Oaken Bucket Watch Week 1

The most famous rivalry in the state of Indiana is undoubtedly that between IU and Purdue. Since 1891, the two teams have faced off at the end of BIG10 play to cap off two lackluster seasons by competing for the Old Oaken Bucket. This season, we’ll take a weekly look at the performances of Indiana and Purdue’s football teams to predict how the two rivals will match up when that fateful day arrives.  

We’ve written at length about IU’s Week 1 performance. You can check out an in-depth look at IU’s offensive performance by Hank Duncan here and thoughts on their rising defense by yours truly here.

In short, IU’s offense got off to an extremely slow start under new QB Richard Lagow, but ended up looking comfortable passing the ball and even better running it with Devine Redding. The defense looked great, limiting the Panthers to only 13 points despite allowing nearly 270 yards in the air.

Neither team was incredibly efficient: IU converted only 40% of third-downs while Purdue converted slightly more with 50%.

Purdue had nearly identical rushing and passing performances as IU. However, Purdue’s scoring was more balanced through the game as compared to IU’s backloaded win. The Boilermakers’ offense capitalized on drives more often than the Hoosiers, scoring 45 points to the Hoosiers 34. Both teams passed for only one TD, but Purdue ran for 3 as compared to IU’s 1.

Purdue has a slight advantage in passing defense, holding Eastern Kentucky to 222 passing yards, while IU allowed 268. However, IU had the clear advantage in stopping the run, holding FIU to only 63 yards, while Purdue allowed 176.

Strength of opponent is insignificant in this week’s matchups. Eastern Kentucky performed slightly better than FIU in 2015, finishing 6-5 compared to 5-7, but played in a weaker FCS conference. With teams this far below average, there’s little need for adjustment.

Cupcake games at the beginning of the season are poor indicators of future success, but they do provide some insight into how certain teams are functioning.

Here’s what we can conclude:

The offensive advantage goes to Purdue for now. IU’s slow start and new QB were too glaring to give them the edge over a fully-functional Purdue team. Given IU’s previous offensive track record, I expect this balance to shift in future weeks. However, Purdue clearly played the better game on offense in Week 1.

The defensive advantage goes to IU. IU’s new defensive scheme helped cut down scoring significantly but will struggle against better equipped teams later on. However, given that IU and Purdue allowed similar passing numbers, IU allowed far fewer rushing numbers and allowed only about half as many points as Purdue. Thus, IU gets the slight edge.

Overall, IU and Purdue look even as of now. If IU’s offense can learn to perform consistently throughout the game, look for them to take the edge in future weeks.

Tune in to see how these comparisons change in Week 2.

Evan Brown

Sports Analytics and Business at Indiana University

Stats courtesy of ESPN

Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Star

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