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Purdue Boilermakers at Indiana Game Preview: Hoosiers look for fourth straight Old Oaken Bucket

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It's the Bucket Game! Purdue is bad! Indiana isn't! Don't lose to Purdue!

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (5-6, #52 S&P+) vs Purdue Boilermakers (3-8, #120 S&P+)

When? Saturday, 11/26, 12:00 PM, Bloomington, Indiana

Channel? ESPNU

Vegas? INDIANA -20

S&P+ Projection? INDIANA, 40.3 - 18.1 (90%)

____________________________________

My initial attempt at an introductory paragraph for this game turned into a long, hopefully well-written essay about Indiana's football program and the recent importance of the Old Oaken Bucket. So I would advise you to read that and then come back here. I'll wait.

Done? Cool.

Purdue is trash. LET'S DIG IN.

FIVE FACTORS

(% indicates how often a team wins the game if they win that battle. Explanation here.)


Explosiveness 
(86%)
Efficiency 
(83%)
Field Position 
(75%)
Finishing Drives 
(72%)
Turnover Margin 
(73%)
INDIANA (#60 Offense) 1.35 (26th) 41.6% (78th) 30.5 (50th) 3.42 (126th) -6 (107th)
PURDUE (#116 Defense) 1.36 (110th) 46.8% (114th) 32.4 (115th) 5.09 (116th) -18 (127th)

Explosiveness 
(86%)
Efficiency 
(83%)
Field Position 
(75%)
Finishing Drives 
(72%)
Turnover Margin 
(73%)
INDIANA (#38 Defense)
1.31 (97th)
36.2% (20th)
29.0 (66th)
4.46 (69th)
-6 (107th)
PURDUE (#102 Offense)
1.19 (98th) 38.9% (107th) 28.7 (91st) 4.10 (98th) -18 (127th)


THE OPPONENT

Yeah, I wasn't being flippant in an effort to smack-talk. Purdue is truly trash at just about everything. Their highest five factor ranking is 91st (!!!) so you can imagine that wandering into the weeds of their statistical profile isn't going to reveal anything inspiring. As we often say around here, anything can happen in a one-game sample but Indiana is quite a bit better overall than last season and Purdue is quite a bit worse, add in that this game is in Bloomington and it would be nearly unforgivable to drop this contest on the threshold of bowl eligibility.

Purdue is 106th when it comes to running the ball, getting low marks for efficiency and explosiveness. The poor numbers for opportunity rate and stuff rate also reveal an offensive line that can't get the job done. Sophomore Markell Jones leads the pack with 131 carries for 581 yards and three scores. His 4.4 YPC is respectable but his 3.1 HY/O means he isn't a tremendous threat in the second level. That number would put him behind the likes of Tyler Natee and Devonte Williams on Indiana's roster, neither of whom are known for their open field prowess.

The Boilermakers' 72nd ranking in passing offense is better then their rushing numbers but still below-average overall. They hover near 100 in both efficiency and explosiveness, but are buoyed by their sack rate (19th!!!) showing that the offensive line can at least keep the quarterback upright, or buy him enough time to break the pocket and head up the field. Sophomore signal-caller David Blough has thrown the ball a ton (472 attempts, nearly 100 more than Richard Lagow) but his yardage total (3,127 less than 100 more than Lagow) gives him a dismal YPA of 6.0 to go along with 23 touchdowns (pretty good!) and 19 interceptions (pretty bad!).

Blough's top targets are seniors DeAngelo Yancey (43 catches, 873 yards, 9 touchdowns) and Bilal Marshall (36 / 434 / 3) are both good-sized targets at 6'2" and Yancey, in particular, has been a tough cover. His 20.3 yards per catch would lead the Hoosiers and is likely to be a tremendous test for Indiana's young secondary. If Yancey can break loose for a couple of long scores, it could change the entire complexion of the game. Indiana's defense, while remaining very good overall, has a bad habit of allowing big plays, particularly through the air. Keeping Yancey in front of them will be critical, particularly on passing downs, as Purdue ranks 12th (what?!) in passing explosiveness in those situations. Don't ask me how that's possible,

Things get worse, somehow, on defense. Purdue is ranked 120th against the pass and 126th against the run. Their one decent quality, stuff rate on runs (35th), is undone by allowing more explosive run plays than all but nine other teams. Stopping a run for no gain is good, but it's less good when you follow it up by allowing a huge gain. They allow runners to reach the second level 41% of the time and offenses are taking notice, as they are running the ball on 66.4% (17th) on standard downs and 36.6% (45th) on passing downs.

