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  • Tom Allen will try to lead the Hoosiers to a bowl game for the first time in his tenure and the third time in four years. The Hoosiers become bowl-eligible with a win over Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket Game. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Saturday, November 24, 2018 11:32 am

Pregame: Indiana (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten) vs. Purdue (5-6, 4-4)

Dylan Sinn | Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – In the history of FBS football, only four matchups have been played more often than Indiana-Purdue. The Hoosiers and Boilermakers will meet for the 121st time this afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington and for the second straight year, the postseason is at stake.

Last year, both teams came in 5-6 and looking to reach a bowl game with a win. Purdue emerged with a 31-24 victory in West Lafayette and earned the right to play in the Foster Farms Bowl, which the Boilermakers won, giving the program a huge boost of momentum going into this season. The winning team today will have that opportunity again, while the losing team will have all winter to think about what might have been.

For most of the season, it seemed as though the Boilermakers would have a significant edge today. Purdue improved to 5-4 with a win over Iowa and its high-powered offense was wreaking havoc against nearly everyone. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers were in the middle of a four-game losing streak and a bowl bid seemed remote after a bad loss to Minnesota. Lately, however, it's been the Hoosiers playing better football. They knocked off Maryland here at Memorial Stadium and then led No. 4 Michigan at halftime at the Big House before finally falling 31-20. The result is the Boilermakers, who have lost two in a row, are favored by only four points.

Much of the game could come down to how well Purdue's defense has recovered from the beating it took in the second half against Wisconsin last week. Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor ran for 321 yards, including 247 after halftime, and the Boilermaker defense looked exhausted in the overtime periods. Indiana running back Stevie Scott was a bulldozer against Michigan's elite rush defense last week, going for 139 yards on 30 carries and becoming the all-time leading rusher among true freshmen in Indiana history. If the Hoosiers can control the ball with Scott and keep Purdue's lightning-strike offense off the field, it will bode very well for Indiana. The Boilermakers' defensive front will have to do a much better job than it did against Wisconsin, even though it remains somewhat short on depth.

When the Boilermakers have the ball, the focus will of course be on Rondale Moore. The likely Big Ten Freshman of the Year is just nine catches away from 100 for the season and has already surpassed 1,000 receiving yards, while finding the end zone 11 times. He had a few quiet games in a row before breaking out again against Wisconsin, going for 114 yards and two highlight-reel touchdowns, including one in overtime. Indiana has had some issues tackling this season and Moore has shown an ability to break tackles against even technically-sound defenses. The Hoosiers will have to swarm to the ball when Moore has it and stay away from arm tackles, or he'll rack up plenty of yards after contact.

In addition to being a rivalry game and the season-finale with a bowl game on the line, it's also Senior Day for the Hoosiers, which is fitting. With a win, Indiana would go bowling for the third time in four years, only the second time that feat has been accomplished in the history of the program. For the seniors that have been here for both of the previous bowl games (and possibly the third one in December), there would be no better way to end their careers in Bloomington than with a program-boosting victory. Purdue might have something to say about that.

Prediction: Purdue 34, Indiana 23

dsinn@jg.net