We could make jokes (I know, hard to imagine) pretending this game doesn't mean anything. We could take the tact that clueless IU basketball fans frequently take and imply that our opponent is "jealous" of us. We could pretend that IU is nothing more than a 1-10 speedbump on Purdue's way to their first bowl since 2007. However, we won't do any of that because, no matter what, this game has meaning. It is rivalry.
It's the Bucket game. To anyone who went to Purdue or IU, you need say no more. It's not a forced rivalry like USC-ND; it's not a mandated rivalry like Purdue-Iowa. It's a lifelong, historical distaste for one another that is not fake, forced, or overstated. We do not like them. They do not like us. And I think we're all pretty much fine with that.
That's our fricking bucket and we'll take it back now.
The predicto starts now.
The Boilers are hungry for their first bowl game in four years. There isn't a single starter that I can think of that is still around from the 2007 Motor City win and that's a shame; I don't want these boys to go completely without a bowl game and you don't either. But can they win on the road for once?
|The last time IU held consecutive Bucket wins
(may not be entirely accurate)
The Indiana Losers - 17 (33-10 going into the last 2 minutes)
I said at the beginning of the year and many times since that Purdue lost the Bucket at home last year to a pretty bad IU team, so I found it amusing that so many Purdue fans were chalking this one up as a victory right from the beginning of the season. If you can't hold onto it at home, what makes anyone think our Boilers can snatch it away on the road?
Then IU's 2011 season got rolling and it became apparent that Coach Wilson is going to need at least a year to get things in order. This season has the potential to be the worst IU season since 1984's winless season, which says a lot when you consider how much awful football the Hoosiers have foisted upon an unsuspecting Bloomington public over the past quarter-century-plus. I mentioned on the Handsome Hour the other night that of the previous nine seasons leading into this one, the Hoosiers have wound up 1-7 in Big Ten play in seven of them. They are currently 0-7 in 2011, so if they take the Boilers down, they will be 1-7 in conference play for the eighth time in the past decade. Mercy.
All of this rambling has nothing to do with this year's Bucket game and the reason for that is that, as I've said, I have no idea what to predict anymore. Purdue teams have gone from being extremely easy to predict (thus the Sharpie coinage) to being nearly impossible. There's just no telling what team is going to show up. We know that effort is rarely an issue and the guys are always jazzed to play. They also seem to fear no one, which we love. The maddening inconsistent part is on the sidelines and in the box overhead -- coaching. What has been said to them all week? What has been worked on? Are they prepared? Are they focused? And the answers to all of these are, I have no earthly idea.
We do know that the Boilers have handled some bad teams this year (SEMO, Minn), but we also know they've struggled versus some below average competition (MTSU, Rice). So, yeah, who knows, right?
I have to have faith that these guys know how important this game is and understand it's for the Bucket, a .500 season and a bowl berth. And for those who love playing for Coach Hope, it could also potentially mean his job. I will roll the dice and say I think the Boilers will come out strong this Saturday.
At the beginning of the season, fellow Purdue fans insisted to me that this game was Purdue's. 11 games later, they should be right. I thought this season would go differently for IU- I thought Wilson would have more success right away as either Baker or Kiel would lead his offense with efficiency. Well, after watching Baker and Kiel both flounder, IU has found their quarterback, but he's still rough around the edges and IU's offense still lacks consistency and punch.
On top of that, they're at or near the bottom in most important categories in the B1G. Granted, Purdue isn't a ton better...But IU's moment in the sun this year was playing with aOSU for three quarters. Purdue was beating Illinois and aOSU and lambasting lowly Minnesota. Make no mistake, while Purdue has been maddeningly-inconsistent and had some cavernous lows, they're still better than this year's IU squad...at about every position.
Does that matter?
It should. When Hope's teams are level-headed and motivated, good things happen. After getting brow-beaten for a week by coaches and being reminded about what happened v. Illinois in '10, they came out sharp...same thing for the aOSU game. Well, this year, there's a hole in the trophy case that guys like Joe Holland, Justin Siller and Dennis Kelly are aware of. I don't think the team sees this game as much of an open-shut case as the Boiler faithful, and that's a positive.
Part of me was really worried about this scenario...but the other part says, 'what the hell...they're playing for the honor of being in Detroit for the post-season...it's not like it's for a chance at a NYD bowl."
So I think the better team will play the better game. And honestly, if the outcome is not a lot like this prediction, I'll feel empty and used.
|More of this would be nice.|
As I said before, I think this is a one-game playoff for Hope's job- hopefully he coaches that way (or not, depending on your perspective). I'm not the guy that roots against my alma mater...so don't look for that here.