Purdue faces an incredibly tall task Saturday in Columbus.
It is fun to say it, but as long as the game is played in West Lafayette we OWN the Ohio State Buckeyes. They have been on a hell of a run through the Big Ten over the last decade plus, but in four of their last six visits to West Lafayette they have lost, with a fifth visit decided by a 4th down heave that saved their National title in 2002.
Unfortunately, Saturday's game is not in the friendly confines of West Lafayette. It is, instead, in the ‘shoe in Columbus, where Purdue has its longest active losing streak against regular opponents. Since a 31-26 win on October 15, 1988 Purdue has gone 0-8 at the ‘shoe. In fact, our 1988 victory is our only win in Columbus since 1967 when Purdue was No. 1 in the country.
It should be noted that 1967 was also the last time that Purdue owned a two-game winning streak against the Buckeyes, which is at stake on Saturday. The 1967 game was strangely the first time in seven years that Purdue and Ohio State played despite being in the Big Ten. The previous game was a 24-21 Purdue win on October 15, 1960. Of course, with only 14 wins all-time against them a two-game win streak is rare.
2011 Record: 6-7, 3-5 Big Ten
Bowl Result: lost Gator Bowl 24-17
2012 Record: 7-0, 3-0 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 38-14-2
Last Purdue win: 11/12/11 at Purdue 26-23 in overtime
Last Ohio State win: 10/23/10 at Ohio State 49-0
Time & TV: Noon, ABC/ESPN2
Line: Ohio State by 18.5
Weather: 55 degrees and a 40% chance of rain
I have vacillated greatly on this game. When our defense was looking good and Ohio State was winning, but struggling early in the season I thought it might be a Purdue victory. Unofotunately, we've scored a grand total of three points in our last two trips to Columbus and that was with an offense that performed light years better than the disjointed mess we currently have.
Ohio State Offense Vs. The Purdue Defense:
Get used to the name Braxton Miller, because he is playing like a Big Ten Player of the Year. We already refused to stop Denard Robinson, now we get a better version that can actually pass the ball a bit. Miller has rushed for 912 yards and nine touchdowns to go with 1,271 yards passing and 11 TDs against only four interceptions. It is no secret that he is the catalyst for the Buckeye offense. He's incredibly elusive and his passing and decision making are greatly improved. Given that it looked as if we completely ignored the last two offensive focal points we faced (Robinson and Montee Ball) I am not encouraged.
I'm going to be totally honest here: Purdue does not stand a chance if it does not focus on Miller for every single play and they stop him. No one has done it so far, so we don't really have a blueprint of how to do it. There needs to be none of this arm tackling or diving at his legs and hoping he gets tripped. You have to hit him, hard, and make sure he is stopped.
Corey Brown (41-403-1) and Devin Smith (21-457-6) have been Miller's main targets in the passing game along with Jake Stoneburner. With Ricardo Allen getting more and more limited due to an ankle injury that has now spread to his leg as a possible stress fracture I am not encouraged by these matchups. Based on the last two weeks, Stoneburner will be open on every single obvious passing down and Miller will have days to throw. The return of Normondo Harris may haelp, but as a whole the secondary has to play light years better.
Carlos Hyde (454 yards, 7 TDs) cannot be completely ignored on the ground. Neither can Jordan Hall (218 yards, 1 TD) or Rod Smith (128 yards, 2 TDs). As expected, Ohio State has a stable of running backs and they have an offensive line capable of clearing the way for them. There is a small chink in the armor in that Miller has been sacked 13 times.
The common difference in our last two victories over Ohio State has been the play of our defensive line. In 2009 Ryan Kerrigan played like a man possessed and made Terrelle Pryor his bitch. Last year it was Kawann Short. For Purdue to have any chance on Saturday it defensive line has to be as dominant as it was against Notre Dame, if not better. If it gets dominated like the last two weeks this one will be over very quickly. It has to be more than Short too. Bruce Gaston, Ryan Russell, Brandon Taylor, and basically anyone else that plays up front has to not just hold their own, but dominate.
Ohio State Defense Vs. The Purdue Offense:
Caleb TerBush will start for Purdue and based on Danny Hope's comments this week it looks like he is going to stick with him. That's one of the smartest decisions he has made recently. The quarterback shuffle is not going to get it done, so he might as well pick his guy and go down with him.
TerBush will have to be better than he has been at any point this year even with a rash of injuries on the Buckeye defense:
At the start of the season, Ohio State had plenty of optimism about that unit. Ryan Shazier showed immense promise as a freshman in spot duty. Etienne Sabino looked poised to have a big senior season. Middle linebacker Curtis Grant was a five-star recruit last year.
Shazier has been a difference-maker at times. He hits with ferocity and has sideline-to-sideline speed. But he also has missed some assignments and tackles.
After a so-so start, Sabino improved markedly, drawing raves from coach Urban Meyer. But he suffered a broken leg against Nebraska and is out for at least a couple more weeks.
There is no glossing over the reality that Grant has been a disappointment. He made little impact early and was replaced by Storm Klein, who rejoined the team last month after resolving legal issues stemming from a domestic incident.
I do think that the loss of Sabino is a definite benefit for Purdue. Indiana scored 49 points last week and completely flustered the Buckeyes, staying in the game much longer than people thought. Indiana is getting excellent play out of a true freshman quarterback and a JuCo transfer, however, while we're getting erratic-to-shitty play out of guys who have been in the system for four years or more and it makes me want to drink. Heavily.
Ohio State has an experienced defensive line of three seniors and a junior led by John Simon. Simon leads the team with three sacks and Garrett Goebel is disruptive as an old school nose tackle. Jonathan Hankins and Goebel each have more than 30 tackles as interior linemen, which is impressive.
Will Purdue be smart enough to exploit freshman Joshua Perry, who is likely starting at linebacker along with Shazier and Klein? It seems like running tight end plays and slants toward him would be wise. He lacks the experience of the rest of the defense, but I expect more ill-advised screens toward good corners Bradley Roby and Travis Howard instead of exploiting an obvious weakness.
The Ohio State passing defense is a little suspect at 277 yards given up per game, but I don't think we're in sync enough to exploit this. O.J. Ross may not play with a toe injury, so Antavian Edison and Gary Bush may be joined more by Dolapo Macarthy.
This isn't even addressing the offensive line issues from last week. They couldn't open a door, let alone holes for the running backs to run. If TerBush is going to roll out you have to block the guy that was in his face all last week. If Akeem Shavers gets a handoff he needs somewhere to go with it.
Special Teams vs. Special Teams:
How many punts will we have blocked this week? It may not matter. Corey Brown has already returned a punt for a touchdown, so another coverage breakdown that leads to a block may just shorten the return.
Both Drew Basil and Paul Griggs have made three field goals each as both teams prefer to score touchdowns when they do score. The loss of Raheem Mostert to injury is huge, as it looks like Danny Anthrop and Akeem Hunt may handle return duties for us.
I love the players we have. I think we have more than enough talent to go into Columbus and somehow pull this victory off. I have confidence that these guys can perform at an extremely high level and win the day. Unfortunately, I lack any sort of confidence in the coaching staff whatever.
Based on the last two weeks of results I wouldn't trust our current coaching staff to plan a grocery list for a bar mitzvah without buying a ham to roast, let alone prepare to play the best team in the Big Ten. I can handle losing the last two weeks, but when a team looks completely unprepared for two of its biggest games in recent memory that lies 100% at the feet of the coaches. It is not just Danny Hope, either. Tim Tibesar's defense was ill-prepared to tackle Robinson and acted stunned that Montee Ball was good. Gary Nord's offense of draw up the middle, zone read, and bubble screen did nothing until we were well behind against Michigan and did nothing after the scoring drive to start the Wisconsin game.
On paper this looks simple to be competitive: Get a hat on Miller on every play, cover his top three receivers, and defensively exploit a somewhat shaky secondary and a freshman linebacker. Why don't I expect that to happen though?
Get sucked back in to dreaming of Indy if:
- Minnesota shocks Wisconsin.
- Purdue somehow stops, or at least slows down, Miller.
- Perry gets exploited.
- Akeem Shavers, Hunt, and Ralph Bolden finally have room to run.
- The defensive line returns to a Notre Dame level of play.
- Purdue gets multiple turnovers
Enjoy something else on a crisp fall day if:
- Miller runs wild.
- The offense continues to be incredibly predictable.
- TerBush throws multiple picks.
- All three quarterbacks play.
- The front seven on defense gets dominated.