It all comes down this.
The Old Oaken Bucket, a rivalry game, bowl eligibility, improvement over last year, recruiting battles, and the future direction of the program. It’s all on the line as at least the regular season concludes on Saturday.
The Hoosiers have a big opportunity to build off of recent program success overall and in the series. A win over Purdue would mark the fifth win in the last six contests, and would make IU bowl eligible for the third time in the last four years.
In total, 24 Hoosier seniors will play their final regular season college football game on Saturday, including captains Luke Timian, Wes Martin and Jonathan Crawford. They are going to leave the Memorial Stadium field on Saturday afternoon either on top of the world, and with another game to play, or faced with the reality that their careers have ended with a loss to their bitter arch rival. There is no middle ground.
PURDUE (5-6, 4-4) at INDIANA (5-6, 2-6)
- Kickoff: Noon Eastern Time
- Location: Memorial Stadium (52,656), Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: ESPN2
- Series: Purdue leads 73-41-6. Purdue won last year’s meeting 31-24 in West Lafayette. Indiana has won four of the last five and last won 26-24 in 2016 in Bloomington.
- Odds: Purdue is a 3.5 point favorite
- Weather at kickoff: 51 degrees, cloudy, winds at 13 mph, 5% chance of precipitation.
Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm is in his second year leading the Boilermaker program. He is 12-12 (.500) at Purdue. Brohm served as Western Kentucky head coach (2014-16) and carries an overall record of 42-22 (.656).
The Boiler head coach has been in the news a lot lately, frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for the job opening at his alma mater, Louisville.
TALE OF THE TAPE
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WHEN PURDUE HAS THE FOOTBALL
While Purdue is a statistically superior team passing the ball, they are dangerous in both phases of the game. Their passing attack helps set up the run, and D.J. Knox is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Averaging 5.9 yards per carry, Knox runs hard with a low center of gravity and is difficult to bring down in space.
Boiler quarterback David Blough is a talented quarterback with dual-threat capabilities. Interestingly, his completion and attempt numbers are very similar to Peyton Ramsey’s, but Blough has nearly 700 more yards through the air than Ramsey.
That discrepancy is in part due to the big play capabilities of one player — freshman Rondale Moore. The Louisville native has 91 catches for 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he is a big threat to run the ball as well. He has 15 carries for 190 yards and a touchdown.
Indiana’s recent “bend but don’t break” strategy doesn’t seem likely to work in this one. Purdue is one of the top teams in the country at red zone offense (and IU one of the worst on defense), and Hoosier fans are still having nightmares about Purdue jet sweeps in the red zone from last year.
If there is a sliver lining here, it is that it will be strength against strength, as IU defends the pass better than the run. Indiana will need to be aggressive, take risks, and find a way to not just pressure Blough, but get him to the ground.
More than anything, IU will have to do what it’s done all year — generate takeaways. The Hoosiers are sixth in the country in turnovers gained, and will need at least two on Saturday to keep things close.
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
This is where the game is going to be won or lost. Purdue is going to score points. But will Indiana?
It’s simple really. Purdue’s defense is a bunch of three star recruits — and so is IU’s offense. There is no major talent gap here that should in part dictate the outcome like we saw against Michigan and others.
Unlike Purdue’s defense, IU’s offense is a veteran group, with an offensive line and wide receiver group that should be superior on Saturday.
But it really all comes down to execution, and Purdue’s defense has improved over the course of the year. Having said that, the Boilers aren’t dominant against either the run or the pass. IU has the talent to beat them either way.
Who will have the better scheme? Who will make the better adjustments? Who will avoid big mistakes? Who will want it more?
The bottom line is that IU needs to finish drives. Whether they take shots down the field or sustain long drives (preferably they do both), the Hoosiers need to score touchdowns rather than field goals to keep up.
We’ll be surprised if freshman Reese Taylor isn’t featured prominently on Saturday. As the backup quarterback, he’s been understandably protected in recent weeks. But all bets are off now. IU needs throw everything at Purdue if it wants to come out on top.
Well, we’ve made it this far. At the beginning of the season, we predicted the final score of all 12 IU games, and thus far we are 11 for 11 with correctly predicting the winner. We strayed a couple times from this in our weekly predictions — and got burned both times (Minnesota and Iowa).
Now, if you’ve been following Hoosier football for a while, most of these games weren’t too hard to call at the beginning of the year. Things tend to follow a pattern around here. So while 11 for 11 is pretty good, we aren’t going to give up the day job and move to Vegas any time soon.
If nothing else, we’ve learned that it’s best to follow our beginning of the year instincts on this one. This was the score we predicted at the beginning of the year, and it still seems like the kind of offensive production that will be necessary to pull out the win. A score from the defense or special teams wouldn’t hurt either.
The Bucket comes back to Bloomington to stay.
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