Let's get one thing straight first: The Old Oaken Bucket is Purdue's. Almost twice as many P's as I's adorn the chain and we have had it for 13 of the past 16 years. The three times Indiana has won it they have had to run across the field and virtually steal it from us. When Purdue has won it back we have calmly waited at midfield for it to be returned, mostly because we know it will stay for awhile once we get it back.
Most of the time we merely break it out and parade it around the field for our fans. Often this is the only time it is seen in Bloomington after another road win over the Hoosiers.
Unfortunately, it will probably be seen in Bloomington a lot more after Saturday. For the third time in the last five years neither team has a chance of reaching a bowl game, so the Boilermakers and Hoosiers will battle for the 116th time with nothing more at stake than the Old Oaken Bucket. Both defenses are pretty bad, but Indiana has a significant edge on offense. Given that Purdue struggled to score against Illinois last week it will probably be more than enough to lose control of our Bucket.
The numbers aren't good for either side:
Indiana: 115th Nationally at 39.1 points per game
Purdue: 108th Nationally at 36.4 points per game
Indiana: 121st Nationally at 256.5 yards per game
Purdue: 107th Nationally at 220.4 yards per game
Indiana: 113th Nationally at 272.5 yards per game
Purdue: 44th Nationally at 218.5 yards per game
Indiana: 120th nationally at 529 yards per game
Purdue: 100th Nationally at 438.8 yards per game
Indiana: 17th Nationally at 491.8 yards per game
Purdue: 121st Nationally at 261.7 yards per game
Indiana: 23rd Nationally at 36.8 points per game
Purdue: 119th Nationally at 13 points per game
So that is what you have: Two bad defenses, but Indiana at least has a huge advantage with an offense that easily churns out yards and points. Unless they continue to struggle as they have the past two weeks (and we don't happen to be Ohio state or Wisconsin), or Purdue finally figures out its own offense, the Bucket will change hands and Purdue will have its first double-digit losing streak in 105 years.
Indiana Offense vs. Purdue Defense:
Kevin Wilson has actually succeeded with the multiple-quarterback offense as Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld had traded off to effectively lead a potent Hoosier attack. Sudfield is the pocket passer with 2,505 yards and 21 touchdowns on the season with only nine interceptions. The difference in this rotation from Marve/TerBush is that Roberson offers more of a change of pace. Roberson has 855 yards and nine TDs against two picks, but adds a rushing element with 269 yards and 5 TDs on 64 carries.
Purdue will see both on Saturday, and both are excellent at running Indiana's hurry-up offense that is meant to score quickly by not allowing defenses to substitute. It really is quite effective at both the run and the pass. Tevin Coleman needs only 42 yards rushing to reach 1,000 for the season and he has 12 touchdowns. At 958 yards rushing he has outrushed Purdue as a team. In fact, backup Stephen Houston has also almost outrushed Purdue. The Boilers have a paltry 774 yards rushing as a team, while Houston has 633 and three touchdowns.
In addition to having a solid ground game, the passing game is excellent. Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn, and Ted Bolser give Indiana four receivers with over 1,300 yards receiving in their careers. That is very impressive, and will be a huge challenge for a Purdue defense that already is bad against the pass. Yes, Purdue is 44th nationally, but 1. Teams often do not have to pass much against us, and 2. If you have seen any third and long play this year you know that Purdue is often grossly out of position when teams do elect to pass.
The offensive line does a good job of keeping Sudfeld and Roberson clean, giving up only 18 sacks. It is a young line too. Bolder and Hughes are the only seniors at the top of the offensive depth chart, so the Indiana offense is going to be very good next year too. It is a smaller offensive line with all five starters under 300 pounds, but it is built for the speed of Indiana's offense.
Indiana honestly presents a horrible matchup for Purdue offensively. Purdue has proven it cannot stop the run with any consistency and the pass defense is often terrible on third and long situations. They are facing an offense that moves the ball with great efficiency on the ground and through the air. After watching 11 games of Purdue football there are only two ways I can see Indiana not scoring at least 40 points: 1. Their offense gets in its way, as can happen from time to time, or 2. Purdue keeps it on the sideline with long, sustained drives.
Indiana Defense vs. Purdue Offense:
It is no secret that Purdue is historically bad at running the football this year. I had hoped it was a byproduct of facing nine pretty good defenses though. Then we played Illinois. The Illini are hardly stout up front, but aside from a rough first quarter they handled Purdue's ground game with ease last week.
