Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana seeks history as it looks to keep the Old Oaken Bucket in Bloomington

Saturday's rivalry game presents a pair of historic opportunities for Hoosiers.

On Saturday, Indiana (5-6, 1-6) has a chance to accomplish something which has eluded it since 2007:

The opportunity to go to a bowl game. 

The implications are no doubt on the Hoosiers' minds. But when players and coaches met with the media Monday, they wanted to keep the focus solely on the rivalry game and not what the future may hold from the outcome of Saturday's game at Purdue (2-9, 1-6) at noon. 

"Very fortunate to have, again, what I consider a great rival and a lot of respect for their team," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. "Through my years from high school as a player through college and where I've coached, been lucky to be able to be at a place with good rivals. Not everyone has that blessing."

Wilson has more than a good rivalry to be thankful for.

Despite all the records senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld has shattered and set, he has only one career pass attempt against the Boilermakers. The Hoosiers faced 3rd and 8 from the Purdue 35, and Sudfeld hit then-IU receiver Kofi Hughes for an 18-yard completion to put Indiana in the red zone. 

That day, he was 1-for-1 for 18 yards. Now fully healthy and the sole starting quarterback, he has a chance to pass for many more yards and continue to cement his legacy amount Indiana's all-time greats. 

But, like the coaching staff, it's just the next game for him. 

"We understand the opportunity behind it," said Sudfeld when asked about the implications of the Old Oaken Bucket game. "We want to play as well as we can. We can't be looking past anything. We have to bring our 'A' game. We know Purdue is very good. They'll be a real test." 

Passing the test would make the Hoosiers bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007. Then-IU kicker Austin Starr's game-winning 49-yard field goal in that season's bucket game propelled IU to a 7-5 record and a spot in the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma State in Tempe, Ariz. 

Passing the test would also mark the third straight bucket game win for Indiana, a feat which hasn't been accomplished since the late 1940s. 

The Boilermakers' run defense certainly won't be getting in the way, as they've allowed opponents to rush for a Big Ten-most 206.4 yards per game. Led by junior running back Jordan Howard, Indiana has rushed for an average of 173.1 yards per game, fifth-best in the Big Ten. 

Overall, opponents average six yards per play and 440.1 yards of total offense per game against Purdue's defense. Indiana enters averaging a Big Ten-best 459.1 yards of total offense per game. 

However, the Boilermaker secondary is tied with four other conference teams for second with 12 interceptions. 

"Purdue is very solid in the secondary, very sound with what they do," Indiana offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. "But at the same time, we've been practicing for 3 1/2, 4 months now. We're not going to change who we are now."

The Hoosiers' identity has led them to this point in the season, one win away from bowl eligibility. To get there, they're just focusing on the present. 

"Purdue on tape looks the same and let alone it being a rival and as you wrap up the season," Wilson said. "So bottom line, we really talk a lot about the opponent and keeping your eyes on your job instead of surroundings and distractions and all that."


Peegs.com Top Stories