I know you all think I am crazy for saying this, but I feel we have a better chance of beating Ohio State at home this weekend than next weekend against Iowa. My reasoning is simple: They are completely one-dimensional as one of the best running teams in the country and even Indiana was able to move the ball on them last week. Away from home they are 1-2 on the season, with a win over Illinois that was virtually handed to them by the Fighting Illini.
That doesn't mean it is an automatic win, however. In fact, I would be surprised if we won mostly because I have completely lost faith in the coaching staff to properly prepare for an opponent. in the last three games during Ohio State's winning streak they have thrown a grand total of 27 passes, completing 13 of them for less than 100 yards per game. Their passing game is not a threat, but It would not surprise me if we played nickel package the entire way based on how poorly we handed Wisconsin. Defensively the Buckeyes are good, but not great. Unfortunately we lack a true identity so we'll probably move in starts and stops as we have seen all year.
It's just frustrating to look at a game like this, but it my hope that something gets figures out because this is really the final turning point of the season. We just got embarrassed in two straight games. Lose this one and we're playing for our postseason lives for two straight weeks. Win it, and a three game winning streak to close the regular season is very possible. This team has shown it can play with the likes of Ohio State at times this year, but Saturday we have to finally put it all together. I doubt the coaches can do it.
2011 Record: 6-3, 3-2 Big Ten
2010 Record: 12-1, 7-1 Big Ten (Big Ten Champions)
Bowl Result: won Sugar Bowl 31-26 over Arkansas
Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 38-13-2
Last Purdue win: 10/17/09 at Purdue 26-18
Last Ohio State win: 10/23/10 at Ohio State 49-0
This is almost a split decision. Braxton Miller is capable of running for over 100 yards per game and creating something with his feet. We have done well against those type of quarterbacks this season. We kept Nathan Schellhaase in check and Denard Robinson ran for well under his season average against us. That's very, very good, and Miller is not nearly as good as Robinson. Miller has 447 yards rushing and four touchdowns, most of that coming in the last three games. His passing is decent (38 of 74 for 547 yards, 6 TD's, and 3 INT's) but it is hardly a first option. This is a team that has thrown an average of nine times per game in the last three games. Say what you will about Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve, but they are at least a threat through the air. Edge: Purdue
What Ohio State gives up in the passing game they more than get back in the running game. Miller is elusive on the ground, so we must contain him and hit him if he gets lose. Dan Herron and Carlos Hyde each rushed for 100 yards last week against Indiana (so did Miller), and they do most of the heavy lifting. Last year Herron flat out embarrassed us too. He has 415 yards in just three games, and because of the suspension he served he is more fresh than most running backs at this point of the season. Hyde ahs 51 yards and six scores, but Herron is the clear first option now, and you almost have to consider Miller as another running back. Our own ground game has taken a hit in recent weeks, but it is hard to establish the run when you're down three scores. Indiana rushed well against Ohio State, so Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden should have some room. Edge: Ohio State
Tight End Jake Stoneburner is the safety valve with 12 catches for 150 yards and six scores. Clearly, we have to watch for him in the red zone. Devin Smith has the most yards, but only 10 catches for 227 yards and four scores. That's really it as far as their passing game goes. Cover them, and their passing game stops. Justin Siller, O.J. Ross, and Antavian Edison almost win this by default. Crosby Wright also got back in the game last week with his second TD catch of the year. We win this category by default almost, but we do have more options, especially with Gary Bush getting better each week. Edge: Purdue
The good news is that they are not as massive as Wisconsin's line last week. The bad news is that we no longer have Ryan Kerrigan turning their left tackle into a turnstile as he gets to the quarterback. J.B Shugarts, Michael Brewster, and Mike Adams are experienced seniors, but the line has given up 28 sacks in nine games. That's more than three per game. We now know that Peters Drey is likely out for the season and Ken Plue is still on super-duper secret probation. Our pass blocking has often been horrendous at best, but as long as we look to establish the run game we should make some headway. Edge: Even
John Simon leads them with six sacks and 39 total tackles. That is nearly a third of their total sacks at 21. Adam Bellamy and Johnathan Hankins are big tackles that need to be moved if we're to generate much up the middle. Ohio State gives up 118 yards per game on the ground, which is good, but normally teams struggle to crack triple digits on the ground. We won't win unless we do the same. On our side Kawann Short and Gerald Gooden were both part of the effort two years ago that gave Terrelle Pryor fits. They know what needs to be done, so they need to do it. The defensive line was embarrassed the last few weeks so hopefully they'll play with some pride. Edge: Ohio State
It wouldn't be Ohio State without all-star caliber linebackers. They just plug these guys in year after year. This year it is Andrew Sweat, Etienne Sabino, and Storm Klein. Sabino can get into the backfield (two sacks) and Sweat leads the team with 66 tackles. Our own linebackers got run over the past two weeks and, except for Joe Holland picking off a pass at Michgian, sucked. Edge: Ohio State
Safety C.J. Barnett patrols the middle of the field and will pick off deflected and high passes with ease. He already has two interceptions on the year, and often the front seven does enough that he doesn't have to come up too often. Bradley Roby has three interceptions and one corner position, while Travis Howard has two at the other. The intelligent thing to do is have Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson cover the outside (here they won't get a lot of action) and have the other nine guys concentrate on the ground game. Allen and Johnson are good enough to do this. This is a category we win again by default because we'll test them through the air a lot more. Edge: Purdue
Raheem Mostert is pretty much the reason we were even in the game for a quarter last week. He'll be tested against one of the better kickoff coverage units in the country this week. Jordan Hall is also just as dangerous as him, so we cannot afford a Gibboney-esque coverage breakdown. Hall handles punts, but Chris Fields has one return for a touchdown there. Drew Basil is as accurate as they come on field goals and Ben Buchanan averages better than 41 yards per punt. Carson Wiggs and Cody Webster are good, but OSU does not have J.B. Gibboney teaching coverage schemes. Edge: Ohio State
Has Luke Fickell underachieved with a roster full of talent, or has he overachieved considering that this team could easily be 4-5 or worse right now? Has he done enough to earn a second year? One thing is for sure. His coordinators are light years better than anything we have as demonstrated from the last two weeks. Edge: Ohio State
This one is really tough to call. Usually we play Ohio State close, but we got drilled 49-0 last year. We've won three of the past five meetings at home with them (something no other Big Ten team can say), but not two in a row at Ross-Ade. Yes, they beat the team that just defeated us 62-17, but on paper they are a much better matchup than the Badgers.
It all comes down to the running game. I don't care if we pack 10 guys into the box. We absolutely have to stop the running game and force them to throw. Clearly, they are hesitant to pass the ball. They have had four games this season with less than 100 yards passing. Even Indiana, who let A.J. Jenkins and Drake Dunsmore roam freely through the secondary, held them under 100 yards passing. I am confident that if we slow down their running game and frustrate them we can score enough on the other side of the ball to win.
Offensively, building a lead is important. If we can build and hold a lead that also forces them to throw. In the loss at Miami the Buckeyes fell behind early and were unable to catch up because of the lack of a passing game. At Illinois both touchdown drives began deep in Illini territory because of turnovers. Against Nebraska and even against Wisconsin this team fell apart late and blew a double-digit lead, only being bailed out by a coverage breakdown on the Wisconsin Hail Mary. Still, this team is playing for a possible division title with some help.
Ohio State is far from the unbeatable monster they have been for most of the last decade. If we can beat them two years ago we can certainly do it again.