If Purdue had at least ran well against Illinois' 117th rated run defense last week I would at least be slightly encouraged. That means we could take the Navy strategy to beat Indiana where we grind out 15 play, 80 yard drives on the ground, move the clock, and keep their offense harmlessly on the sideline. The Hoosiers are terrible against the run, rating ahead of only New Mexico and New Mexico State at the FBS level. Unfortunately, Purdue is terrible at running the football.
The lone standout defensive playeris linebacker Greg Heban, who has 79 tackles and three interceptions to go with a fumble recovery. He was the guy that was famously chased down by Robert Marve last year after an interception. The pass rush does not get a lot of push with Nick Mangieri and John Laihinen leading the team in sacks. The defense as a whole is terrible, as it is often out of position and tackles very poorly.
Honestly, if Purdue cannot at least move the football with regularity against Indiana the Shoopfense needs to be jettisoned because it clearly is not working. Unfortunately, I would say the same thing about the Illinois defense too. Bowling Green is the only team Indiana has played that scored fewer than 24 points. Of the 11 opponents Indiana has played nine of them scored at least 35 points. Even Indiana State, a team Purdue held to 14 points, scored 35 and was missing Shakir Bell for most of the game.
The Indiana defense is not great against the pass with only seven interceptions, but to win Purdue has to find a way to get out of its own way and run the football. Akeem Shavers had a huge day last year and Akeem Hunt had one two years ago. Navy and Wisconsin combined to attempt only 20 passes, but gained over 1,000 combined yards rushing. Basically, Indiana knew the run was coming and still was helpless to stop it.
That is probably Purdue's best bet. I don't have a problem with going with a seven man offensive line plus a fullback if it means we consistently move the ball on the ground. I have no respect whatsoever for the Indiana run defense. It is that bad. Unfortunately, I fear our rushing offense is worse.
I want to see Cody Webster win the ray Guy Award, but I hope that he has made his last punt for Purdue already. If so, it means he doesn't punt on Saturday because Purdue is moving the football with regularity against the Indiana defense. He isn't as much of a weapon in this game though because the Indiana offense is more than good enough to negate him. That makes Erich Toth, at 40.3 yards per kick, more of a weapon if Purdue can stop Indiana's offense.
Mitch Ewald is a definite advantage over Paul Griggs, who has now not made a field goal in over two months. Ewald is perfect on extra points, is 9 of 11 on field goals, and already has a game-winning kick to his credit for the Bucket.
In the return game both teams have dangerous players. Frankie Williams had a punt return TD negated last week on a penalty while Shane Wynn averages 14 yards per return and has a touchdown. Purdue has an edge on kickoff returns with Hunt and Raheem Mostert, but they might need to have a monstrous day where they personally erase multiple Indiana scores. The Indiana kick return defense is good though at only 17.6 yards per kick.
The message for Purdue is simple: find some way to run the ball and keep the clock moving. The Boilers rarely face a run defense this bad and running the ball keeps the Indiana offense out of the equation. The Indiana defense is the sole reason Indiana hasn't already won 7 or 8 games this year. The offense is just that good. Even the No. 1 rated Michigan State defense gave up its most points to Indiana.
With even a marginally effective defense Indiana beats Navy, Minnesota, Michigan, and possibly Minnesota or Michigan State. That is the missing ingredient for an Indiana team that is honestly a lot better than Purdue in many areas right now.
Unfortunately, I just don't trust us to get out of our own way. Purdue had every chance to not only beat Illinois, but beat them convincingly with four turnovers and a bad defense that is not much better than Indiana's. Instead, it flailed around and was shutout for the final three quarters when it could barely gain a first down.
Indiana is going to score points. There is no denying that. Being held to 17 points in the last eight quarters is a reflection on how good Wisconsin and Ohio State are. Outside of that they have not been held under 28 points and they have reached 40 points five times. That means Purdue is likely going to need to reach 40 itself, something it has not managed to do all season long. In fact, Purdue hasn't even reached 25 points.
The Bucket stays if:
- Indiana commits multiple turnovers like Illinois.
- Purdue rushes for over 300 yards.
- Danny Etling is protected and does not throw an interception.
- Purdue does not commit a turnover.
- Purdue gets a special teams score.
Kiss the Bucket goodbye if:
- Purdue's offense continues to get in its own way.
- Indiana does not punt (it is possible).
- Etling throws a pick six.
- We see Cody Webster on more than three punts.
- We see both 2013 Indiana and 2013 Purdue
Prediction: Coming Friday