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Crimson Query with Hammer and Rails: The Bucket Edition

Travis Miller, managing editor of Purdue SB Nation blog Hammer and Rails, joins us for the final Q&A of football season. He discusses the rebuilding Boiler football team, the state of Purdue athletics, the IU-Purdue rivalry, and the basketball team's chances this season.

Is Purdue trying to compensate for something with the big drum?
Is Purdue trying to compensate for something with the big drum?
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

1. Purdue is in its second year with head coach Darrell Hazell. Although the team is 3-8 this season, there have been signs of progress and the team has hung with a few quality opponents. How do Purdue fans feel about the state of the program going forward with Hazell?

Travis: There are many who are still divided, and those against him had a field day on Saturday when we looked disinterested at best for most of the Northwestern game. As for me, I still support Hazell. I was on board from day 1 and thought last year had a ton of promise. When we had the send-off in Indianapolis before the Cincinnati game there was a lot of excitement. Then things cratered in probably the worst season in school history.

Compared to last year Purdue has improved by leaps and bounds. Still, we're only 3-11 at home under Hazell with one victory over an FBS team in Western Michigan (Who looks pretty damn good right now at least). We're 0-8 in the Big Ten at home and only one of those games was within single digits. There have been some very encouraging signs, but this team lacks consistency and is still deficient in talent against almost everyone in the Big Ten. When you look at consistency just consider this: Minnesota very well could win the Big Ten. We led by double digits at halftime in Minneapolis and lost by a point because of a dumb penalty we committed late. Now we just lost to Northwestern, badly, at home.

2. Austin Appleby has looked decent at times as QB, though last week he looked lost against Northwestern. Does Appleby have potential to be the starter for the Boilermakers going forward, or is the jury still out?

Travis: He started extremely well against Illinois, Michigan State, and Minnesota, but has tailed off. I still think he has better intangibles than Danny Etling, but Etling has more raw talent. What you may see is a true QB derby going into next season with David Blough, who is currently redshirting, getting a serious look. Blough enrolled early and, in my opinion, was the best quarterback this past spring. He is a disciple of Brees and grew up in central Texas, plus has the blessing of Breesus himself.

Elijah Sindelar, Purdue's 2015 commit, also looks promising. Unfortunately, he announced he was enrolling in January last Thursday, then likely tore his ACL Friday night in a Kentucky playoff game. He set a ton of passing records down there this season, but the injury obviously sets him back a bit.

Much of what happens depends on what Etling does. He has been very quiet since losing the starting job, while Appleby was always vocal about getting better and waiting for his opportunity. If Etling stays we could be in for a three-way derby. If he decides to transfer (and he could go home to Indiana State and play immediately for a good FCS team) It will be Appleby vs. Blough.

3. The bright spot of the Indiana season has been running back Tevin Coleman, who could surpass 2,000 yards rushing for the year on Saturday. What can the Boilermaker defense do to contain Coleman, and who on Purdue will be able stop him?

Travis: Well, can we send him some prostitutes to give him a scorching case of herpes? I kid, but there probably isn't much. Purdue has been smoked by the best running backs in America. Just look at the list of rushing leaders. Purdue has played No. Melvin Gordon, No. 7 Jarvion Franklin, No. 9 David Cobb, No. 11 Ameer Abdullah, No.21 Jeremy Langford. No. 26 Thomas Rawls, and No. 33 Justin Jackson. Only Notre Dame, Illinois, Iowa, and Southern Illinois didn't have a great rushing day against us. Those seven backs listed were all comfortably over 100 yards (save Abdullah, who got hurt) and Coleman might be the best of all of them. I say might be because Gordon has the advantage of playing with Wisconsin's offensive line and a more experienced quarterback. Coleman has been playing lone wolf for a very good portion of the season and will still go over 200 yards.

You're truly great when opposing teams know what is coming and still can't stop it. We know Coleman is coming. Other teams couldn't stop him, so I know we won't.

4. Both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers will be 3-8 heading into this game. Obviously this game still means a great deal to both teams for rivalry reasons, but give a reason or two for why casual or disgruntled fans should at least tune in for a few minutes.

Travis: Casual fans deserve to see a guy like Coleman. Both teams want to end the season on a positive note. For Purdue, getting the Bucket back is another sign of improvement and a pair of conference wins is something to build on. For Indiana, you haven't retained the Bucket after winning it for over 20 years, so that's big. Personally, I think it would be hilarious for all of the "SEC UBER ALLES" fans to be forced to deal with their champion (if Missouri wins it) to have a loss to a team that went winless in the B1G, so I am cheering for that.

5. Morgan Burke has been athletic director for over two decades at Purdue, but there seems to be a lot of consternation about his performance as AD recently. Is it time for Burke to move on from Purdue, and is there a rift between fans and administration on supporting him?

