IU Insider Blog: What could have been

I had the thought during IU's 56-36 victory over Purdue Saturday that it would have been fun to have seen this offense play in a December bowl game. Unfortunately, the defense would have had to have played, too.

Moments after Indiana let the Minnesota game slip away in a 42-39 loss to the Golden Gophers on Nov. 2, I turned to a writer next to me in the press box at Memorial Stadium and said we would be thinking about that game on the day IU played Purdue for the Bucket.

I think I even mentioned that point in our postgame video that night after IU's agonizing loss after a pass in the flat from Nate Sudfeld to Tevin Coleman was ruled a lateral and recovered by Minnesota with IU driving for either a game-tying or potential game-winning score.

A win against Minnesota could have evened IU's record at 4-4. Instead the Hoosiers were 3-5 with four games to play. The games against Illinois and Purdue looked winnable. But expecting IU to go on the road and beat either Wisconsin or Ohio State appeared to be a long shot at best.

Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, that's the way it played out.

IU scored more than 50 points in victories over Illinois and Purdue but lost lopsided decisions to both Wisconsin and Ohio State.

And instead of finishing the season at 6-6 with a postseason bowl invitation, the Hoosiers are on the outside looking in again with a 5-7 record after Saturday's 56-36 victory over Purdue in the annual Old Oaken Bucket game.

The most disappointing thing about IU's 5-7 finish is simply how entertaining this team potentially could have been in a bowl game with such a high-powered offense.

Consider:

*** Indiana scored more than 50 points three times this season, amassed more than 600 yards of offense four times and ran for more than 300 yards five times in the 2013 season.

*** IU averaged a school-record 508.5 total yards per game, averaged a school-record 38.4 points and scored a school record 62 touchdowns.

*** The 56 points scored and 401 yards rushing Saturday were the most ever by the Hoosiers in an Old Oaken Bucket game.

And yet when a lot less exciting teams show up on your television screen playing in bowl games this December, Indiana fans will only be able to wonder what could have been.

Now, let's don't lose sight of reality here though either. The reason Indiana is not playing in a bowl game is because its defense was awful. OK, worse than awful. Seven of 12 opponents piled up more than 500 yards of offense against the Hoosiers. Michigan had 751. Wisconsin had 676. Ten teams scored 35 points or more against Indiana this season.

So, while it would have been fun to watch Indiana match its offense against bowl-caliber competition at a lower level bowl in December, the flip side is IU's defense would have been exposed to the college football world, too.

And that wouldn't have been pretty. An entertaining game? Sure. But watching IU get beat 63-45 in a bowl game would have been a painful reality, too.

The important thing for the Hoosiers was they were able to send their seniors out properly with a convincing victory in the Bucket game Saturday.

I'll try not to break my arm patting myself on the back with my pre-game prediction. As I said in my ‘Last Word' column early Saturday that was posted on our site around 11 a.m., I thought the game could be a reversal of fortunes for Indiana from a season ago. Last year, Purdue won the Bucket, 56-35 in West Lafayette. My pick was an Indiana 56-35 victory on Saturday.

Final Score: Indiana 56, Purdue 36.

Drop me a note if you need any lottery numbers this week.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch


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