Havoc Rate clocks in overall at 126th, with their DBs coming in dead last at 128th. The group has 4 picks and 9 pass break-ups total, which is less than Marcelino Ball and Rashard Fant alone have combined for this season. The defensive line is average (65th) making them the defense's finest unit. Led by Gelen Robinson (6 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble) and Evan Panfil (11 TFL, 5 sacks) look for them to lead the charge against a beleaguered Indiana offensive line. If these two aren't neutralized, everyone's job behind them gets a lot easier.

THE HOOSIERS

I wrote this in last year's Bucket preview, and I think it's worth restating, amended for this season:

Win the game and you go to a bowl. If you WIN THIS FOOTBALL GAME you get to play in a BOWL GAME. Three straight conference losses after starting 1-0 SUCKED. Getting so close to a major upset and being unable to pull it off against three top ten teams SUCKED. Getting beat by Wake Forest on a bunch of dumb turnover luck SUCKED.

But if you win this game none of that will really matter because you will go to a bowl game.

Seriously! I realize 6-6 might not look like the kind of year-to-year improvement most want out of Indiana, but keep in mind they have a chance to get back to six wins after going to a nine-game conference slate, meaning they didn't have the benefit of a 4-0 start against three awful teams and Western Kentucky. The 2-1 non-conference record meant Kevin Wilson and company had to find four wins in the Big Ten Conference, something Indiana just doesn't do all that often. You can say that the four wins were all over bad B1G teams, but to make that point as if the Hoosiers weren't regularly getting beaten down by bad B1G teams makes you look like a fool, honestly.

Indiana heads into the final game of the regular season with these numbers, by S&P+ (last season in parenthesis):

Passing Offense: 7th (14th)

Rushing Offense: 94th (39th)

Passing Defense: 45th (89th)

Rushing Defense: 18th (109th)

Overall S&P+: 52nd (60th)

That's improvement! Yes, the run game faltered with the loss of Jordan Howard and numerous injuries along the offensive line, but a resurgent defense and passing offense that, despite your takes, was better overall than last season's outfit helped to mask those deficiencies.

The Indiana Hoosiers are playing for a bowl game because they deserve to be. They were a better team this year than last, and they can earn a spot in the postseason with a victory over their arch rival (who is about as bad as an FBS football team can be, currently) on Senior Day. Go Hoosiers.

THREE THINGS

  • Send Ricky Jones, Mitchell Paige, Ralph Green III, and all our seniors out of Memorial Stadium in style: Last season, the Hoosiers were forced to spend Senior Day trying a Michigan team that was ranked 6th in the S&P+. This year, they get a somewhat easier assignment, and while it's basically a pipe dream given the fact it'll be a brutally cold Saturday after Thanksgiving, it'd be cool to see a big crowd. Indiana doesn't have a ton of senior contributors this season, but the ones that have played have been integral to the Hoosiers success. They have the chance to become part of an all-too-exclusive group of players to come through Bloomington and play in the postseason twice.
  • Please don't lose to Purdue. Indiana football has found a lot of ways to make us miserable, but losing to this Purdue team, in their current state, on the threshold of bowl eligibility would be like inventing a new circle of hell for a fanbase that seems to rediscover how brutal this sport can be on an annual basis.
  • Give me more Zander Diamont / Camion Patrick read-option. The Secret Weapon looked awfully healthy against Michigan, you can't help but wonder if he's about to be unleashed against Purdue. Granted, I think I've wondered this about five times this season so who knows. Would be cool to see Zander score a touchdown out of the read-option, just for old time's sake:

PREDICTION

Purdue fans invaded our mentions last night after Fort Wayne notched an upset-victory over the Hoosiers in basketball, as it was the best thing to happen to them in years. Indiana secures their fourth straight Bucket and in a stunning turn of events, the Music City Bowl selects Indiana and Kentucky to play each other because they know what brings in the cheddar. HOOSIERS 38, Boilermakers 10