2011 record: 5-6 (3-4 Big Ten)
2010 record: 4-8 (2-6 Big Ten)
2011 Sagarin: 71 (IU is #143)
2010 Sagarin: 96 (IU was #98)
Coach: Danny Hope (third year, 14-21)
Series: Purdue leads 70-37-6
TV: 3:30 Saturday, Big Ten Network
Last year's game was a cathartic, come-from-behind overtime win. It was the first win for IU in West Lafayette since 1996, a rare comeback win for an IU team that specialized in losing from ahead, and was the first overtime game in Bucket history. This will be the first time since 1997 that IU will be defending the Bucket at home, and IU is seeking its first back-to-back wins over Purdue since 1993-1994.
Of course, from the Purdue side, one of the storylines will be the future of Danny Hope. My outsider's perspective is that Hope is safe, absent something ridiculous and improbable such as a 30-point IU win, and might not be in trouble even then. For better or worse, Purdue AD Morgan Burke seems fairly conservative, and he has never had to fire a football or basketball coach that he hired. My guess is that Hope has a longer leash than Purdue fans would wish. Still, I don't blame Purdue fans for their disappointment. Hope was hired not because he was the best candidate after a national search, but because he had Purdue ties and was willing to spend a year as associate head coach as part of a succession plan. He wasn't hire to rebuild, but rather to sustain Joe Tiller's success, and he hasn't done that. In a sense, the successful Gene Keady-to-Matt Painter succession may have worked against Purdue's football program. I tend to think Purdue's basketball transition worked not because there was some magic to the process, but because Painter just so happened to be a natural fit and, most importantly, a much better coach than his resume or price tag suggested. Burke fell in love with the process, and determining whether Danny Hope had the chops to be a Big Ten head coach seems to be almost secondary. This makes the game fairly complicated for Purdue fans. On one hand, there are strong incentives to win: it's the Bucket game, and Purdue can become bowl eligible for the first time in four years (don't forget, at this point, Purdue's bowl drought is as long as IU's). On the other hand, as with IU fans last year, there is the nagging fear that a win would prolong the tenure of a failing coach.
Purdue, hasn't really stood out on offense or defense this year. Purdue is below the Big Ten and national average, although not way below like IU, in nearly every category, with punting and kickoff returns as the sole exceptions. Still, I would say the defense is probably more fearsome than Purdue's offense. Purdue has had only two really high scoring games (59 against Southeast Missouri and 45 against Minnesota) and Purdue's other wins have tended to involve hold the other team's offense in check, such as the win against Illinois, where the Illini were shut out for most of the day.
Purdue has been juggling quarterbacks all season, with Caleb TerBush as the starter but with Robert Marve seeing substantial action. Marve, a former elite recruit who initially played at Miami, probably is the bigger talent but the Purdue coaches seem less than enamored with his decision-making. Marve's play against Ohio State--an inexcusably stupid interception followed by success in the game-winning drive in overtime, seems to sum up his career pretty well. While Purdue fans have been clamoring for Marve, TerBush has been statistically superior, completing 61 percent of his passes and throwing 11 TDs to 6 INTs, as opposed to 54%/3TD/4INT for Marve. TerBush is a decent runner as well, netting 274 yards (2.5 ypc) and a TD on the ground.
In the backfield, Ralph Bolden has had a decent season in the wake of an ACL injury that cost him the 2010 season, and Akeem Shavers has contributed as well. None of Purdue's receivers have had standout seasons, but Antavian Edison, former QB Justin Siller, OJ Ross, and Gary Bush have contributed. On defense, CB Ricardo Allen is dangerous and leads the team with 3 interceptions. On special teams, Carson Wiggs has a realy strong leg but hasn't had a great season. He is 12-17 on the season, but is 2-3 from beyond 50 yards. DT Kawann Short has 16.5 tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks. Linebacker Joe Holland is second on the team in tackles and has 6.5 TFL, including 1.5 sacks. Dwayne Beckford, also a linebacker, is the Boilermakers' leading tackler, so at least they have LBs and not defensive backs leading the team in tackles.
I really have no idea what to expect from this game. None at all. Only an IU blowout win would surprise me. Anything from, say, a 7 point IU win to a Tiller-style Purdue blowout win would seem within the realm of possibility. On one hand, IU is a very bad team with nary a win against a FBS opponent. Purdue is a mediocre, inconsistent team that has played poorly on the road, including a loss to a pretty awful Rice team. My guess is that the fairly generous 7.5 point spread is a reflection of a lack of confidence in Purdue away from home. A win over Purdue would not turn a bad season into a good one, but it would give IU's seniors (the first in four years to leave without a bowl appearance) a nice finish and would be a sign of some progress. Sadly, I'm just not feeling it, but remember that my predicted score last year was Purdue 45, IU 17. While I hope (heh) I am wrong...Purdue 31, Indiana 20.