After enjoying a positive turnover ratio for most of the 2009 season (IU was plus 11 after the first 11 games), IU's luck, or execution, or whatever it was ran out against Purdue. The Boilers enjoyed a 4-0 turnover advantage, one that began on the first series, when Purdue forced a Ben Chappell fumble and quickly established a lead that they never relinquished. IU flirted with getting back into the game. After falling behind 28-7 when Al-Terek McBurse returned the second half's opening kickoff for a touchdown, IU pulled with within 10, at 31-21, with 8 minutes remaining, but after forcing a three-and-out and gaining good field position, another Ben Chappell interception ended any lingering hope for IU. Over 450 yards of offense went to waste, thanks to empty possessions that ended in turnovers.
As I have noted before, the IU-Purdue game has not operated as a typical rivalry since Joe Tiller came to town in 1997. Since then, certainly Purdue typically has had better teams than IU. The only two times that IU has won recently, 2007 and 2001, IU probably had the better team. Still, IU has never taken down a heavily favored Purdue team under Tiller and Hope, and some of the most disappointingly lopsided losses (2005 and 2008 are two) have come to some of Purdue's worst teams of the era. Again, the overall quality of Purdue's teams has been better than IU's, and that accounts for much of the 11-2 disparity, but the average score of 38-16 can't be entirely explained by that. I don't lightly accuse teams or coaches of quitting or mailing it in, but something approaching a majority of post 1996 Bucket games, under multiple coaching staffs, have felt that way. It's a shame that IU's failure to quit last year feels like some sort of accomplishment, and IU has to start pulling its weight in this rivalry. Since winning at Purdue in 1994 and 1996, IU is 0-6 in West Lafayette and only one of the games has been remotely competitive. It would be nice to change that trend this year.
Purdue had a strange season in 2009. The Boilers beat Ohio State, and not in a fluky way, but lost to Northern Illinois and were obliterated by a mediocre Minnesota team. Joey Elliott was competent in his only season as starting quarterback, and now Purdue essentially is starting over in the offensive backfield. Transfer Robert Marve will be the starter at quarterback this season. At Miami, Marve played quite a bit as a freshman and not all that impressively. He completed 54 percent of his passes and threw 18 interceptions to 13 touchdowns. He twice was suspended while playing for the Hurricanes, once for academic reasons and once for an arrest for criminal mischief/resisting arrest. Although he wouldn't have been eligible in 2009 in any event, Marve tore his ACL last summer. While noting about Marve's checkered college career is impressive, he was a very highly regarded recruit when he signed with Miami and may well have the potential to have a strong career at Purdue. At running back, the Boilermakers' returning leading rusher, Ralph Bolden, injured his knee and will miss some or all of the 2010 season. That means that Purdue's leading returning rusher is fullback Jared Crank, who ran for 15 yards last season. As far as I can tell, McBurse, who had four rushing attempts last season, but who returned a kickoff for a TD against IU, will be the man until and unless Bolden returns. At receiver, the outstanding Keith Smith returns, but overall Purdue's skill positions will be occupied by players with little experience. On defense, Purdue returns some starters from a so-so unit, but must replace the entire secondary.
By the time this game rolls around, the fortunes of both teams will be more clear than they are today. I wouldn't be surprised if both teams are in the hunt for or are qualified for bowl games, and I wouldn't be surprised if neither team is. Unfortunately, based on recent history, a competitive game in West Lafayette would surprise me, but there is no time like the present to change that trend.