It's Oaken Bucket time, folks. And no matter how lousy a season you've had as a Purdue or IU fan, this game always means something -- and that's not hyperbole. These teams, these schools, these fans... they do not like one another. It's not manufactured, it's not forced, it's not even good-natured and friendly. It's dislike.
I've posted this before from a couple years back, but Tom Rinaldi -- more known for his tear-jerking nonsense set to soft piano music usually -- penned a pretty awesome minute on rivalries:
And lest you think this game isn't as important to the players as it is to the rest of us -- as sometimes sports hype can turn out to reveal -- here is a smattering of awesome pictures:
Are you sufficiently hyped? Are you amped because no matter how much of a sh-tshow this season has been at times, Saturday is different? We hope so, because it is different. Sure, there have been some disappointments this year and there's plenty to talk about there. But for Saturday, that can get put aside. For Saturday, we're Boilermakers and they're Loosiers.
Let's see what others at BS think.
The careening, chugging, smoking, creaking mess of a season comes back to Ross-Ade for the annual Old Oaken Bucket game this Saturday as the improving Hoosiers come to town. Let's start with the fact that this is not your...uncle's IU team. Kevin Wilson does have them improving and competing more often, so don't expect a 2004 (63-24) or 2008 (62-10), as fun as that would be.
It would actually be fun -- I won't lie -- if a bowl game was on the line for both teams. IU is out of contention but looked like they had a shot for a while there. I guess the most fun would be Purdue being one win away from the divsion title, but let's not get carrr-ay-zee!
We are confident due to multiple reliable sources that Hope is gone so it's not really worth going into the whole, if he loses, he'll be 2-2 vs IU and under .500 in three of his four seasons at Purdue. Let's just say unless he can somehow get Purdue into a BCS game by beating IU, he's going to be shown the door following the season. So let's hope the team wants to send him off on a high note, with his first in-season, three-game winning streak at Purdue.
The Boilers should have enough to beat IU, though I don't think any of us would be shocked if IU came to play and took it to Purdue. What will happen? Hell, I have no idea at this point.
But I want that Bucket. It's ours.
Their starting QB is out for the year. Their pass defense strongly resembles the BS crew. And yet they put up 34 points on Ohio State when the game was relatively close, then added 15 more at the end to nearly pull off a stunning comeback against a team that, sadly, still hasn't lost. They beat the same sad-sack teams that Purdue did, stand at 2-5 in conference play just like the Boilers, and would like nothing more than to knock Purdue out of a bowl, borrow the Bucket for a year, and finish a four-game improvement that would be the best since Bill Mallory's second year, 1985.
It's still early to tell, but it does look like Kevin Wilson has Indiana on the right track, one that does not involve rotating quarterbacks. Fortunately for the West Lafayette faithful, there are still plenty of issues in Bloomington for Wilson to solve (see virtually every other game this season for examples). Even Vegas is confident that the Bucket will remain in its rightful place ... or at least that a significant percentage of people can be induced to bet that way.
As for me ... aside from the fact that I would never ever bet on a Bucket game ever, I just don't see Purdue as having a significant advantage here. Yes, Indiana's defense is horrible. Yes, if momentum can be maintained from game to game, Purdue should have it, coming off two road wins (against the two most expensive coaches in the conference, based on salary per win). But it's still the same guy calling the shots on the sidelines, the same guy calling plays, the same guy rotating quarterbacks like Isiah Thomas rotated players ... the same coach who may actually be on the hot seat now.
As mentioned here before, by all accounts, Danny Hope is a good guy. He's just overmatched at this level. His players are no doubt aware of his status, and would love to send him out on a winning note if they knew he was going to be fired. Emotion means a lot at this level, even in a rivalry game, where emotions already run high. As much as Purdue has struggled this year, as much as Indiana has improved, I think the Boilers are going to give Hope one last gift before he moves on to his next position. Pack your suitcase and start looking for hotel rooms in Texas, folks.
Statistically, these two teams are pretty lousy. And the thing that pundits and sports sages say wins championships is completely non-existent for both squads: Defense.
That said, it seems there's a pretty easy path to victory for the good guys on Senior day tomorrow: Run the ball.
If Hope and Nord decide to run, run and run some more, the Boilers should be able to eat a ton of clock, keep IU's pass-happy offense off the field and move the ball with relative ease. IU allows over 33 points/game, 454 yds/game and 235 of those are rushing yards...no one in the B1G allows close to that many yard rushing.
|Bolden is one of the many guys who deserves to go out a winner.|
So as much as I'd love to see Marve and Henry rain fire from the sky, I'd love to see Shavers, Hunt, Bolden and Cottom all put in work out of the backfield.
Defensively, if Purdue can put pressure on IU's quarterback, good things can and will happen. While Wilson is more than willing to put the ball in the air 40 or 50 times/game, his young QBs struggle to get into rhythm, for some reason, when they're on their back. If KK Short has a loud Senior Day, Purdue wins. Errant throws will put the ball up for grabs for Johnson and Allen who should get fat on a late Thanksgiving feast.
Right now, a cloud of uncertainty hovers over the program. We've heard from three different, reliable sources that Burke has already made his decision on Hope's status, regardless of what the scoreboard says at the end of Saturday afternoon...ticket sales and apathy among the people that fund the program has forced his hand, it seems.
IU is seeking to play spoiler...a role that they've played in pretty recent history in this, one of the best rivalries in college football. But Hope's squad should be well-aware of all that's at stake- a bowl birth, even a lesser bowl, is better than none at all. Plus, these guys want to see their teammates' and possibly their coach's last game at Ross-Ade end in their favor.
Leave no doubt, gentlemen.