The Indiana Hoosiers have kept the Bucket for two years in a row, something that had not happened since 1993 and 1994. That was during a stretch where IU won 7 of 10 games from 1987-96. Purdue's three wins were by 15-14 on a late missed field goal in 1989, 13-10 in 1992, and a 51-14 blowout in 1995 when Mike Alstott went crazy.
Indiana has not won three in a row since 1944-47 when they won four in a row for their longest stretch of dominance in the history of the series dating back to its start in 1891. The only other times they won three in a row were 1940-42, 1917, 1920, and 1921 (the teams did not play in 1918 or 1919), 1908-10, and 1899-1901. Basically, for their two most recent wins streaks of three or more wins in a row it took a major World War depriving both teams of able-bodied young men to allow Indiana to win at least three in a row, thus the reference to Hitler in the teaser being responsible for IU's most recent three-game winning streak. Soon John Shoop can join him.
There is not a lot of confidence going into Saturday. Indiana is a flawed team that struggles on defense and really struggles to close out opponents. They were a missed two-point conversion from losing to an FCS team. They completely and utterly collapsed at home against Rutgers. They are still better than Purdue, however. They pushed Ohio State and Michigan to the brink. They challenged Iowa for four quarters.
Purdue's M.O. this year is to play good teams like Iowa, northwestern, and Michigan State well on the road only to come home and look like a flaming turd against medicore teams like Virginia Tech, Illinois, and Minnesota at home. All there of those teams could finish 5-7, while Indiana's worst case scenario is 5-7 right now. Just two years ago Purdue lost to them 56-36 in a game that wasn't that close.
Saturday could be worse.
Who to Watch on Offense
Jordan Howard - RB - If Howard had been healthy he would likely be the best running back in the Big Ten, if not the country. That is not hyperbole. The only reason Purdue slowed down Tevin Coleman last year was an early injury in the game. Howard has completely missed two games and has been limited in two others, but still has an impressive 1,213 yards and 9 TDS after rushing for 1,587 yards and 13 scores at UAB last year. Last week he had just three carries for 14 yards and he is questionable with a knee injury, but his numbers even injured are impressive. He torched a good Michigan defense for 238 yards and three touchdowns.
Nate Sudfeld - QB - Sudfeld missed last year's game, but after missing the Penn State game he has done extremely well. Last week he had 385 yards and four TDs to go with a rushing score as Purdue torched Maryland. He will likely go over 3,000 yards passing this year as a final senior send off and he has 20 touchdowns against just five interceptions. Two of those picks came in the meltdown against Rutgers.
Simmie Cobbs - WR - if the name is familiar it is because Cobbs was once a Purdue commit. Apparently Purdue has no use for a 6'4" receiver that can get separation because we wanted him to play defense, which is why he went to IU. On offense he has 49 receptions for 830 yards and 3 touchdowns. Naturally, they do not have him playing defense.
Ricky Jones - WR - Jones gives the Hoosiers a nice 1-2 punch with 47 receptions for 771 yards and 5 TDs.
Mitchell Paige - WR - Indiana's receiving corps is probably as deep and varied as bowling Green's. Paige has 41 receptions for 497 yards and four TDs. Considering how much Bowling Green gave Purdue fits in the passing game, expect Hudson to give them the same 10 yard cushions that caused so much trouble in September.
Jason Spriggs - LT - The 6'7" 310 Spriggs is one of the best offensive tackles in Big Ten. So far he is projected as an early second round pick, if not a first round selection (say the Colts, who need an offensive line?). he is part of the reason IU quarterbacks have only been sacked 13 times.
Who to Watch on Defense
As usual, the Indiana defense is bad. They give up 184.2 yards per game on the ground, which is 85th nationally. This actually marks a great improvement over the past several years. Just two years ago they were 118th at 237.8 yards per game. Even then, this run defense is better than Purdue's.
Where Purdue has a chance is against the pass. Indiana's pass defense is the worst pass defense in America. They give up 325.9 yards per game, which is a full 15 yards worse than Oregon's at No. 127 nationally. They have given up 29 touchdowns while only picking off 7 interceptions. This pass defense is absolutely horrid, so naturally I expect John Shoop to completely fail to exploit it.
Nick Mangieri - DE - Mangieri can get into the backfield and he leads Indiana with seven sacks. He also has four quarterback hits and five pass breakups.
Marcus Oliver - LB - Oliver is a strong sophomore linebacker that has emerged as a good player with 91 tackles. He also has a sack and an interception to go with four forced fumbles.
Jonathan Crawford - S - Crawford leads Indiana with three interceptions to go with 63 tackles. As we know, however, it is never a good thing when your safety is one of your team's top tacklers.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Griffin Oakes - K - If this game comes down to a field goal Indiana has a huge advantage. Oakes is pretty much automatic, going 20 for 22 with a long of 51 yards. He might be the best kicker in the Big Ten.
Mitchell Paige - PR - Paige is one of the top punt returners in America with a pair of returns for touchdowns and an 11.71 average.
This is the worst pass defense that Purdue has faced under Darrell Hazell and John Shoop, so there is no excuse whatsoever for Austin Appleby to not have a career day. Really, it is that simple. They are atrocious on defense through the air, yet Hazell said it was important to run the ball this week. Even then, they aren't a great run defense.
How much of this comes from their schedule, however? Playing Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State is about as difficult of a conference stretch as you can ask for. Losing Antonio Allen, their top safety, before the season because he was selling drugs, was also a huge blow. Even then, bad teams like Southern Illinois and Wake Forest have had their way with the Indiana defense for stretches. That's why this game is the final indictment of Shoop. If the Purdue offense struggles to multiple consecutive three-and-outs yet again and Shoop is allowed to return there should be complete anarchy from our fans.
Of course, Indiana balances this by having a very potent offense that can drop 40 on just about anyone, let alone our own "soft as baby shit" coverage. I fully expect them to put a lot of points on the board. Indiana is giving up 37.2 points per game, but Purdue's own defense gives up 34.9. The only difference between the two is that we pretty much shut down our FCS opponent and they did not.
So you have two lousy defenses, but one good offense and one inconsistent at best offense. As expected, Shoop will be the difference and he will likely be the MVP of Indiana's third straight Bucket win. Thank you, John Shoop for doing what only World Wars could do.