The Purdue Boilermakers close the 2009 regular season Saturday in Bloomington against their archrival, the Indiana Hoosiers. Purdue coach Danny Hope will be looking for a win in his first Old Oaken Bucket game at the helm (although he's been around for quite a few as an assistant); his predecessor, Joe Tiller, boasted an impressive 10-2 record against Indiana in his twelve-year tenure.
The Boilers will have their work cut out for them on the road, as Purdue has only won one game away from Ross-Ade Stadium this season, a 38-36 thriller at Michigan. However, expect the Old Gold and Black to finish the season strong by once again disposing of their southern rivals.
As kickoff draws near, allow me to list three reasons Purdue will be taking the Bucket back to West Lafayette.
Purdue owns a significant mental advantage over Indiana based on last year's result alone: the Boilers scored on each of their first ten possessions en route to a 62-10 beatdown that wasn't even that close. While the Hoosiers will certainly have the "revenge" factor on their side, they run the risk of being intimidated well before the first snap, facing a squad that beat them by 52 just 52 weeks ago.
In addition, Indiana has to be reeling after losing seven of their last eight outings during this disappointing 2009 season. The Hoosiers have competed valiantly, most notably throwing scares into nationally-ranked Iowa and Penn State, but their penchant for obtaining and subsequently blowing large leads has without doubt taken its toll on IU's confidence.
With both teams playing for nothing but pride (and an old wooden pail), the edge has to be given to a Purdue team that's recently dominated the series and has earned some momentum over the past two months (beating Ohio State at home and Michigan on the road).
2. Joey Elliott
The Boilermakers' senior quarterback will be playing in his last college football game this weekend, and the Indiana native should enjoy a banner day to cap off his Purdue career. Elliott only needs 179 passing yards to reach 3,000 for the season, an impressive feat for a first-year starter.
Elliott has to be licking his chops against a Hoosiers defensive unit that allows over 400 yards a game of total offense, and while he may not match last year's 62-point outburst, expect No. 14 to go out in style with a high-scoring afternoon he'll remember long after his playing days have finished.
3. Two-Headed Backfield Monster
Elliott consistently gets time to throw and enjoys open receivers because of the Boilermakers' rushing game. Ralph Bolden should pass 200 carries and 1,000 yards for the season against IU, and his backup, senior Jaycen Taylor, has turned in his share of big plays when Bolden needs a breather.
The Purdue offensive line is playing its best football in the latter half of the season, and the holes they're opening make it easy for Bolden and Taylor to gash defenses. When offensive coordinator Gary Nord establishes the run early (as he likes to do), the play-action game makes Elliott even more dangerous through the air.
Look for Bolden to have one of his best rushing outputs of the season, and don't be surprised if Taylor reaches the end zone as well in his final game.
Bottom line: Neither team has an amazing defense, but the Boilermakers have a few more weapons for putting points on the board. When Purdue's lost, it's been due to turnovers and their penchant for beating themselves—don't expect that to happen in Bloomington.
Purdue 30, Indiana 20
For the Hoosier viewpoint in this Creature vs. Creature debate, check out Dan Karell's article.