Quick, since the turn of the current century (since 2000), who has the best winning percentage of any Big Ten school against Ohio State (including 2010, but excluding Nebraska)?
You probably thought of Wisconsin, which is only half right. The Badgers are 4-6 (40%) during that span, but so, too, is Purdue. Penn State also owns 4 wins, but in 12 games played.
While that illustrates that OSU should never take Purdue lightly, it’s worth noting that all four times they’ve “Boilered Up” against Buckeyes, it’s been in West Lafayette. The last time Purdue left Columbus with a victory was in John Cooper’s first season of 1988, and the Boilermakers have only won twice (1967) in Ohio Stadium in the past 60 years.
The Lead Up
When you start talking about 7-0 teams in Ohio State history, you are talking about some of the best squads the school has ever produced. There have only been 22 such teams, and none of them went on to lose more than two games in that season.
However, there is plenty of concern in Columbus, especially on defense, which has allowed 87 combined points in the last two games. Play has hardly been crisp on that side of the ball, and teams that throw short passes, and utilize the width of the field have had success. That has long been Purdue’s approach on offense.
The Boilermakers are 3-3 on the year, with losses to Notre Dame, Michigan and Wisconsin. While Purdue played the Irish tough (20-17), the Wolverines and Badgers had their way on offense.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Despite its all or nothing ways (seems like it’s either a three and out, or a touchdown), the OSU offense is developing into an explosive unit. After scoring 63 against Nebraska, and 52 at Indiana, the 115 combined points was the most in school history since 1996 (142 against Rice and Pittsburgh). It was the most in Big Ten games for OSU since 1950 (131 points vs. Minnesota and Iowa).
It isn’t breaking news that Braxton Miller is the key component of the offense. He is seventh nationally in rushing yards per game, averaging just over 130 per game, and seven per carry. He enters the Purdue game needed 88 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, something no other OSU quarterback has ever done.
There is still some work to be done in the passing game, though, for Miller and the wide receivers. The Buckeyes are averaging just under 189 yards a game through the air, which is 100th in FBS.
The interesting thing to watch over the next few weeks, and especially this week, will be the approach on offense. Will OSU try and work to improve the passing game, or ride the rushing attack which at this point, seems a surer way to win. Ohio State is eighth in the country on the ground, picking up over 263 yards a contest.
Purdue has struggled mightily against the run, allowing 467 to Wisconsin last week, and nearly 200 a game on the year, which in 97th in the country.
Between Miller’s ability, and the power running game of Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith, you would think that would be the most effective way to go.
Over the years, Purdue has had some outstanding defensive lineman, and Kawann Short is the latest. He’s disruptive up front, so look for the Buckeyes to run away from where he is lined up, and to utilize quarterback draws and read options.
When Purdue Has the Ball
In the two upsets (2009 and 2011) Danny Hope has had over the Buckeyes, Purdue has dominated the OSU offensive line, and nickel and dimed the Buckeyes on defense. We’ve seen several teams spread the ball around with quick passes against OSU this year, and I would expect that to happen again. The Boilermakers will try to match-up speedy wide receivers against the depleted Buckeye linebackers. They will test Zach Boren, who was playing fullback just two weeks ago, and is expected to make his first career start at linebacker this week.
The Boilermakers aren’t as dynamic, however as in years past. Expect Caleb TurBush to get the start at quarterback and get every opportunity to make the offense click. Don’t be surprised, though, if he struggles to see experienced back-ups, Robert Marve or Rob Henry get a call.
Of course, something everyone will be paying attention to will be how the Buckeye defense bounces back from allowing 49 points to Indiana. The OSU defense admitted they stopped playing when the offense put them up 52-34. I would imagine we’ll see some focus, and aggressive play.
The key is going to be what happens if Purdue starts to have success. Can the defense bear down and force a turnover, or a field goal instead of a touchdown? Can the focus remain if the offense is scoring, and OSU gets off to a sizable early lead?
While the Buckeyes might be able to win with another performance on that side of the ball like we’ve seen the past two games. There will need to be marked improvement with challenges from Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan waiting.
While there is plenty of danger in Saturday’s game that has been spelled out, I think this OSU team realizes that it still needs to get better.
Playing at home will help avoid a slip-up. I see big rushing performances from Miller and Hyde, as well possibly Rod Smith. I would think that 50 points is once again well within reach for the offense.
I think we’ll see a better game and more focus from the defense. I also think we’ll see a big special teams play, possibly a kick return for a touchdown, or a forced turnover on either kick or punt coverage.
I’ll go with 56-20, Buckeyes in this one.
The coverage on 10TV and www.10tv.com/BuckeyeBlitz
will continue all weekend long. Saturday, we’ll post game pictures and analysis on our Buckeye Blitz web page, and wrap-up the game with our new “Gameday” coverage at 7pm and 11pm, as well as Wall to Wall Sports
Wall to Wall Sports will be done live at the Pickerington Donatos location. Dom Tiberi and Beau Bishop will be joined by former Buckeye Roy Hall.