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Indiana Hoosiers v. Purdue Boilermakers (preview).

IU won't be headed to the postseason this year, but the Hoosiers can finish an improved season with a Bucket win.


The Hoosiers head to Ross-Ade Stadium tomorrow afternoon to try to win back the Old Oaken Bucket and to prevent Purdue from going to a bowl game. Even compared to Purdue's .650 winning percentage in the history of the series, IU has struggled against the Boilermakers since Joe Tiller was hired, winning only 3 of the last 15 meetings. Still, IU has won two of the last five and prevailed in overtime at Ross-Ade in 2010, so things are getting a bit more competitive. As bad as last year's IU team was, the Hoosiers were driving and down eight in last year's game in Bloomington when a controversial interception call that could have been called simultaneous possession ended IU's hopes. As I mentioned earlier in the week, the road team has won the last three games in this series, and if IU wins it will be only the second time in the history of the series (1994-1997 being the other) that the road team has won four straight. As I also mentioned earlier in the week, this hasn't been a series that has varied widely depending on the venue. In fact, IU has 21 wins over Purdue in West Lafayette compared to 16 in Bloomington.

Gameday basics

What to Expect

Hammer and Rails Q&A

My Q&A at Hammer and Rails

On offense, Purdue finally has settled on Robert Marve at QB. The talented Miami transfer was a blue chip recruit out of high school but his career has been derailed by injuries, disciplinary issues, and odd personnel decisions by Danny Hope. On the season, Marve is completing 65 percent of his passes and has 9 TDs compared to two interceptions. He's been particularly solid in Purdue's two Big Ten wins, over Iowa and Illinois. Against Iowa, he completed 25-33 passes for 266 yards and 2 TDs, and at Illinois he was 18-26 for 173 yards and a TD. He hasn't thrown an interception since the Michigan game on October 6, which means he has gone at least 134 attempts without a pick. (jinx-jinx-jinx). Akeem Shavers (652 yards, 4.7 YPC, 5 TD) is Purdue's leading rusher, but Ralph Bolden, who missed the first five games because of an injury, seems to have rediscovered his game, gaining 14-102 against Iowa and 7-93 against Illinois. Not unlike IU, the Boilers spread things around in their passing game. Leading receiver Antavian Edison has 575 yards and 5 TDs. Gary Bush has 299 yards and 6 TDs. OJ Ross has 397 yards and a TD.

On defense DT Kawann Short is the Boilers' top player and NFL prospect. Short has 14 TFL, 6 sacks, and an astounding 4 blocked kicks. Safety Landon Feichter leads Purdue in tackles and interceptions (4). Linebackers Will Lucas and Josh Johnson also merit mention.

While IU is obviously a defensive oriented team, with its offense ranking #41 in FBS and the defense at #102, Purdue is middling in both, with the #75 offense and #64 defense. Purdue's best unit rankings are for pass defense and pass efficiency defense, so it will be an interesting strength against strength matchup. These are two difficult-to-predict teams, and based on Sagarin ratings a win would be either team's best of the season, which obviously isn't saying much. IU has been in every single game this season other than the Penn State and Wisconsin games. Is that based on the caliber of competition, or are the Hoosiers running out of gas. Will the Boilermakers play this one as the playoff game that it is for them, or will they be tight? It's hard to say, but after a rough couple of weeks I am going to muster some optimism for the Hoosiers. Indiana 28, Purdue 24.