The battle for the Old Oaken Bucket resumes when the Indiana Hoosiers travel west to take on their in-state and long-time Big Ten rival, the Purdue Boilermakers. The rivalry was canceled last year due to COVID concerns but resumes as both teams look to conclude their 2021 regular season on a winning note. Indiana won 44-41 in 2019 the last time the teams met. Purdue leads the overall series with 74 wins, while Indiana has 42 wins. (There also have been six ties.)
Purdue defeated Northwestern 32-14 last week, giving the Boilermakers a 7-4 overall mark, with a 5-3 record in Big Ten play. Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm, while pleased with the win over the Wildcats, recognizes the challenge that Indiana presents to the Boilermakers.
"I think our team has a lot to play for," Brohm said. "It's rivalry week, and in order for us to have a chance to win the game, we've got to prepare well. We've got to get as many guys healthy as we can and go out there and execute on Saturday. I think in these type of games, you've got to — all three elements — offense, defense, and special teams have to be clicking. We've got to make sure we sharpen things up and get ready to play."
To say that the 2021 season has been frustrating for Indiana would be a dramatic understatement. Indiana comes into this game at Purdue with a 2-9 overall record, including an 0-8 mark within the Big Ten. Indiana head coach Tom Allen recognizes that the upcoming offseason will be crucial for the Hoosiers.
"When the season ends, kind of rebuild each room, try to be able to go through and look at it this way, be able to maximize our guys, who we have, who is coming back, be able to address the needs accordingly," Allen said. "That's the challenge and the opportunity we have in front of us."
Indiana at Purdue
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Purdue -15
When Indiana Has the Ball
Offensively, the Hoosiers have struggled all season, ranking near the bottom of the Big Ten and 122nd nationally at 297.5 yards of offense per game. The loss of quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr. and Jack Tuttle to injury have forced the Hoosiers to play other quarterbacks such as Grant Gremel and Donaven McCulley, and the results have been dramatic upon the Indiana passing game. In last week's 35-14 home loss to Minnesota, Gremel and McCulley combined to complete 8 of 19 passes for 77 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
The lack of a passing game has led opposing teams to clamp down on Indiana's running game. The Hoosiers' leading rusher is Stephen Carr, who has rushed for 600 yards this season but is only averaging 3.9 yards per carry.
Defensively, Purdue is among the stingiest in the Big Ten, only giving up 198.9 passing yards per game. Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis ranks among the best in the conference in tackles for a loss with 10.5, as well as sacks with four, and could be disruptive to whatever Indiana tries to do offensively.
When Purdue Has the Ball
Purdue has the Big Ten's second-best passing offense, averaging 345.6 yards per game. Quarterback Aidan O'Connell's 72.7 percent completion rate paces the conference, and he has 19 touchdowns versus eight interceptions.
The star of the Purdue wide receiver corps is David Bell, who leads the Big Ten with 87 receptions. Among other leading Boilermaker receivers are Milton Wright, with 51 receptions, and Jackson Anthrop, with 44 receptions.
Indiana usually has a reputation for a stout defense, but with the Hoosier offense sputtering, the pressure on the Hoosier defense has taken its toll this season. Indiana ranks near the bottom in sacks and interceptions, which are two painful statistics when facing a powerful Purdue passing game.
Purdue is basking in the knowledge that a bowl game awaits them, while Indiana is facing the realities of a rebuilding offseason. While the Hoosiers will play with pride and toughness, sooner or later the Boilermakers will break this game open, and Purdue fans will revel in holding ownership of the Old Oaken Bucket for another season.
Prediction: Purdue 35, Indiana 10
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— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Buckeye Scoop. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.