For the second year in a row, a bowl berth joins the Old Oaken Bucket as something on the line for Purdue in its regular-season finale against Indiana.
The stakes are high, but in one sense this is par for the course for the team. Coach Jeff Brohm always preaches that each Saturday is a one-game season. This week, the win-or-go-home ethos is just more stark.
"We get to play a rival team at their place with everything on the line," Brohm said. "I think our guys should have a good week of practice and understand that it's a winner-take-all game, and it's one of those games that you really dream about playing in against a very good opponent."
"Very good" might be a stretch for the Hoosiers, but Indiana also reaches the postseason with a win. The Boilermakers enter the weekend on a two-game losing streak and have lost three consecutive games in Bloomington. Moreover, Purdue is coming off a gut-punch of a triple-overtime loss to Wisconsin on Senior Day.
"You'd like to win a game when you're up by 14 in the fourth quarter," Brohm said. "It's a good football team, and bottom line is, we weren't good enough to win, you know, but we had plenty of chances to get over the hump and get it done but we couldn't close out the deal. Couldn't get stops when we needed to. Couldn't convert key situations on offense when we needed to. Because of that, they got momentum towards the end and they found a way to win."
Last year in the finale, it was the Boilermakers who found a way to win and secure a bowl berth in Brohm's first season as the coach. While the experience of the upperclassmen who played in the game can't hurt, Brohm knows there's a limit to how much that result will impact this week's game.
"I think last year, to be quite honest with you, the breaks went our way," Brohm said.
"We created some turnovers early. We capitalized on it. We got a lead and then we hung on till the end. It doesn't always work that way. I would love for the game to go that way again, but I would anticipate these guys being ready to play. (Indiana doesn't) want to get in a deficit, so they are going to try to be firing on cylinders, take care of the ball, attack us on the defensive side and try to get a lead themselves. Obviously, that matters. I'm sure they are going to feel more comfortable playing at home."