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Know thy Opponent 2007: Ohio State Buckeyes


Well, first things first. Some of you may notice that there were quite a few changes to the Notre Dame article. This is because I was in the wrong, and I realize that now. I am using this blog to hone my writing skills and use it as a resume builder. With that in mind, I was wrong in going off and pretty much attacking Notre Dame ruthlessly in the post. I got ripped for what I wrote by some people, and honestly it was rightfully so. This was wrong of me, and showed an appalling lack of class. Yes, I have a right to hate Notre Dame, as everyone has a right to hate any team. It was wrong of me to attack their traditions and fans though, and for that I am sorry.


Honestly, I felt like crap for what I wrote, because it was childish, stupid, and wrong. I have tried to salvage a little class by cleaning up the article and admitting my mistake. If anyone wants to continue attacking me from this point on it’s their own problem. I was able to write about Toledo, Eastern Illinois, Central Michigan, and Minnesota without sounding like an obsessed fan, but I couldn’t do that for Notre Dame. I was not proud about what I wrote on them, so I have gone back and changed it because in reading it I now I am a better person than that. If I cannot stop from writing crap like I wrote, then I have no chance of ever getting past this blog.


If they want to continue to attack me, blacklist me, make fun of me on their boards, then it is fine with me. I have tried to rectify the situation and I have admitted that I was in the wrong for my attacks. I want to be a better journalist than that, and it is high time that I learn that lesson of setting aside my own biases, even when I don’t like a team very much. I cannot control what other people say or think of me, but I can control what I say. I represent Purdue University with this blog, and I recognize that yesterday I did not represent that University in a good light. What I don’t understand is how someone can say I don’t support Purdue. I guess going to every home game for the last 10 years and about 10 road games in that time is not supporting Purdue. I’ve been to Purdue games in six states, and traveled as far as Hawaii for a game, but it’s not enough apparently. Neither is writing this blog, but ah well.

And with that, we move on to our next preview and put this all in the rearview.


While I am not a fan of Notre Dame, my wife vehemently hates Ohio State. God has blessed me with a wife who is as big of a football fan as I am, and she honed her craft in Coral Gables at the University of Miami. With that in mind, do not mention the 2003 Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Ohio State to her. It is a stronger hate than she holds even for Florida State. One of our first dates was the 2002 Purdue-Ohio State game, and I have never seen such hatred poured forth toward a team as my wife yelled at the Buckeyes when they came to town in 2004. I am thankful she has adopted my Boilers, and a big part of that is because we play Ohio State regularly and she has a chance to root against them. For her the game as personal, as not only did you have the controversial flag, but you had the Will Allen celebration after he obliterated Willis McGahee’s knee.


This is where the schedule begins to turn for us, with game 6. Up to this point we have a good chance to win each game. Game 6 though will be our toughest test in the first half of the season as we face our third conference champion in Ohio State.


This year’s game against the Buckeyes could be a lot like the 2002 game, as the 2007 edition of Ohio State appears ready to ride a dominant defense and get just enough offense needed in order to go back to the championship. Of our three biggest conference games though, this one is the most winnable because it is at home. Both teams could be 5-0 for a rowdy 8pm kickoff at Ross-Ade on October 6th.

Last Season for the Buckeyes:

What more could you ask for a regular season outside of a perfect season and a Heisman Trophy for your starting quarterback? Only Michigan and Illinois (The Illini?!?) came close to touching Ohio State in the regular season last year, but the season ended on a bittersweet note with a 41-14 loss to Florida in the BCS Championship game.


How much of Ohio State’s record last year was simply a product of the Big Ten not being very good last year, or were they simply an elite team that laid a monumental egg in the National Championship game? It’s not like we would have stood in their way last season had we played them, as that offense would have sliced through us for about 45 points. Ohio State scored more than 35 points in nine of 13 games last year, and allowed more than 17 points just twice: against Michigan and Florida.


Everyone is making a big deal about Ohio State being back on our schedule and how we’re going to handle the challenge. Honestly I don’t think it is that bad. In the previous six meetings, all during the Tiller Era, we’ve taken two of three at home. Two of the three on the road, as well as the other game in Ross-Ade were games that came down to the final possession. The 2002 game in Ross-Ade was especially impressive as that Ohio State team went on to win (or as my wife insists, steal) the National Title, while you could argue that we were a single play in six games from playing for that title ourselves. Okay, I’ll admit, that sounds like a stretch even coming from me.


We’ve been very competitive with the Buckeyes since Tiller arrived in West Lafayette, and a win in this game would leave Joe with three of only 12 wins Purdue would have all-time against the perennial power.

