The Bucket game is a mere warm-up for what should be a really fun basketball season of sparring between Indiana and Purdue. The Hoosiers are big favorites on Saturday, so let’s learn a little about them with Kyle Robbins of Crimson Quarry:
T-Mill: Indiana hasn't been as #CHAOSTEAM-y this year as in the past, but they are still all over the place. What has worked well and what has gone wrong?
Kyle: Well, I'd argue it's been as much or more chaos even, just less gaudy scores. If you can distill this season down to a single sentence, it's this: Indiana's production-to-points ratios are, just, um, bizzare. There are two teams worse at scoring points inside the opponent's 40 yard line than Indiana.
T-Mill: So Indiana has a defense now! Is this season a one year aberration or is it a sign of things to come?
As long as Tom Allen is at Indiana, there's no reason to believe this is won't stick around. Indiana had some defensive talent on last year's roster, but most of it was young -- and they're even younger this year. It's a schematic change as well as an approach change, or at least that's what I'd surmise from the outside. There was quite a bit of talk about "buy-in" from the players early on in the season in regards to Allen as a motivator, and also his 4-2-5 system. Most of the production that's come against Indiana comes in those big plays, which still appear from time to time and usually indicates a on-field mistake rather than preparation and scheme. That happens when you play two uber-talented-but-still-true-freshmen in the secondary. But right now, this is the 18th best rushing defense in America. Indiana returns 10 starters off this defense next year. Make sure you don't lose Tom Allen to a bigger job, clean up the big plays with age, and, WHEW -- Indiana might be really, really good defensively next year. Please call 911.
T-Mill: On the other hand, the offense has been inconsistent at best. Is it a lack of running game? The loss of Simmie Cobbs? QB situation?
Kyle: Eh, it's a combination of factors that a program at Indiana's growth point still isn't able to fully withstand, in all honesty. Consider what Indiana missed from last year's offense:
- Nate Sudfeld, QB1 (NFL roster)
- Jordan Howard, RB1 (NFL roster)
- Simmie Cobbs, WR1 (Injury, out for year)
- Jason Spriggs, LT (NFL roster)
- Dimitric Camiel, RT (Injury, out for year)
- Jake Reed, RG (NFL camp)
- Dan Feeney, LG (Injury, missed 4/5 games)
- Michael Cooper (NFL camp)
That's five players to the NFL and arguably the best three returning players losing the whole or part of the season to injury. Oh, and the guys that were supposed to be the pass-catching stars of this era of IU football? J-Shun Harris tore his ACL for the second straight season before a single snap occurred. Camion Patrick did the same. Dominique Booth couldn't get medically cleared by Indiana doctors. And that's a whoooooole lot of turnover for a program not named Ohio State or Michigan to mitigate.
But, with that all in mind, Indiana's really done quite admirably this season, considering the losses. The pass offense is, believe it or not, better than last year's -- and one of the best in the nation. They're 7th nationally in S&P+ pass offense, mostly because of the big chunks Rich Lagow can pick up with his arm. Doesn't mean there aren't issues. Lagow's struggled with timing throws and interceptions, which can probably be attributed to a JUCO quarterback coming into a program in January and starting his first Big Ten games that fall. Happens. Whatever.
But the biggest problem for Indiana's offense, weirdly, has been the offensive line. Losing a first-team All American at left tackle and another one for parts of the season at right guard will do that. Devine Redding's still likely going to break the 1,000 yard mark on Saturday, but the production and stability that last year's run game brought has been the biggest change.
T-Mill: I know turnovers have been a major issue of late, and Purdue has the worst turnover ratio in the Big Ten by a lot. Are we in for a slopfest like 2006?
Kyle: Hmmmmmmm. I don't know? You're undoubtedly right. Here's a crazy stat: Indiana turned it over ELEVEN TIMES combined against Wake Forest and Penn State and still had the ball with a chance to win late in the fourth quarter. Pick-six by Lagow covered the margin in the Nebraska game, too. So that's at least three games where turnovers likely cost Indiana wins. But they, hey, they managed not to turn it over at Michigan! Which, is, like, something. I guess.
T-Mill: What would four straight buckets, a first since 1947, mean for Indiana?
Kyle: I mean, honestly? It's nice. Indiana's trending upward. But, I don't think any Indiana fans are unrealistic about where Purdue's program is right now. For the first time in quite some time -- or if ever -- I think most Indiana fans just view beating Purdue in football as somewhat of a formality. THAT SAID:
That can change very quickly. Life comes at you fast in college football. Indiana's losing the built-in bowl game life jacket here soon, in all likelihood. Not able to close out any of these close games against the top of the Big Ten? No worries! You've got three should-win games against Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue. With DJ Durkin's recruiting, Maryland should improve soon. Rutgers' roster is bereft of talent and may suck for eternity.
I think Purdue's in a little more unique spot. I don't think you would argue with me that the current roster, save like Markell Jones, is MAC-level talented. I'm not sure Nick Saban could make Purdue a good team next season. But, the right hire can quickly change Purdue's fortunes and take that easy W off the schedule in future seasons IF y'all don't go for the short-term sake. So, for your own sake (and I mean this completely earnestly and not as an Indiana fan) I have a word:
DO NOT HIRE LES MILES. DO. NOT. DO. IT. HAVE YOU SEEN LES MILES COACHED OFFENSES WHEN THEY HAVE FIVE-STAR TALENT ALL ACROSS THE TWO DEEP? YEAH. YEAH. OKAY, NOW REMOVE THE CHEAT CODE THAT IS RECRUITING TO LSU AND SUB IN BRINGING IN THE 7TH BEST TEAM IN THE BIG TEN WEST. IT'S A BAD IDEA, AND A SHORTCUT, AND IS NOT THE BEST LONG TERM DECISION FOR Y'ALL. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT LSU'S TWO COACHES BEFORE MILES. ONE IS NICK SABAN. ONE IS[FARRRRRRT NOISE]. MAKE THE GOOD LONG TERM DECISION. HERE'S WHAT BOBINSKI SHOULD DO:
[phone rings in Kalamazoo]
"how much do you want"
HIRE PJ FLECK IF YOU WANT TO MAKE PURDUE FOOTBALL GOOD AND FUN AGAIN AND MAKE ME SUFFER THE COGNITIVE DISSONANCE OF HIM COMING UP WITH SOME INEVITABLY STUPID SLOGAN ABOUT MOONS OR TRAINS BY GOD JUST DO IT. PAY HIM WHAT HE WANTS AND MAKE YOURSELVES NOT SUCK.
Okay. Let's move on.
T-Mill: Is there any real cause for concern given all of Purdue's issues.
Kyle: Mmmmmmm, statistically and logically? No. But Indiana football defies logic, so of course there is. I will be completely miserable until Indiana is up 3 to 4 touchdowns in the fourth quarter and not one second sooner.
T-Mill: BONUS BASKETBALL QUESTION! So, split in West Lafayette and Bloomington and let the rest decide the Big Ten?
Kyle: Ok! I honestly thought two things, at once: Purdue is very good and simultaneously a very good matchup for Indiana. Thought Bryant's face-up game would give Haas problems. Thought Purdue, oddly, lacks the perimeter defense it's had in years past.
But, psst. All of those things should've applied to Foooooorrrrt Wayyyyyyyneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
So, sure. That sounds right.