Indiana vs. Purdue: Primer and Prediction

The (5-6) Indiana Hoosiers travel to West Lafayette to play the (5-6) Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday at Noon.  The game will be televised on ESPN2.  It is one of the more meaningful Old Oaken Bucket games in recent history, as it is a “win or go home” scenario, with both teams needing the win to ensure bowl eligibility.  While it is at least possible to qualify for a bowl game with a 5-7 record, that isn’t something that either program is likely to feel good about.  Perhaps someday these programs will meet in a Big Ten title game.  Until then, this is about as big as it gets.

The Hoosiers hold a series record tying 4 game winning streak in the series.  Purdue is a slight favorite (-2.5), although the point spread suggests that odds makers view the teams as relatively even and are giving Purdue the slight edge due to their home field advantage.

Meet the Boilermakers

Purdue is coming off an upset victory over Iowa last week in a game where quarterback Elijah Sindelar and the Boiler defense led the way.  In the pre-conference portion of their schedule Purdue was very competitive against a good Louisville team, and pulled off an eye catching win on the road at Missouri 35-3.  During the B1G season, the Boilers were competitive against top programs like Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska but were unable to pull out victories against any of them.  That is a pattern that Hoosier fans are certainly familiar with.  The loss that stands out for Purdue was a 14-12 defeat at Rutgers in October.

Head Coach – Jeff Brohm (1st season).  Indiana has encountered Brohm before.  In 2015 Brohm’s Western Kentucky Hilltoppers took IU down to the wire before the Hoosiers pulled out a 38-35 win.  In that game IU fans certainly got a taste of Brohm’s reputation as an offensive guru, as Western Kentucky put up 568 yards against the pre-Tom Allen Hoosier defense.

Offensive Rankings (all rankings out of 130 teams)
Total Points – 99th
Total Yards – 76th
Total Passing Yards – 51st
Total Rushing Yards – 95th

Defensive Rankings
Total Points – 21st
Total Yards – 41st
Total Pass Yards – 78th
Total Rushing Yards – 33rd

Overall – As the statistics suggest, Purdue has had a middle of the road offense that has had more success passing than running the ball.  While there was perhaps some concern that the passing game might struggle after the season ending injury to quarterback David Blough, Purdue had an experienced backup in Sindelar that had shared snaps throughout the year and was very impressive against Iowa throwing for 3 touchdowns.  Clearly the Brohm offensive system hasn’t fully taken hold yet.  But then new systems rarely do in year one of a new regime, as the challenges of meshing a new system with players from the old system get worked out.

The defense has been a pleasant surprise for Purdue and has kept them in games as their offense works out the kinks.  Holding teams like Missouri, Wisconsin and Iowa to 3, 17 and 15, respectively is impressive.

Common Opponents

Purdue and Indiana have had 4 common opponents thus far:

Michigan 28  Purdue 10 (at Michigan)
Michigan 27  Indiana 20 (OT, at Indiana)

Wisconsin 17  Purdue 9 (at Wisconsin)
Wisconsin 45  Indiana 17 (at Indiana)

Purdue 29  Illinois 10 (at Purdue)
Indiana 24  Illinois 14 (at Illinois)

Rutgers 14  Purdue 12 (at Rutgers)
Indiana 41  Rutgers 0 (at Indiana)

Clearly the head scratcher here is Rutgers, but there are enough other common opponents to suggest that might have been a fluke.  While it might look like Purdue played Wisconsin closer and Indiana played Michigan closer — those games were in fact closer than the scores suggest.  We see another close game here as well.

The Series – Purdue leads the all-time series 72-41-6, although Indiana has been the better program over the last decade, winning 6 of 10.  Indiana has an active 4 game winning streak in the series, matching its longest such streak vs. Purdue (1944-47).

Weather – Both teams like to throw the ball, but Purdue might be a bit more dependent on its passing game.  If the Boilers are left to run the ball against a stout Indiana front 7, that might give the Hoosiers the edge.  There is no precipitation forecast, so wind is the real concern here.  Right now the kickoff forecast calls for sunny skies, 45 degrees and 12 mile an hour winds.  Temperatures should warm up to near 50 degrees with winds staying about the same throughout the game.  This doesn’t appear to be enough wind to impact either strong armed quarterback.

Prediction – The point spread has Purdue as a slight favorite.  We predict this game will come down to turnovers and special teams.  Indiana pulls out a nail biter at the end 27-24, becomes bowl eligible for the 3rd straight year and extends its winning streak over Purdue to 5 games.

[photo credit – jconline]