The Old Oaken Bucket has often been played to pretty low stakes. The 1967 game was the only one that decided the Big Ten title, as Indiana’s win forced a three-way tie between Indiana, Purdue, and Minnesota, while denying Purdue an undefeated conference record and possible national title. The only years where both teams went to a bowl game were 1979 and 2007.
Lately though, the game has had higher stakes than normal. In 2002, 2011, and 2012 Purdue clinched a bowl berth with a win. Indiana did the same in 2015 and 2016. Last year, for the first time ever, it was “winner-take-bowl”, with Purdue bringing the Bucket back home after four years to clinch a surprising bowl bid. This year we have the exact same stakes as both teams enter at 5-6.
Sure, we’re not talking about Pasadena. Right now Purdue is the projected winner according to SB Nation and they have us facing Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. If Indiana wins they would likely be headed to somewhere like San Diego and the Holiday Bowl since they already played in the Pinstripe Bowl recently. For both programs, however, a bowl bid would be huge. For Purdue, it would represent a nice recovery after an 0-3 start and a reward for the 5-1 stretch in the middle of the season. For Indiana, any bowl is cause for celebration. They would have a chance at their first winning season since 2007 and first bowl win since 1991.
So yeah, these are relatively big stakes. Both teams want to head into 2019 with momentum. There is also that whole Old Oaken Bucket thing to play for, and Purdue has lost three in a row in Bloomington.
2018 Record: 5-6, 2-6 Big Ten East
2017 Record: 5-7, 2-7 Big Ten East
Bowl Result: None
Blog Representation: Crimson Quarry
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 73-41-6
Last Purdue win: 31-24 at Purdue on 11/25/2017
Last Indiana win: 26-24 at Indiana on 11/26/2016
Head Coach: Tom Allen (10-14 in 2nd season at Indiana, lost head coaching debut in 2016 Foster Farms bowl)
Indiana started off this season in the exact opposite manner that Purdue did. They were 3-0 after wins over Florida International, Virginia, and Ball State. They were 4-1 after losing to Michigan State but beating Rutgers. They followed that with four straight losses before edging Maryland by 2 and losing by 11 at Michigan.
As always, Indiana is a hard team to judge. They played Ohio State tough for a half before losing by 23 while Purdue dominated the Buckeyes. They were blown out by Iowa and Purdue beat the Hawkeyes. Both teams lost competitive games with Michigan State and both teams lost at Minnesota. Last week at Michigan they gave one of the best teams in the country quite a game while few others have done so. The Hoosiers definitely have the talent to be competitive. What they lack is consistency.
Who to Watch on Offense
Peyton Ramsey – QB – Indiana’s offense is right in the middle of the country statistically. They are not great, but they are not horrible, either. They’re 64th in yards per game, 46th in passing, and 80th in rushing. Ramsey leads the way as a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. He has thrown for 2,530 yards and 18 touchdowns against 12 interceptions while also rushing for 317 yards and 4 more scores. Given Purdue’s recent defensive struggles he can definitely put up some points on us.
Stevie Scott – RB – Scott has rushed for 1,033 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. He is not Jonathan Taylor, but we still have Taylor’s footprints all over our backs from last week. Scott is a big back that can get the tough yards and still break big plays. He can also catch passes out of the backfield when needed.
Donavan Hale – WR – Indiana likes to mix it up with multiple receivers, and Hale has 32 receptions for 427 yards and 6 touchdowns. Nick Westbrook, Luke Timian, and Ty Fryfogle are also really involved in the passing game. We cannot forget the big play ability of J-Shun Harris II, who has 34 catches for 303 yards and two scores. The receiver group is going to stress test one of the worst pass defenses in America.
Who to Watch on Defense
You can run on Indiana. Of course, we should have been able to run on Minnesota, but we didn’t. The Hoosiers are 89th against the run at 188 yards per game. Their pass defense is also 72nd at 234 yards per game, so Purdue should have ample room to move the football. Our pass offense continues to be one of the best in the country. David Blough is currently at 3,211 yards passing, which is the 10th best season in school history. With 300 yards he’ll have his best career season and move into 7th place on the single season list. He can also pass Kyle Orton for 4th on the career passing list with 98 more yards.
Jonathan Crawford – DB – Crawford leads the team with 60 tackles and is a solid defensive back. He has three tackles for loss and an interception as well.
Bryant Fitzgerald – DB – Fitzgerald leads the team with three interceptions, but only has 29 tackles on the season. To me it is very telling that Indiana’s leaders in tackles and in tackles for loss are officially defensive backs, as Marcelino Ball leads them in tackles for loss with 6.5. Ball also has a team high 2.5 sacks. Indiana does not have a great pass rush with only 17 sacks on the season.
Who to Watch on Defense
J-Shun Harris II – PR – Harris is a great punt returner and a really good story. He averages 10.57 yards per punt return and has taken one back for a score. He is a senior that is an excellent candidate for getting a 6th year next year because he has torn his ACL three times. In his career, however, he has returned three punts for touchdowns in his career.
Logan Justus – K – Justus has been a solid kicker, hitting on 15 of 17 kicks with a long of 44 yards. He connected on the game-winner a few weeks ago against Maryland.
This game is a true toss-up. Neither team is consistent on either side of the ball and there is that whole rivalry angle, too. I think Purdue’s offense is better, but I am concerned about our defense, which has given up more than 40 points for two straight weeks. Of course, 20 of those points last week were in overtime, but we still fell apart at the absolute worst time.
I really don’t know who to favor here. Indiana was pretty solid last week at Michigan, so we know they can play good football. They also have had moments where the offense stalls out and can’t get out of its way. This game probably comes down to who screws up the least. These are a pair of flawed teams playing for a critical bowl bid. The pressure will be pretty intense.