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Ticket #18: IU-Purdue grid matchup matters

This is the 18th and final in a series of stories examining the best events an Indiana sports fan would want to see over a lifetime.

So what that the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket will never rival Michigan-Ohio State, Alabama-Auburn or even Army-Navy for national significance?

This is rivalry football at its most intense, and if you bleed Old Gold and Black, or Cream 'n Crimson, it very much matters.

Who can forget Rod Woodson's superman performance in 1986, when the former Snider standout — and now NFL Hall of Famer — did everything but call the plays? He ran, received, returned and defended Purdue to a 17-15 victory.

The Boilers have owned the Hoosiers over the years, leading the overall series 70-37-6 and the Bucket series 56-27-3. Purdue was at its most dominant in the 1950s, going 9-0-1 against IU.

Indiana has had a winning decade against Purdue only twice since the teams began playing in 1891 — the first decade of the 20th century (4-2-1) and the 1940s (7-3).

But IU has the Bucket after last year's 34-31 overtime victory — quarterback Ben Chappell threw for 330 yards and three TDs — that was former coach Bill Lynch's last game.

Beating its biggest rival didn't save Lynch's job, just as it didn't save Lee Corso's or Bill Mallory's or Cam Cameron's.

But this game is mostly about the players, and if you like guys rising to the occasion, this is for you.

For instance, did you know the top passing performance in series history was delivered by Kyle Orton, who threw for 522 yards in 2004? IU's best passing effort came from Jay Rodgers, who threw for 342 yards in 1997.

James Hardy, the former Elmhurst standout, has the Hoosiers' best receiving effort with 151 yards in 2006. Purdue had four receivers total more yards, with the record of 209 set by Kyle Ingraham in 2004.

Otis Armstrong loved running against IU. In 1970, he had 168 yards. Two years later, he rushed for a series record 276 yards. The Hoosiers' best effort came from Alex Smith, who ran for 245 yards in 1994.

Purdue has the biggest win ever in the series with its 68-0 blowout in 1892. Indiana's best came by a 52-7 score in 1988.

This year's game is set for Nov. 26 at IU's renovated Memorial Stadium. A bowl bid might well be at stake. Pride certainly will be.

Yeah, this game matters.