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Purdue week.

Purdue Boilermakers
2007 record: 7-4 (3-4)
2007 Sagarin: 42 (IU is #66)
2006 record: 8-6 (5-3) (lost to Maryland in Champs Sports Bowl)
2006 Sagarin: 62
Series: Purdue leads 68-35-6
Last IU win: 2001 (13-7 in Bloomington).
Last Purdue win: 2006 (28-19 in West Lafayette).
Last Purdue win in Bloomington: 2005 (41-14).

As the overall record indicates, Purdue has long had the upper hand in this rivalry, but perhaps never as in the last 11 years. Since Joe Tiller arrived at Purdue, the Boilers have attached 10 P's to the Bucket compared to one I. Even including IU's lone 6-point win in 2001, Purdue's average margin from 1997 to present is +23 points per game. If Purdue wins on Saturday, the six game winning streak will tie the second longest winning streak in series history (Purdue won 10 in a row from 1948-1957 and won the first six games from 1891-1898. IU's longest winning streak in the series is 4 from 1944-1947).

Talking heads often say of rivalry games, "throw out the records in this one." During the Tiller era, that hasn't been true. In 2001, IU probably had the better team, and held on to beat the Boilers in rain-soaked Bloomington. The only competitive games since 1997 have been in 1999 (a terrible IU defense played over its head against Drew Brees, only to lose the game 30-24 on a Vinny Sutherland punt return); 2001 (IU won); 2003 (another overmatched IU team played well, but Matt Lovecchio couldn't hit open receivers when it mattered); and 2006 (more on that below). To compound the frustration, from 1986 to 1994, perhaps the only sustained period in history during which IU always had a better team that Purdue, the Boilers more than held their own. In 1986 (I think this was the famous game in which Rod Woodson played both ways), a Purdue team with wins only against Ball State and Northwestern upset Bill Mallory's first bowl team 17-15. In 1989, a Purdue team with wins over Miami of Ohio and Northwestern won 15-14 in Bloomington, costing IU a bowl bid and likely costing Anthony Thompson the Heisman. In 1992, a somewhat better Purdue team (3-7 entering the game), but still playing out the string, won 13-10 and ended Trent Green's IU career a game earlier than expected. When IU is good, this has been a "throw out the records" rivalry. When Purdue is good? Not so much.

But that doesn't really matter this year, because this seems to be the most evenly matched Bucket game since 2001. IU played respectably in West Lafayette last year, but could not take advantage of an abominable performance by Curtis Painter. I'll simply quote myself to refresh your recollections on that game:

IU outgained the Boilers 505-435. Kellen Lewis was 26-42 for 290 yards and no interceptions. Curtis Painter was 18-32 for 260 yards and 4 interceptions. IU, quite uncharacteristically, outrushed an opponent, 215-175. IU gave the ball back to Purdue a bunch (4 fumbles, all lost, as opposed to 1/1 for Purdue). The Hoosiers managed one of the strangest plays of all time when IU's Tracy Porter recovered a Purdue fumble, returned it nearly for a touchdown, but Purdue forced a fumble that went out the back of the endzone for a Purdue touchback. IU gained 284 yards in the first half and had three points to show for it. Purdue wasn't much better, gaining 190 yards and scoring only one touchdown, but the story of the game was IU's failure to hold onto the ball and thereby capitalize on an absolutely dreadful first half performance by Painter, who threw three interceptions on Purdue's first six possessions.

And so it was. Tiller's boys retained the Bucket for the 10th time in 11 years. During that time, Purdue has defeated the Hoosiers in nearly every way imaginable, but the 2006 version was unlike any game I have ever seen, Bucket game or otherwise.

But back to 2007. Purdue has played a tougher schedule and has a slightly better record than IU (7-4 to 6-5). Purdue didn't play Illinois or Wisconsin and IU didn't play Michigan and OSU, of course. Against common opponents:
  • Iowa: IU won comfortably on the road, Purdue won comfortably at home;

  • Michigan State: IU lost badly on the road, Purdue lost badly at home;

  • Minnesota: IU won comfortably at home, Purdue won comfortably on the road;

  • Penn State: IU lost a close one at home, Purdue lost a close one on the road;

  • Northwestern: IU lost a close one on the road, Purdue won a mostly competitive game at home.

Other than the Northwestern game, the outcomes against common opponents are strikingly similar. Neither team played a formidable non-conference team. Statistically, the teams are fairly even in points per game (33.7 for Purdue to 32.0 for IU). Purdue averages 429 yards per game to IU's 389. Purdue is the second most pass-happy team in the conference, with over 3100 passing yards and 1500 rushing yards. IU has 2637 passing yards and 1648 rushing yards. The Purdue and IU passing attacks have been fairly similar: while Purdue has generated more yards, the completion percentages (61.8 for Purdue, 60.9 for IU) and TD/INT ratios (26/10 for Purdue, 25/10 for IU) are similar. Purdue averages 4.4 yards per carry to IU's 4.1/

Defensively, Purdue has a slight edge in scoring defense (24.1 to 27.0). Both teams allow lots of yards per game: 380 for Purdue, 397 for IU. The Hoosiers do lead the league with 17 interceptions compared to 14 for Purdue. Both allow plenty of passing yards per game: 235 for IU, 237 for Purdue. Purdue allows 57 percent completions compared to 60 for IU. IU allows 162 yards rushing per game compared to 143 for Purdue. Yards per carry allowed is nearly identical: 3.8 for IU, 3.9 for Purdue.

In sum, these two teams are quite similar statistically. Neither team has a signature win. Both teams lost as favorites last week. I am pessimistic about this game, but that's because of history. Considering 2007 only, this is a tough game to call. Gamblers beware.