After an extremely up and down season for both teams, Purdue and Indiana finish their seasons this Saturday at 3:30 PM in Bloomington, Indiana.
Indiana began the season winning their first three games, but they have lost seven of their last eight games and have nothing left to play for but pride and the Old Oaken Bucket, although that is big enough of a thing to play for.
Purdue won their first game against Toledo before losing five in a row. However, they had a massive upset over Ohio State to break that losing streak and are 2-2 since that game. They are now out of bowl contention, though, after losing a close one last week to Michigan State.
The Hoosiers last year were demolished in the Bucket game, losing 62-10 to Purdue in West Lafayette, but this season they are a much better team.
The offense has been improved greatly, with junior QB Ben Chappell taking the reins and putting up a great year statistically, throwing for 2,675 yards, a 63 percent completion rate, 15 touchdowns, and a 126.8 passer rating.
Along with that has been the great play of sophomore wide receivers Tandon Doss and Demarlo Belcher, who have combined for 1,617 yards on 130 receptions, with nine touchdowns between the two of them.
Another aspect that has helped the Hoosiers has been the great job by the offensive line, which has pushed around some of the best defensive teams in the country, including Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.
Last year there were many injuries to the O-line, but they have been key this year to the Hoosiers' success by being healthy and playing as a team.
On the defensive side of the ball, the tandem of Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton has caused double-teams on both sides of the line, and they have still managed to record 23 tackles for losses and 8.5 sacks between the two of them.
This has opened up chances for Indiana's linebacker corps, and Matt Mayberry, Will Patterson, and Tyler Replogle have stepped up big. They are one, two, and three in the tackles made column in the statistics, and Mayberry has proven to be one of the Big Ten's best linebackers this season.
There are many seniors on the defense, and safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk must be mentioned. Thomas is finally healthy after injuring his knee last season, and he has played big all season. He leads the team with four interceptions.
His partner Polk, who has been playing injured all season, deserves a lot of credit for the way he has played this season and has been making timely hits and good reads on coverages throughout the long season.
For the Hoosiers, 10 of the 22 starters are going to be playing their final game, and they are expected to lead the team to victory.
If Indiana wants to win, they must:
1. Get in the face of Purdue QB Joey Elliott so that he can't make good throws to his receivers.
2. Establish a running game against the Purdue defense, which is one of the weakest in the Big Ten.
3. Maintain and improve on a lead, and not give it away like they have in previous weeks.
The Hoosiers are playing the biggest game of the season, and the sellout crowd will certainly be loud. I expect the Hoosiers to play big and bring the Bucket back to Bloomington.
My Prediction: Indiana wins on a Nick Freeland field goal, 38-35.
For Tim Cary's story on the game, click here .
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