Here's the bad news for Indiana football fans.
Indiana probably isn't going to be able stop Purdue on Saturday.
After all, Purdue boasts the Big Ten's leading passer in Joey Elliott, the league's top receiver in Keith Smith, and the conference's No. 3 rusher in Ralph Bolden. It's a trio of players that have helped the Boilermaker offense average more than 500 yards in their last two games while averaging nearly 40 points per contest.
Rest easy, though, because there's good news for Indiana football fans.
Purdue's defense doesn't appear equipped to stop Indiana's offense, either. Ben Chappell ranks right behind Elliott in passing yards/game, while Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher give the Hoosiers the most statistically productive wide receiver combination in the conference. Add in Darius Willis – who should be healthy after missing the last six quarters with an ankle injury – and a Purdue defense that ranks last in the conference with 29.8 points/game allowed figures to take its lumps too.
There might not be a bowl game on the line for either team, but truth be told, everything seems to add up to one of the most high-scoring, entertaining Old Oaken Bucket battles in recent memory. The teams might be hard pressed to eclipse the 87 points that were scored in the in the 2004 game (won by Purdue 63-24), but there are a lot of reasons to believe that this game could see both teams get into the mid-to-high 30s. If there's anything left in the offensive playbook that's been saved for a special moment or game, now is the time that both teams will throw anything and everything they've got at their opponent to try to capture the Old Oaken Bucket.
One thing that appears for certain is that both teams won't let previous disappointments this season keep them from preparing well and being at their best on Saturday. Indiana has shown resiliency on a weekly basis in bouncing back from heartbreaking losses to Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin. Purdue, meanwhile, overcame a 1-5 start to beat both Ohio State and Michigan in the same season and nearly re-inserted themselves into the bowl equation before losing last week to Michigan State.
"It's a huge game. It's the game of the year for us," said Ben Chappell.
It might be the game of the year for some, but for others, it's most likely the last game of their careers. Indiana will lose 21 seniors at season's end, nearly all of whom have played significant roles in the team's fortunes over the years. They've celebrated Indiana's first bowl game in 14 years back in 2007, endured the heartbreak of losing Coach Terry Hoeppner, and suffered some gut-wrenching losses this season.
With all of those ups and downs, they know they get one final chance to win in front of the home crowd and potentially become the first Indiana senior class to win its final game since Antwaan Randle El's 2001 squad accomplished the feat.
"I think it put a bad taste in our mouth last year, not only to lose, but to lose as bad as we did," said senior Bryan Payton. "To put that bad taste in their mouth would be awesome. As seniors, it's something we can carry with us always and say our last Bucket game, we won. That would be a big deal."
Look for Indiana to get it done. The Hoosiers have dealt with so many near misses and close calls this season that the law of averages suggests it's about time that Indiana have a reason to celebrate when the clock reads 0:00. Expect to see the Old Oaken Bucket back in Bloomington this winter, and for Indiana's senior class to celebrate in its last hurrah as Indiana football players.
Hoosier Nation Prediction: Indiana 38, Purdue 34
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
PURDUE: One Day and Counting
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