With every game that Indiana plays this season, we'll take a pregame look at five keys that the Hoosiers will need to be successful.
Here's the five keys for today's game with Purdue:
1. SCORE EARLY AND OFTEN It's rare that Indiana is a 21-point favorite in a Big Ten game but that's the case today. Still, funny things have been known to happen in Old Oaken Bucket games. Take last year. The Boilers were a big favorite and Indiana led 21-14 at the half before the Boilers routed the Hoosiers in the second half. Indiana needs to establish the passing game with Nate Sudfeld early in this game and make it clear that the Boilers will have to score 50 or more to have a chance in this one.
2.Houston NEEDS TO COME UP BIG Stephen Houston has had two big games in his only two career outings against the Boilermakers. As a sophomore he ran for 129 yards on just seven carries, including a 52-yard touchdown run against Purdue. As a junior last season, Houston ran for 158 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns. He also had 12 catches for 95 yards. Look for Houston to be a big part of the game plan again today.
3. GET THE BUCKET BACK Indiana had the Bucket in 2010 in Bill Lynch's final game in Bloomington when the Hoosiers rallied for a 34-31 overtime victory. Since then, Purdue has captured the annual trophy the last two seasons in a row. In 2011, Purdue won 33-25. Last year, the Boilers won 56-35. Purdue has also won the Bucket the last two times it was in Bloomington. The last time Indiana won the Bucket at Memorial Stadium was the night that Austin Starr's late field goal lifted IU to a 27-24 victory in 2007 and a berth in the Insight Bowl. Kevin Wilson is looking for his first claim to the Old Oaken Bucket.
4. DEFENSE NEEDS TO FINISH ON A HIGH NOTE Anyone that follows Indiana football is well aware of the laundry list of defensive statistics that have followed IU football around this season. The Hoosiers have surrendered an average of 39.1 points per game. Opponents have rushed for an average of 256.5 yards, passed for 272.5 more which adds up to 529 yards of total offense allowed per game. Opponents have been able to get off the field on third down 48 percent of the time. Indiana needs for those numbers to be within reason today in order for the Hoosiers to close the season on a high note and recapture the Bucket.
5. BALANCE REQUIRED When Indiana has been at its best this season, both the running game and the passing game have worked well together. For the season, IU is averaging 308 yards per game passing and 183 on the ground. That 60-40 passing/rushing balance will be a key once again today. Houston will be a key in the running game and that will allow Sudfeld and company to make big plays in the passing game.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch