Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 21, 2018 at 1:28 am.

Hoosiers have lots riding on Old Oaken Bucket game

Indiana coach Tom Allen knows bragging rights are always crucial when the Hoosiers meet in-state rival Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket game each year.

“It’s a big game regardless,” Allen said. “But it becomes intensified and even more important when you look at the ramifications for being in a bowl.”

Indiana (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten) plays host to Purdue (5-6, 4-4) in the regular-season finale Saturday in Bloomington. The winner will become bowl eligible.

That extra practice time before a bowl is crucial to a young team like the Hoosiers, who are the 19th-youngest team nationally and the fourth youngest in the Big Ten. Seventy-five of the 114 (65.8 percent) Hoosiers are underclassmen (54 freshmen, 31 true freshmen, and 21 sophomores).

“Almost a whole extra spring in some ways of technique work and development,” Allen said. “So that’s huge. And then just in recruiting it’s a big deal, beating your rival. So you get it all wrapped up into one.”

“We want to be in a position where we’re climbing and growing every single year, and then that’s the objective is we build and keep recruiting and putting class upon class upon class, it’s going to be critical. The No. 1 focus as a staff is about recruiting because we’re all a lot better coaches when we have better players.”

The Hoosiers lost at No. 4 Michigan 31-20 Saturday while host Purdue lost to Wisconsin 47-44 in triple overtime.

Allen said the team has seemed sharper since returning from a bye week and beating Maryland 34-32 on Nov. 4

“I do think that the time away gave us a chance to get our bodies back and get our guys ready to have a strong finish, and that’s what the objective was, and so far they’ve responded, and it’s really going to be critical that they finish the job,” Allen said.

The Hoosiers had a chance to become bowl eligible last season but finished 5-7 after losing to Purdue 31-24.

“I just want the young guys to understand that this game is bigger than just football,” fifth-year senior wide receiver J-Shun Harris told “It’s the alumni who get the upper edge on the other ones for the entire year. It goes way beyond sports itself, so if they can understand that, they can understand how big and important the game is.”