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The Kickoff: Purdue vs. Indiana

The Boilers and Hoosiers will kickoff in the final game for both programs in the 2023 seasons and will look for momentum heading into 2024.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket will be the final game for both the Purdue Boilermakers and the Indiana Hoosiers in the 2023 season. In a very difficult season for the Boilers, they have struggle to just a 3-8 season with victories over the Virginia Tech Hokies, Illinois Fighting Illini, and the Minnesota Golder Gophers. They will look to vault themselves into the off season by defeating another struggling B1G program in Indiana and keeping ahold of both rivalry trophies they entered into the season holding (Notre Dame currently holds the Shillelagh). That would be something Ryan Walters and the Boilers can use as a positive aspect to a season that saw injuries and a very tough schedule that features all twelve opponents at or just one victory away from bowl eligibility.

The Hoosiers have struggled as well this season and fired their offensive coordinator mid-way through the season. Since then, the Hoosiers have appeared to improve offensively but they are still very challenged with very few playmakers beyond Jaylin Lucas and currently stand at 3-8 as well on the season. Transfer QB Tayven Jackson was touted as a major transfer but the former Tennessee Volunteer disappointed throughout the season and was replaced fully by Brendan Sorsby.

With that brief introduction out of the way, let’s get into the keys for the game!

1 | Limit Jaylin Lucas’ Ability to Make Big Plays

Indiana has exactly one player who can make big plays and make the Hoosier offense a threat: Jaylin Lucas. The dimminuitive athlete, who stands at just 5’9 and 170 pounds, is one of the most explosive athletes in the B1G who can pull the IU offense from slogging through a game and giving them opportunities to score. Where Lucas really does most of his damage is in the kick and punt return phase of the game which, if we are being honest, does not bode well for Purdue.

The Boilers have struggled in the coverage at times this season and their punting has been atrocious for most of the season. Ansell currently ranks 69th in the country in punt average at just 40.98 yards per punt. Mistakes have frequently occurred in the punting game and making one against a player like Lucas will give IU short fields and explosive plays that can shift momentum and allow Indiana’s offense to score points.

2 | Dial Up the Pressure on Brendan Sorsby

Purdue features one of the best duos in the country at generating pressure in the backfield and getting sacks with Nic Scourton and Kydran Jenkins. Scourton has 8 sacks on the season and Jenkins has 7 of his own. Purdue checks in second overall in the conference with 33 total this season, only behind Penn State’s 41. This would be the highest total for a Purdue football team since the 2010 Boilers finished with 33 sacks, led by Ryan Kerrigan’s 12.5 on his own.

Indiana has given up 23 sacks on the season, tied for 71st in the country with Purdue ironically. Sorsby has shown an ability to hit receivers when he has gotten time to set his feet and Purdue has struggled in those matchup man to man situations when pressure hasn’t made the quarterback uncomfortable. Sorsby has a couple games of throwing for 200+ yards this season and getting him to think about the rush that is coming will make a really inefficient offense that much worse.

3 | Keep Running the Ball with Tracy and Mockobee

Well, Purdue seems to have found their rhythm on offense through the running game late in the season. It would have been really nice to have that kind of physical presence early in the season to take heat off of Hudson Card, It would be nice to see this season if Purdue had just started the season hanging their hat on the running game like they have the last two weeks where they have run for 300 or more yards in both games. That hadn’t happened since 1968 and a return of 300 yards against the Hoosiers might make it the first time ever in program history.

Tyrone Tracy has been a revelation at running back this season after his transfer from Iowa as a seldom used receiver and seemingly getting lost in Jeff Brohm’s final season. Tracy, with his ability to run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield may have played his way onto an NFL roster this season if he can test well in the lead up to the draft. Devin Mockobee, although struggling through fumblining issues this season, has seemingly figured it out late this season as well.

Extra Point | Deion Burks Needs the Ball

Burks is likely going to be the fastest player on the field who isn’t named Jaylin Lucas, and Lucas doesn’t play defense. Burks’ ability to fly around the corner needs to be used in jet sweeps or screens so that speed can be used to take pressure off the running backs. When Burks gets the ball in his hands he has the ability to take it to the house every time and that is something that needs to happen against the Hoosiers.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Northwestern Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Burks has sort of gone quiet the second half of the season as teams have been able to focus on him more and more without a true second receiving threat opposite of him. It’ll also be interesting to see who can help out the receiving corps with TJ Sheffield announcing his intent to transfer. Burks needs to be targeted at least 10 times and likely needs two or three rushing attempts as well.

Players to Watch:

Jaylin Lucas

The diminutive running back/receiver is Indiana’s most explosive and electric players that can flip field position as a special teams savant. He is able to find angles and alleyways and being only 5’9 can have a tendency to get lost behind those bigger blocking bodies.

Brendan Sorsby

Sorsby was sort of the overlooked prospect with Tayven Jackson transferring in from Tennessee and most Hoosier fans believing he would be the best prospect at that position since Antwaun Randle-El. Sorsby took control of the position halfway through the season and has shown promise in his redshirt freshman campaign. This will be his position moving forward if he continues to show improvement. He has thrown for 1,361 yards with 12 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions.

Aaron Casey | Linebacker | Graduate | 6’2 235 | 69 solo, 98 tot, 16 TFL, 5.5 sacks

The 6th year linebacker is the case of what development can look like at the college level. The former 2018 3 star safety out of Georgia has developed through those years and has had a great final two seasons for the Hoosiers. In 2022, the linebacker was voted honorable mention All B1G by the media and 4th All B1G by Phil Steele. He’ll have a spot on an NFL roster with his background in special teams from the earlier part of his career at Indiana.

Prediction:

Neither of these teams thought they would be here at 3-8 entering the Bucket game. Purdue knew it would be an uphill battle to get to six wins but poor performances against Fresno State, Iowa, Northwestern, and Syracuse doomed this season to not reaching bowl eligibility. The Hoosiers, playing in the always tough East Division, felt they could get to six wins but have shown little growth under Tom Allen since their Covid year success.

Walters needs this win to show some momentum heading into year two where recruiting the transfer portal is going to be extremely important. Being able to go out on a high note with a rivalry trophy win is a step in the right direction. On the other side, Tom Allen could very well find himself without a job if this game some how gets out of hand the Boilers dominate. Allen is 33-48, which is an accomplishment at Indiana, he is just 9-26 since 2020. Not the worst stretch in IU history but certainly doesn’t show any growth for a head coach in his 8th year.

Purdue: 36
Indiana: 24