As far as Indiana-Penn State games go, this one bore more resemblance to Bloomington/Indianapolis games than to State College games. IU, after spotting the Nittany Lions a 14-0 game, came back to tie the game twice in the third quarter. Still, the final outcome was, as in all prior IU-Penn State games, a loss for the Hoosiers, and IU is now guaranteed its 16th bowl-less season in the last 17 years, and 15th losing season in that stretch. The Bucket game will be played for nothing but pride, as Purdue also dropped to 4-7 with a late collapse after playing at Michigan State after playing very well for most of the game. Again, a special teams breakdown was a decisive moment in the game. IU and Penn State were tied late in the game when Penn State, aided by a bad snap, blocked a Chris Hagerup punt and returned it for a touchdown.Here are the stats. Penn State's less-than-dominant offense racked up nearly 500 yards against IU and punted only twice. IU managed only 332 yards of offense. Ben Chappell completed barely more than 50 percent of his pass attempts (22 of 41). IU used Edward Wright-Baker for several snaps, but the Wildcat offense, employed strangely and sporadically all season, didn't yield much. I don't have much more to say about the game. The crowd was much as expected, although the IU representation was a bit better than I expected, and the overall crowd was 78,000. I don't have enough confidence in this team to think that it would have turned out any differently in Bloomington. If anything, after last week's humiliation in Madison, it may have been better for the team to get out of Bloomington.
And so, it comes down to the Bucket game. This probably is IU's best chance for a win at at Ross Ade since the 1996 win in Bill Mallory's last game. My guess, however, is that Purdue will be about a 7 point favorite. Of course, the program will be surrounded by speculation, win or lose, about whether Saturday's game in West Lafayette will be Lynch's last as IU's coach. At best, Lynch will finish the season with a 6-26 Big Ten record and 6-28 record against major conference opponents. At worst, he will have posted IU's first winless Big Ten record since 1995. If IU loses the Bucket game, IU's two Big Ten wins in three seasons will be the worst three-year run IU has had under a single coach since Phil Dickens won only two Big Ten games from 1961-1963. IU has had worse stretches across transition periods (for instance, IU won only a total of two Big Ten games in Bill Mallory's last two years and Cam Cameron's first year, from 1995-97), but this has been an epically bad stretch even for an IU coach. Also, when Dickens suffered that bad run, the Big Ten schedule consisted of only 6 conference games per season, so Dickens went 2-16 during that period, while Lynch would be 2-22.
As far as I am concerned, after this post, and absent some sort of announcement, this week is about beating Purdue and nothing more. I'll post my thoughts on Lynch's status after the Purdue game.