Bucketing the Trend – the IU Predicto
Purdue and Indiana have been playing for an old slop-bucket since 1925. They’ve been playing against one another since 1891 and continuously since 1920 (a few years were missed due to wartime, though, interestingly, WWII did not interrupt the series). IU has only won the bucket four times since Joe Tiller rode into town. Tiller was 11-2 versus the Hoosiers and Danny Hope was 3-1 with his only loss an atrociously ugly OT loss in 2010. Six times in the past 17 meetings, the winner has scored over 50 points – twice in that span Purdue has cleared 60.
Before Tiller turned things around, Purdue had lost seven of ten in the series, from 1987-1996. Dark days indeed.
And speaking of dark times, the last time Purdue lost back-to-back Buckets was in 1993-’94, an occurrence that could happen Saturday, after the Bucket has had two decades of relative safety in West Lafayette.
It’s a little known fact that Lee Corso’s “headgear” routine on College GameDay was originally started by him putting the Bucket on his head after defeating Purdue in 1977. (Not pictured.)
Overall Purdue owns this rivalry game, which will move into a tie for eighth-most played all time on Saturday at 117 meetings. Three of the top eight are currently idle (Mizzou-Kansas, currently #2 at 120 meetings; Texas-Texas A&M, currently #5 at 118 meetings; and Nebraska-Kansas, which Purdue-IU is tying at 117), so the Bucket game will be in the top 5 within three years, unless stubborn people stop being stubborn and renew some of those idle ones.
When Purdue wins the bucket, yet another brass “P” is added to the chains. When IU wins, first a search party is formed to locate the chains that include the few “I” representatives that exist. Then once one is located and can be studied, a copy is made from a press that is operated very infrequently.
Purdue-IU is the only long-standing rivalry in the Big Ten that is a division crossover game. Which means that once Wilson and Hazell get things turned around, the possibility exists that they could play Thanksgiving Weekend in the Bucket game and then a week later in the Big Ten title ga – ah, sorry, I can’t even type that out. Done.
It’s rivalry weekend and that allows me to once again link to what I think was one of the better snippets from ESPN in recent years, “Rivalry.” It’s the rare Rinaldi piece that isn’t set to tear-jerking music and will get you pumped for rivalry games that, you know, matter.
As for Purdue? Well, if you insist, let’s get to the final Predicto of 2014 Purdue football.
So. Last week, Tevin Coleman looked at what is somewhere between a top-10 and top-20 defense, laughed, and ran for 228 yards, the third-highest total OSU has ever yielded to a single player. OK, so the Buckeye run defense is actually average - it's the pass defense that's really good - but ... what's that? Purdue's run defense? Oh. Never mind.
On the other hand, Purdue came into a game against a team that had similar struggles (although unlike the Boilers, Northwestern actually finished off Notre Dame), and with an extra week to prepare, the Good Guys ... well, you read that already.
As a reward, Coleman will get a chance to become the first Hoosier to break 2000 yards rushing on Saturday in Bloomington. He's currently at 1906. He'll break that mark in the first quarter. Why? Not just because Purdue's defense is not good, but because Indiana's passing game is terrible. They are getting exactly what you'd expect if you put a two-star true freshman in at QB and expected him to do anything against Big Ten defenses, even in a down year like this. It leaves them no choice but to feed the monster, and unless Coleman has a game like he did against Michigan, where Wilson benched his star for fumbling, he'll be stomping through the Purdue front seven like an expert Rampage player, knocking down linebackers and batting a defensive end back and forth until he explodes.
Special teams, ugh. Purdue gets good performance from the FG unit and their return teams, but pretty much nothing from the coverage units. Indiana doesn't generally return punts or kicks well, so there's that. (Northwestern does, obvs.)
Prior to last week, I'd have said there was a slim chance Purdue could pull this off, because IU's defense is still awful. Now, I just don't think the Boilers can move the ball enough. They're making too many mistakes to take advantage of a team that's vulnerable on defense.
In 1989, a 5-5 Indiana squad with Heisman hopeful Anthony Thompson hosted a 2-8 Purdue team; the Hoosiers had put two Is on the Bucket and were looking to add a third en route to a bowl bid and perhaps a trophy for Thompson. Instead, the Good Guys spoiled the Indiana dream, winning an ugly game 15-14, taking the Bucket from IU and keeping the Heisman from Thompson. (He still finished with 1793 yards rushing, 113 less than Coleman has through 11 games.) That ... will not happen Saturday, much as I'd like it to. Neither will the Boilers' 17-15 win in 1986 - I'm proud to say I was part of the crowd that rushed the field that day. (Well, we ran on the field, you know. When your team is 3-8, winning the Bucket is a big deal.)
Indiana 44 Purdue 17
The Railroad Tie:
Heading into the Northwestern game I stated that if Purdue wanted to prove that real positive change had happened, all they needed to do was beat Northwestern. A statement was made, no doubt, by what ensued on the football field last Saturday. And that statement was: this program isn't ready.
Every new coach - barring NCAA violations or obvious programmatic problems - deserves four years to prove themselves. Hazell is now halfway through that four-year mark and nothing of significance has been proven thus far. There are still so many questions around this team, that I truly don't know where to start. Certainly there are pockets of bright spots. The O-Line - still not great - is better than I anticipated them being this year. Purdue has a crop of young linebackers who have a chance to be really, really good in the coming years. Marcus Freeman and some of the other assistants look like inspired hires. It's not all doom-and-gloom.
