While other rivalries mark this week as "hate week" (and Notre Dame plays Connecticut because the team they pretend is their rival refuses to come to Indiana in November), Purdue and Indiana will square off for the Old Oaken Bucket for the 85th time. Purdue leads the Bucket series 55-26-3 and the overall Purdue-IU football rivalry 69-36-6.
When last we left the Bucket game, Purdue was steamrolling Indiana in a way that hadn't been seen before and which was called by one writer, "the worst loss in the history of Indiana University football." And Indiana has had some bad teams.
The nice thing about the Bucket game is that it allows Purdue players whose seasons have been a bit below-average to make up three months' worth of yardage, touchdowns, etc., in one afternoon. It's a nice service IU provides.
I kid, of course, but only slightly. The Bucket rivalry has never been what you might call even, but it's been particularly lopsided over the past decade-plus. Since 1996, Purdue has only lost to IU twice -- in 2001 and 2007. The 2001 game was a rain-soaked 13-7 loss, where a bowl-bound 6-3 Purdue squad inexplicably could not move the ball against the then 3-6 Hoosiers. The game may have been more pivotal than anyone thought as IU then beat Kentucky to finish up 5-6 and the Boilermakers lost to Notre Dame and Washington State in the Sun Bowl to finish 6-6.
In 2007, IU was playing with tremendous heart after the tragic loss of Coach Hoeppner and held on for dear life against a furious second-half comeback by the Boilermakers. That loss capped a winless November for Purdue and a team that began the year 5-0 and 7-2, would wind up 8-5 with a win in the Motor City Bowl.
Since 1996, when the rivalry seemed to turn decided in Purdue's favor, Purdue has won by such scores as 56-7, 52-7, 41-13, 34-10, 63-24, 41-14, and, of course, last year's 62-10 annihilation.
You can thank the 2004 Boilermakers for Gerry DiNardo's ugly mug being on your Big Ten Network screen so often these days -- the 63-24 destruction in Kyle Orton's last game caused DiNardo to be fired the following week. If Bill Lynch, nice guy though he may be, loses to Purdue in embarrassing fashion in consecutive seasons (seasons in which Purdue is a sub-par team), I would have to think the door may be opened for him.
As Crimson Quarry puts it: "I would hope that Bill Lynch has the telecast of last year's game on continuous loop in the weight room, conference room, training room, dorm rooms, and so on. To say the Hoosiers will be playing with pride may be a bit presumptuous. All too often in the last 15 years the Hoosiers have failed to show much pride or intensity in the Bucket game."
I would have to believe that the Hoosiers will remember last year's dismantling. How could they not? The questions become whether the talent has changed significantly from last year's game and whether or not playing in Bloomington instead of West Lafayette matters. Do those factors make for a 53 point swing? I guess we'll find out.
More to come this week.