Travis: Burke needs to go and the Board of Trustees needs to go with him. Mitch Daniels and the board of have both openly said they will not get in a college sports arms race and Burke, while he has done a lot to improve facilities and has opened the war chest about as much as he can, has seen his time come and gone. We're in the Big Ten. We already are in an arms race. As I wrote months ago, if we're not going to bother to compete we might as well leave. If I may channel my inner Bob Knight, I am sick and f&^*ing tired of being the worst run athletic department in the Big Ten. I am sick and f&^%ing tired of having the fewest Big Ten Championship of any lengthy member of the conference and still fewer than the University of Chicago, which left the B1G 70 years ago. There is an institutional attitude of complacency and it was seen on Saturday when barely anyone bothered to show up for the Northwestern game. And Burke is fine with that because his job is safe as long as he keeps the department in the black. When BTN is handing him eight figure checks every year and there is enough left over to return cash to the general fund it is pretty easy to stay in the black, even with a half empty stadium.

6. How would you compare the intensity and fervor of the IU-Purdue rivalry across Indiana to other in-state college rivalries around the country? And is there ever a situation in which you'd find yourself rooting for the Hoosiers?

Travis: It is a pretty strong one driven by basketball. I know we have the Governor's Crimson & Gold Cup and all the rivalry trophies across the different sports, but generally I am rather reserved about IU. I was jealous of you when you made it to Omaha for baseball, mostly because you broke through when our team, in the exact same position a year before, was unable to (and you can thank Burke for us having to play a regional in freaking Gary instead of making a push to finish our new damn stadium on time because it was supposed to me open that year), but I was generally happy because I like college baseball and it was good to see the Big Ten finally get to Omaha again.

In basketball though, it's on. I know John M. once famously got on me for thinking that Indiana didn't suffer enough for the Sampson sanctions. Well, of course not! I wanted the program to stay burned to ashes for a hundred years of pain and suffering! I see kids walking around in those damn candystripe pants in Indianapolis and I view it as a form of child abuse. I love Tom Crean because he is so mockable and because he had the absolute perfect team to beat Syracuse two years ago and walk to the Final Four, but he blew it. I love that his best achievement is The Greatest December Win In College Basketball History and how silly that looks right now. I am pretty sure I would sell a kidney, if not a more vital organ, if Purdue could stop choking in March (and yes, we have often choked in March. 1988, 1996, 2000, and 2011 come to mind as a short list) and finally break through to win a title. Even then, I know the prevailing attitude would be, "That's nice, but you still have four to go," and I would still look for more organs to harvest to get the other four.

I was a child of the Gene vs. Bobby generation. THOSE were some basketball games I tell you. Purdue often had less talent, but was often ranked and would beat some pretty good IU teams on sheer guts and gumption. I miss those days.

7. After a game at Ross-Ade or Mackey, where are the best bars or restaurants to go to in West Lafayette? The two I've heard of from Purdue friends are Harry's and Neon Cactus.

Travis: Harry's is always a favorite. I was just there on Saturday after the Northwestern game and it did make things better. I used to love the Cactus but I haven't been in years and now that I am a dad I probably won't get back for awhile. Then there is Where Else. Never go to Where Else. It is where athletes go to get arrested.

8. Basketball talk: Purdue was at the bottom of the B1G last year and is predicted to struggle again in conference this year. Can the Boilers surprise this year? And is Matt Painter's job in jeopardy if he misses the tournament for a third straight year?

Travis: I think they can surprise. I was at the IUPUI game and it was interesting to see that this team just plays more as a team than the last two years. I think Purdue had talent the last two seasons, but it was disjointed and guys acted like they didn't even like each other. I think the locker room was divided and a lot of that division left town with Ronnie Johnson. So far they are playing more together than at any point since Hummel left. That's going to be the key to any turn around. Even in all the tension of the past two years Purdue still won 15 games and had at least five where a play here or there turns a loss into a win.

I think Painter is fine because he has five freshmen and no scholarship seniors. That probably buys him a year unless things totally crater, but we'll see how this Maui invite turns out. If we can take two games out there I like our chances of winning 20 games or so and at least being in the discussion for the NCAAs.

9. Basketball talk, part two: So far, IU has had trouble with their interior presence, to say the least. Will A.J. Hammons be able to exploit this when we play you guys twice this season?

Travis: A.J. has not put up big numbers in the first three games, but that is because teams are throwing double and triple teams at him every time he touches the ball. He has done well to pass out f that, and things are opening up around him. I have liked the development of freshman Isaac Haas, who is even bigger than Hammons and he is averaging double figures off the bench. I think those two are an excellent tag team at both ends of the floor. Both of them will give IU trouble, along with Vince Edwards, who has looked really, really good so far.

10. Prediction time: Who wins the Old Oaken Bucket this year, and by how much?

Travis: Until last week I thought we would win, but after seeing us against Northwestern I have doubts. Indiana is at least playing better than when Sudfeld first went down. Coleman is a stud too and will be the best player on the field. I would throw everything we have at Coleman and make Diamont beat us. Unfortunately, I could easily see Coleman going for 300 yards too.

Thanks, Travis! We may not like Purdue much around here but Travis and company do a great job of covering the Boilers over at H&R. Indiana and Purdue square off from Memorial Stadium at noon on Saturday, and the game will air on BTN.