But there are more than enough clouds over Purdue skies that would make a West Lafayette March jealous. Greg Hudson has been unable to get his defense to play consistently, as a unit, week-in and week-out. The defensive line alternates between "mediocre" and "nightmarish" (and not the good kind). The secondary is young and thin, and third down defense is depressing. On the offensive side, John Shoop is as maligned as any Offensive Coordinator in college football. He's had moments of inspired playcalling, but overall the play on the field has turned from "uneven" to "tough to stomach". Danny Anthrop's injury means there are exactly zero reliable Purdue wide receivers, we still don't know if we have the right solution at Quarterback, and the running game is hampered by the impotent passing attack. I'd liken Purdue's offense to a staggering drunk, but even a staggering drunk can move themselves 100 yards in a single direction.
So here we are. Quite frankly, we will learn nothing about Purdue following the IU game. Win or lose, it's just one bad team beating another. I take solace in the fact that one team by rule has to win. It might as well be Purdue.
But it probably won't be. IU is a terrible football team, again, but they can run the ball. Poor Tevin Coleman; if he played on a decent team he'd probably have a shot at the Heisman. Unfortunately for him he'll have to settle for being the cheese on the crap sandwich that is IU football. He's good enough to win the game on his own though. Purdue has struggled against the run; even if they put 8 or 9 guys in the box, there's still a chance that Coleman will eat up yards, 5 or 6 at a time. That and a couple touchdowns will probably be enough to put Purdue away.
Purdue can win this game; they've shown flashes of competent football, but it feels like so long since we've seen that type of production that I just can't give Purdue the benefit of the doubt. There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth out of West Lafayette, as IU wins, 35-21.
A week ago, all of us at BS were super optimistic. [“Super optimistic” = 60% of the BS predico participants. –Ed.]
A month ago, Dowd was convinced Purdue would notch a victory against Nebraska.
Just under two months ago, just about the entirety of the Boilermaker fanbase was already working to add another P link to the Oaken Bucket’s chain.
Since then, we’ve suffered several key injuries, lost to three ranked teams (plus currently-ranked Minnesota), and laid a complete egg against a halfway decent Northwestern team. The last home Big Ten victory happened in the Danny Hope era…which, incidentally, was the last time Purdue won the bucket game.
Oh, it’s time to predict things? I predict I’ll ingest way too much gravy, partake in the yearly tradition of passing out next to a case of Rolling Rock, get into an argument defending warm pumpkin pie, have acid reflux while forcing leftover turkey sandwiches down my throat on Friday, spend way too much money on industrial-sized amounts of Pepto and whiskey on Saturday, and settle down to watch the game after muting my phone to avoid the inevitable IU shit-talk tsunami.
I predict Tevin Coleman will rush for 200+ yards in his final collegiate game. I predict the dozen or two IU fans at Memorial Stadium will relish watching IU’s offensive line bully Purdue’s defense into submission, and I predict that Austin Appleby will continue to unfortunately look way too raw in the non-leadership department of quarterbacking. I predict Darrell Hazell will make another inexplicable coaching move that has me screaming at the screen while my loving friends arrange for an ambulance to swing by the house, just in case that throbbing vein in my temple decides to drop the mic and call it a night. I predict that IU will win in the most convincing fashion in Oaken Bucket history, and I’m predicting that you will be able to find me on Saturday night by following the Pepto-whiskey trail.
Really? I’m predicting the exact opposite of my optimistic last week, because if Purdue does one thing exceptionally well it’s doing the exact opposite of what I predict.
Cheers, I’m thankful for you all.
Spread: IU -2.5
IU: Eighty Five.
I said on the Handsome Hour this week that I think maybe the Minnesota loss/collapse was more of a turning point than any of us realized at the time. Purdue has really not been the same since and, honestly, hasn’t really been any threat to win since halftime of that game. Think about that. Or, rather…
I’ve learned with Purdue that hoping for the best case scenario is a futile endeavor. The late ‘90s spoiled us in this regard, because Purdue football actually did things that we weren’t expecting – they surprised us in a good way with regularity. Then we came to expect it… and so let me ask: when was the last time Purdue football surprised you in a positive way? Exactly.
It’s utterly depressing to think about where this rivalry is right now – no, I don’t mind IU being terrible, but I do mind the fact that IU is truly terrible right now and yet I have near zero confidence that Purdue can exploit that. It’s made more depressing when you consider that in recent times, even when Purdue is bad, they’re often able to still crush IU (see ’95, ’08, ’09, ’12). This does not feel like it’s the case in 2014.
The truth is, even with the injuries Purdue has faced, they still have the talent to dismantle IU on Saturday. Appleby, Hunt, Mostert and Sinz should be able to roll up plenty of points on Indiana. Of course, Sinz and Mostert would need to be allowed onto the field by Coach Hazell for that to have a chance of working.
I don’t know anymore. We’ve reached the now-predictable miserable feeling that is the end of the college football season. Not only is college football rapidly coming to an end, but Purdue is once again a mess with not much hope in sight.
Indiana 28 Purdue 24
Hundreds will gather in IU's memorial stadium to witness a feast like they haven't seen in days.
This time, it won't be delicious chunks of white meat and tasty carbohydrates, but giant chunks of yardage. I look for IU to put a sturdy saddle on the capable back of Coleman and allow him to carry them as far as he can...My guess is he'll carry them for around 250 yards and 3TDs.
I don't think IU's defense is as good as those teams that beat up on Purdue from the top of the conference, but statistically, they're not a ton different than Northwestern. In other words, uh oh.
Shoop has struggled to open the playbook and get innovative in order to get AA, Akeem and co. Into rhythm since the loss of Anthrop. Unless we see a surprise burst of productivity from a receiver or two, I don't know how Purdue can keep it inside of a ten point deficit.
IU 37 Purdue 24