Oaken Bucket Watch: Hoosiers Win in an Ugly Matchup

I said it last time and I’ll say it again: IU and Purdue are not good. There shouldn’t be much debate there. IU barely escaped Rutgers, a team so far behind their mascot is literally a knight. And despite all the engineers at Purdue, the Boilermakers are one train that cannot be fixed.

But on November 26, these perennially underperforming rivals will face off once again for the Old Oaken Bucket, and they can’t both lose–I think.

Anyway, with just three weeks left, here are three reasons the Hoosiers will best their in-state rivals and punch their way to a bowl game.

Purdue is One-Dimensional

Purdue has given up on running the ball. The Boilermakers pass on 63.07% of plays, which ranks the third-most in the league. There’s nothing wrong with leveraging the team’s strengths, but Purdue’s not all that good in the passing game anyway. Purdue QB David Blough completes only 56.48% of his passes, ranking 85th in the league, and the team averages just 6.7 yards per pass attempt, which ranks 90th in the league.

Purdue’s dependence on the passing game will prove even more of a crutch against IU’s strong passing defense. The Hoosiers allow 6.1 yards per completion and  hold opponents to just under 53% on pass completions, which ranks 15th in the league. The Hoosiers also record 2.1 sacks per game. Watch for IU Defensive Coordinator Tom Allen to dial up the blitz and grind the Boilermaker passing game to a halt.

IU has Two Secret Weapons

Hoosier backup QB Zander Diamont and RB Tyler Natee both bring a wrinkle to the game. In recent weeks, both have had snaps in the Wildcat formation, and Zander has alternated plays with starting QB Richard Lagow.

While Zander the Commander isn’t exactly a threat, he adds an element of surprise. The Zander sword is double-edged. You never know if he’ll make the defense act like fools or be the fool himself.  Every play has the possibility for a breakout touchdown or a turnover. Against Rutgers, he scored a touchdown after drawing the defense into the middle and then breaking out for 52-yards along the edge, but also allowed a touchdown after fumbling the ball on a broken play. Regardless, Z.D. gives Purdue a little something to either worry about or pray for.

Meanwhile, Tyler Natee won’t wow you on paper. He actually only averages 3.9 yards per rush and tends to be reserved for short yard situations. But Natee is powerful. Against Maryland, Big 31 literally dragged defenders across the field with him like a red, hulking, Frank Gore tow-truck. Natee stands at over 6 ft. tall and weighs a whopping 270 lbs. Against Purdue, he’ll be the real train on the field.

Both Teams will Play Ugly, but IU Will Play Less Ugly

QBs Richard Lagow and David Blough haven’t been the most careful with the ball. Actually, they’ve been just about the least careful. IU ranks 6th-worst in the league with 1.4 INT per game while Purdue ranks even lower at 3rd-worst with 1.9 INT per game. If that’s not bad enough, both QBs have had a 5-INT game. Despite Lagow’s um… generosity, the Hoosiers turnover margin is still about even at -0.3. An even turnover margin is nothing to boast about. In fact, IU’s ranks 91st in the nation. However, Purdue’s is dead last in the nation at -2.1. When I said ugly, I meant ugly.

Oaken Bucket 2016 probably won’t go down as a great game. But it will go down as another notch in the win column for IU and propel them to a bowl game that they will ultimately lose on a missed Griffin Oakes field goal.

Considering walking on as a kicker,

Evan Brown

Sports Analytics and Business at IU

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