In 1997 both Indiana and Purdue were about equal. Each program was starting under a new coach and had not had success in some time. The Hoosiers had not been bowling since 1993, while for Purdue it had been much longer (1984). Both teams were hoping for stability and a chance to move up in the Big Ten hierarchy from the bottom.
Purdue brought in Joe Tiller, who in 12 years went to 10 bowl games, one a Big Ten championship, came within a game of two more Big Ten titles, and retired with the most wins in Purdue history. Indiana went with Cam Cameron, who gave way to Gerry DiNardo, Terry Hoeppner (who was the right man before his tragic death), Bill Lynch, and finally, Kevin Wilson.
We have had two coaches in the intervening 15 years, while they have had five. We've been to ten bowl games to their one, yet I would argue that our programs are back to being even. In the standings we're ahead of them with more Big Ten wins of late, but given our struggles outside of the conference, and the fact they currently hold the Bucket, we're closer than we want to admit.
On paper, Saturday should be an easy win. We're facing a 1-10 team that is one of only three programs without a win against an FBS team. They are 3-28 in their last 31 Big Ten games, beating Northwestern 21-19 in 2008, Illinois 27-14 in 2009, and us 34-31 last year in overtime. That said, they have finished 1-7 in the conference nine times since 1997, but they last went winless in league play in 1995. Twice in that time (1996 and 2010) we were their lone conference win.
I admit that we should have an easy time against them, but I have learned it is never easy with us, especially this year. Yes, we have five wins, but we needed a blocked field goal, and onside kick recovery, and overtime to get three of them. Only against SEMO and Minnesota have we been able to sit back and relax. Given that we struggled and lost to Rice (whom I think is a worse team than Indiana), we can take nothing for granted.
2011 Record: 1-10, 0-7 Big Ten
2010 Record: 5-7, 1-7 Big Ten
Bowl result: None
Blog Representation: Crimson Quarry
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 70-37-6
Last Purdue win: 11/21/2009 at Indiana 38-21
Last Indiana win: 11/27/2010 at Purdue 34-31 OT
The Hoosiers have tried three quarterbacks out this season, finally settling on freshman Tre Roberson and using him to build for the future. Like Antwaan Randle El and Kellen Lewis before him, he is a dual threat. Though not as good as them (at least yet), he has some promise. He has completed 55% of his passes for 790 yards and three scores against five picks in eight games. On the ground he has 349 yards rushing and two more scores. On our end, I see no reason to expect we'll change from Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve. In the games this system has worked, it works well. TerBush has opened the game with a score in five straight games. Marve had success against OSU and got us moving against Iowa. In the long run I like Roberson, but for now, I'll take TerBush and Marve. Edge: Purdue
We need to run the ball. Indiana gives up 239 rushing yards per game, good for 117th nationally among FBS teams. Only Kansas, Texas Tech, and New Mexico are worse. They give up over 50 yards more per game on the ground than Northwestern, who is next worst in the conference. Conversely, only Stephen Houston and Roberson have been effective running the ball. Houston has 673 yards and 7 TD's on the year. Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers should have room and we absolutely must run the ball until they prove they can stop it. Major Edge: Purdue
This is where Indiana's offense has taken a major hit down the stretch. Demarlo Belcher was a potential all-Big Ten receiver, but he was dismissed after six games. Kofi Hughes leads them with 30 catches for 472 yards and three scores, but the inconsistency with quarterbacks is likely to blame for the lack of numbers. Duwyce Wilson has battled injury this year, but three of his 17 catches have gone for touchdowns. Dre Muhammad has also been effective in the passing game, as they like to spread the ball around like us. Edge: Even
It begins up front for Indiana, as they have been pushed around by almost everyone. The line has given up 30 sacks and an astounding 79 tackles for loss in 11 games. Justin Pagan is the only lineman even close to Big Ten size at 6'5" 294 pounds. They start two freshman, and one is 6'2" 263 pound guard Collin Rahrig. In this day and age that is almost criminally undersized in this conference. Bernard Taylor is only 278 at the other guard position, so I expect a huge day from Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston. Major Edge: Purdue
It has been clear since the Illinois game that we go as our defensive line goes. When they are dominating as they have been against Ohio State and Illinois, we're good. When they are neutralized like Wisconsin and Iowa did, we look awful. Brandon Taylor got his first career touchdown last week and has really come on as a solid back up, but we still struggle on the ends. For Indiana, good lines don't give up 240 yards per game on the ground. Adam Replogle leads them with four sacks and they have 17 on the season, but this is a terrible unit against the run. We're merely bad at times and dominant at others. Edge: Purdue
Jeff Thomas is their leading tackler with 71 stops, including 9.5 for loss. He is an experienced senior that has served them very well this season. Leon Beckum (another senior) and Chase Hoobler (a redshirt freshman) represent a lot about Indiana this year. They either start seniors that have been around for awhile, or freshman. Among their 22 listed starters, 11 are freshmen. Six of those freshmen play on defense. That means in about two years this will be a very experienced unit, but right now they are struggling as freshmen do. On our side I expect Chris Carlino to start in place of Dwayne Beckford, who will likely be suspended after being ejected late against Iowa. Captain Morgan and Joe Holland will know what to do as seniors. Edge: Purdue
This is where the youth movement really is. Sophomore corner Greg Heban is the most experienced player. Mark Murphy and Micheal Hunter were playing in high school a year ago, while Drew Hardin is a redshirt freshman. This group has five interceptions, two by Heban. This is where having a player like Ricardo Allen is helpful. Allen is due for another pick six, and this could be the week for it. Edge: Purdue
Adam Pines averages only 38 yards per kick, while Mitch Ewald is a solid 12 of 15 on field goal attempts. Shane Wynn is a dangerous kickoff returner that has already taken one back this year, but Raheem Mostert has a higher average with Akeem Hunt. This area is just about even, mostly because they don't have J.B. Gibboney's coverage schemes. Edge: Even
I will give Kevin Wilson credit. He is rolling the dice with his players and letting them gain experience for the future. He has an indentity of spreading the ball around while making the quarterback a threat to run. He at least has a plan in place. I don't think we have a plan. Edge: Indiana
Almost nothing would surprise me in this game. We could go out, play to our ability, and blow them out as badly as Michigan State did last week. We also could let Stephen run for 160 yards and three scores, allow Roberson to pick us apart, turn the ball over five times, and lose 31-14. Neither would be shocking in my eyes. I'd like to think that the motivation of getting our Bucket back and playing to send the seniors to their first postseason game would be inspiring, but it was supposed to be inspiring last week too (sans the Bucket). Iowa didn't even play that well, but you had little doubt they would win after the first drive when we didn't even look interested in covering one of the Big Ten's best receivers. If we can't do that, how can we expect to be motivated to stop Indiana?