 18th in the country.
It’s the second bowl appearance for the Broncos’ senior class — Purdue is making its first since 2007 — but Cubit doesn’t think that gives his team an edge.
“That’s still a very tough team from a very tough conference,” he said of the Boilermakers. “It always feels good to beat a Big Ten team, but we’re going to have to play very well to do it.”
Purdue (6-6) needed to win two of its final three games just to become bowl-eligible and is hoping to build on the extra weeks of practice and the extra game that comes with it.
“This is huge for us,” third-year coach Danny Hope said. “We’re glad to be in position to start playing in bowl games regularly again.”
The Boilermakers allowed 26.4 points per game while going 4-4 in Big Ten play. They’ve used two quarterbacks during the season, starting Caleb TerBush while rotating Robert Marve in regularly. The duo completed a combined 60 percent of their passes for 2,361 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Cornerback Ricardo Allen said his unit will have its hands full trying to contain the Broncos.
“If (Jordan) played in any other conference, I think he’d be regarded as one of the best receivers in the country,” Allen said. “We’ve been playing better lately and we’re going to have to play a great game to keep him from hurting us.”
Perhaps a good sign for Western Michigan: Florida International won its first bowl game in this contest last year when it topped Toledo 24-21.
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