Purdue vs. Indiana: 10 things every fan needs to know about this rivalry
Indiana and Purdue will battle for the Old Oaken Bucket for the 97th time on Saturday in Bloomington, as the Hoosiers will try to win back possession of the traveling trophy and keep it with them for a year.
Meanwhile, the Boilermakers will try to keep the Bucket at their place, where it’s been for the last year, after Purdue’s 44-7 victory in Ross-Ade Stadium last season.
As we approach Saturday’s Purdue vs. Indiana game, let’s take a look at 10 things every fan needs to know about the Old Oaken Bucket:
The Boilermakers have a 63.5% win rate in the battle for the Bucket, having won 61 of the 96 games, with 32 losses and 3 ties since the trophy was introduced to the series in 1925.
Purdue’s had long stretches of success in the series, winning a high of 10 straight from 1947-58, a stretch in which Indiana scored a touchdown or less in 6 games, including being shut out 3 times. The Boilermakers also won 13 of 16 during the Joe Tiller and Danny Hope eras from 1997-2012, with the Hoosiers’ 3 wins coming by a combined 12 points.
By the way, the 1st Bucket game, back in ’25, finished in a 0-0 tie.
Games between Purdue and Indiana date back to 1891, with the Boilermakers holding an overall lead in the series of 75-42-6.
Only once as ranked foes
The teams have played only once when both were ranked in the AP Top 25, and that came back in 1945.
The 4th-ranked Hoosiers defeated No. 18 Purdue 26-0 in Bloomington during a stretch of 4 consecutive wins by Indiana (1944-47). IU has won 4 straight in the series only 1 other time, when the Hoosiers had the edge from 2013-16.
The Hoosiers have been ranked only in 3 other Bucket games, in 1937 (20th), 1942 (18th) and 1993 (21st). Of course, IU was also ranked 7th at the end of the 2020 season, but the Bucket game was postponed, then canceled, due to the Covid pandemic.
Purdue has been ranked in 14 games, the latest being in 2003 when the No. 16 Boilermakers beat the Hoosiers 24-16 in Memorial Stadium.
Add a letter (or 2)
After each game, a letter is added to a chain attached to the Bucket: There are now 61 “Ps” and 32 “Is” with 3 links that share an “IP,” signifying the 3 ties in the series.
Of course, we’ll no longer see that full combination letters after the NCAA did away with ties following the 1995 season.
Rod Woodson’s day
Purdue All-American Rod Woodson turned in one of the greatest individual performances ever in the game in 1986, one that is unlikely to be duplicated again, either here or anywhere.
In a 17-15 upset victory for the Boilermakers in Ross-Ade Stadium, Woodson played 137 total snaps on offense, defense and special teams. Woodson, who would go on to an NFL Hall of Fame career as a cornerback and safety primarily with Pittsburgh and Baltimore and would win a Super Bowl in 2001 with the Ravens, did it all on Nov. 22, 1986. He finished with 10 tackles, a pass breakup and a forced fumble, plus he had 93 yards rushing, 67 yards receiving, 2 kickoff returns and 3 punt returns (totaling 76 yards). He had 236 all-purpose yards.
It was an amazing feat by an amazing player.
Post-Turkey Day games
In 2010, the Big Ten shifted its last games of the season into the Thanksgiving Day weekend, so the Bucket has been awarded 2 days after the holiday every year since.
But it’s not the only time the game has been played after Thanksgiving. In 1995, the Boilermakers roasted the 2-win Hoosiers in front of a sparse crowd in Memorial Stadium, as Purdue back Mike Alstott rushed for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns. Had the big back played the whole game — it was the last game of his collegiate career, before an All-Pro career in Tampa Bay — Alstott could have easily passed Otis Armstrong’s school-record of 276 yards (set vs. IU in 1972) or even gotten to the 300-yard threshold.
Every year but one
The game has been played every season aside from 1, when the Covid pandemic forced the postponement then the cancelation of the 2020 game.
It meant that the Hoosiers, who had won 44-41 in double overtime in 2019, kept the Bucket in its possession for 2 consecutive seasons for the 1st time since it won in the series from 2013-16.
A history lesson
The idea for the Old Oaken Bucket was born from a joint meeting between the Chicago chapters of the Purdue and Indiana alumni associations, when the presidents of each discussed awarding the annual winner of the football game.
They decided an old oaken bucket should be the trophy, then sought out to finding one, and did so on the Bruner family farm located between Kent and Hanover in southern Indiana. A bronze plaque stating, “Football Trophy, Presented by Indiana & Purdue Alumni of Chicago 1925,” was added to it before kickoff in 1925.
Most historians, according to a story published in the Purdue Exponent, think the Bucket came from a farm owned by the Bruner family in the 1920s, and had a bronze plaque added to it before kickoff in 1925. The trophy earned its named from a poem by Samuel Woodworth that describes scenes from his childhood, including imagery about an old oaken bucket in a well.
The Old Oaken Bucket is the 2nd-oldest trophy tradition in college football, beaten only by the Little Brown Jug, which goes to the winner of the game between Minnesota and Michigan.
The Jug has been in existence since 1902. The only difference, these days, is that the Wolverines and the Golden Gophers no longer play every season, since the Big Ten divided into East and West divisions in 2014, taking a bit of luster away from the rivalry.
The rivalry featuring the Purdue-Indiana annual football game included other traditions that have since died out.
For Purdue, the tradition was to burn “Miss Indiana” in a bonfire. The story goes that Purdue students would carry about the last rites and ceremonies for “Miss Indiana,” setting up a gigantic bonfire on campus to — basically — burn her at the stake. The tradition started around 1938 and ended in the mid-1960s.
Indiana did something similar, burning a paper-mache effigy of Jawn Purdue, then burning, burying or destroying it in some way. The tradition was started in 1930, but ended in 1974.
When the Big Ten divided into East and West divisions in 2014, Purdue and Indiana became the only game between divisions that is preserved every season.
So while every team from the East will play 3 different teams from the West every season, and vice versa, Purdue and Indiana know that they will play each other, then only 2 others. Of course, the divisions are likely to be dissolved following the ’23 season to make way for 2 teams from the West Coast.