Well, the Old Oaken Bucket Game is finally here, as Indiana football enters its final game of the season against its arch rival Purdue Boilermakers at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Hoosiers hope to build off their confidence after a thrilling overtime win 39-31 over Michigan State, and they’d certainly like to get the bucket back after being soundly defeated last year.
There’s a chance that the Boilermakers could be playing for a spot in the Big Ten Championship come Saturday afternoon, as they would need Iowa to lose to Nebraska on Friday night in Iowa City. This will be a challenging one for Indiana, as Purdue has a bunch of key pieces IU will need to key in on if IU wants to win. Here’s a closer look at the Boilermakers.
Taking a look at the Boilermakers
The Boilermakers are fifth in the Big Ten in total offense, with 40 total touchdowns on the season and averaging 28.5 points per game. A big part of this success is credited to the incredible passing attack Purdue possesses.
It all starts with Aidan O’Connell at quarterback for the Boilermakers, as he leads the Big Ten in completed passes (270) and average passing yards per game (283.4). Given the time to throw, O’Connell is an excellent pocket passer and can put the ball right on the money. Last year, O’ Connell threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns against IU, so the Hoosiers will need to do a much better job of stopping the pass Saturday afternoon.
But O’Connell wouldn’t have the success he’s had without his weapons. Charlie Jones is going to be the key piece Tom Allen and the defense need to stop if they want to win this game. Jones is sixth in the country in receiving yards with 1,056, and also has the most receptions in the country with 105. Along with Jones is tight end Payne Durham, who is a red zone threat and is very good at breaking tackles and extending plays.
Defensively, Jack Sullivan and Khordae Sydnor are two guys the Indiana offensive line are going to have to be aware of. Both are ninth and 10th in the Big Ten in sacks, recording five a four solo sacks respectively. In the secondary Cam Allen is tied for sixth in the conference in interceptions, so for a team that is eighth in the Big Ten in team defense, there are still some pieces IU will need to watch out for.
Keys for the Hoosiers
Getting pressure on O’Connell has got to be a huge part of the defensive gameplan. Alfred Bryant and the defensive line did a much better job against Michigan State up front than they had for the entirety of the season. Like most quarterbacks, pressure from the defensive line really hurts O’Connell’s decision making, so it will be interesting to see how the front seven does against Purdue’s offensive line.
Next, I’m interested to see what Dexter Williams can do after his performance last Saturday in East Lansing. The fact IU could win with only 37 passing yards was great and credit to the running game for carrying the load of the offense, but that will not work against Purdue. I’d like to see IU pass the ball much more than it did against Michigan State, even if it’s checkdowns and having your skill players make plays.
And finally, possibly the most important key will be Indiana’s secondary. This is an area of the team that has definitely improved since the beginning of the season. Taiwan Mullen has looked a lot more like the 2020 version of himself, but he will certainly be challenged on Saturday lining up across from Jones. Indiana will certainly have a chance in this game if it can shut down, or at least slow down the dangerous Purdue passing attack.