BLOOMINGTON – For Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, Saturday is simple.
It's time to beat Purdue.
The Hoosiers (4-7 overall, 2-5 in the Big Ten) have lost to their biggest rivals in both of Wilson's previous seasons. A win at Memorial Stadium would end that streak, and give them their most overall wins and most Big Ten victories under Wilson.
“It's going to be a challenge,” Wilson said. “We're sitting here with four wins and we need five. We're not going to be a bowl game. We need to have success. We've had a season where we've made strides, but cosmetically we've come up short. We need to finish on a positive note.”
The odds favor that. The Hoosiers are 21-point favorites against the in-transition Boilers (1-10, 0-7).
“When you're building a program, you want to have success against your rival,” Wilson said, “and in our time we've come up short.
“It's the old coaching cliché, you throw out the records in a game like this.”
IU is coming off blowout losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State that guaranteed them a sixth-straight losing record. It hopes to have tailback Tevin Coleman back. He's missed the last two games with an ankle sprain. He's rushed for a team-leading 958 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
“It's looking better,” Wilson said. “I know he's working hard, pushing. I know he wants out there. And he's trying to get there. We'll see how it goes.”
As far as the game, strategy is important, offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said, but for a rivalry game, it goes way beyond that.
“This is more about competing and making sure you execute the game plan well. It's more about that than Xs and Os. It's about having a lot of heart and a sense of urgency.”
IU has a big offensive edge. It averages 36.8 points despite having scored just 17 total points in its last two games. Purdue averages just 13.0 points.
That lack of scoring, defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said, doesn't mean the potential isn't there.
“They are very multiple with their formations. There are a lot of shifts, lot of window dressing before the snap. They try to get you misaligned. Their kids are playing with great effort. They appeared to move pretty efficiently.
IU's defensive struggles (it allows a Big Ten-worst 39.1 points) has generated speculation about Mallory's job security. He said he hasn't talked to Wilson about it.
“My focus is on Purdue,” Mallory said. “Whatever has happened in the past is the past. There are a lot of things that have happened (defensively) that we're disappointed in. My focus is on beating Purdue.”
As he has all along, Wilson didn't specifically address that, saying that after the season he'll start by taking a long look at himself first, then recruiting, player development, strength development and coaching.
“I've got to look at myself. What am I doing in overall managing?
“We've got the No. 2 schedule in the country. Our opponents have a record of 80-30. So we're right there. We kind of are playing winning football. We've been on the short end of making a play, making a stop (that would turn this around).
“We've made strides, but we've got to make them on the scoreboard, and on W's.”