Ohio State Offense:

Heisman trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith is gone. Also gone is top running back Antonio Pittman, and the top two receivers in Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr. That’s 1,642 receiving yards, 1,454 rushing yards, 2,580 passing yards (Ginn threw a TD pass), and 46 touchdowns all told leaving the offense. Those are some big numbers to lose for any offense, even one like Ohio State who always has top-notch recruits waiting in the wings. This game will be our second straight game of facing an offense that is entirely rebuilt from last season with talented, but untested players.


But Ohio State’s offense returns a few more key pieces that Note Dame’s doesn’t, and one of those key pieces is running back Chris Wells. In a reserve role last season Wells ran for 576 yards and seven TD’s. This kid is a 6’1" 230-pound nightmare for our porous run defense to face. He’s quick; he’s strong, and has the potential to dominate us if our run defense isn’t fixed by this point in the season. Some are comparing this kid to Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, and he could be a candidate for the Heisman as only a sophomore this year.


Expect Wells to be the focal point of the offense, as the rest of the crew has yet to sort itself out. Junior Todd Boeckman will likely be the starting quarterback. He’s been around in the system for a few years but has only seven completions for 86 yards and a touchdown to his credit. Expect him to play a role much like Craig Krenzel did five years ago, in that he will manage the game well and do just enough to get the job done.


The top returning receiver is Brian Robiskie, who had 383 yards and five TD’s as a number three option last year. Ray Small and Rory Nichol appear to be the other top receivers, and both had four touchdowns in just 21 combined catches last season. As usual, Ohio State will just reload with some solid talent, but they won’t quite be at the level of last year’s crew.


Paving the way will be a solid offensive line that will be the medicine the rest of the unit needs to overcome its inexperience. Two 6’8" guys in Alex Boone and Steve Rehring will anchor the left side of the line, meaning Boeckman will likely have little to worry about on his blind side. For good measure Kirk Barton will be over on the right side at 6’6" and 310 pounds, meaning that Wells should have plenty of holes to run through. Our front seven will need to have a fantastic game in order to slow down the Buckeyes even with all the replacements.

Ohio State Defense:

Simply put, this will likely be the best defense we will face all season. Even last year when they were a question mark they shut everyone else down except Michigan and Florida. There’s also not a serious threat to them before this game as they open with Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, Northwestern, and Minnesota. They are an athletic unit that has stars in all the right places, and will be a great matchup for our offense which is expected to do some special things.


Vernon Gholston is the best player on the defensive line as he had 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last year. Our line will be solid, but will have its hands full with this guy. There are some question marks at the defensive tackle positions, but again, this is Ohio State. Their question marks aren’t nearly as large as our own. Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson were rocks in the middle last year, and both must be replaced.


James Laurinaitis is, much like his father’s WWF persona, an animal and is the key of another dominant unit at linebacker. Our offensive strategy should simply be "Stay the flock away from Laurinaitis!!" in this game. Last season he only won the Nagurski award, was a consensus All-American, and led the team in tackles with 115 tackles, four sacks, and five interceptions for good measure. He’s also a hard-hitter and forced three fumbles. Oh, and for good measure he has two other great linebackers around him with Marcus Freeman and Larry Grant. This team just plugs in All-Americans on defense.


Finally we come to the secondary, where Ohio State is also loaded. Junior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins needs to be avoided at all costs, as he’s another big, fast shut-down corner. Jamario O’Neal and Nick Patterson are the safeties who are both big hitters and can play strong against the run.


So how do we attack this defense that seemingly has no weakness? They’re athletic and big, but they do have some question marks at defensive tackle and the other corner position we might be able to exploit. Still, we got shut out at home last year against a Penn State defense that may have been as good as this one will be. If we can move the ball through the air, maybe hit on a few deep routes, we might have a chance.

Ohio State Special Teams:

Ohio State always seems to find great kickers and this year is no exception with Aaron Pettrey. Once he settled down last season Pettrey showed he was not only accurate, but had a leg as he made a couple from 50+. If the Ohio State offense can get inside the 35 it sounds like some points are going on the board.


A.J. Trapasso will be the punter and he averaged more than 40 yards per punt last year. He was also great at putting the ball inside the 20, as he did it 17 times.


Ray Small will be the returner, but fortunately we won’t have to face Ginn in this spot. The return game may be the one area where we truly have an advantage coming in, and it’s not going to be a huge advantage.

Intangibles:

This will be one of the latest kickoffs of a college game I have ever been to, and there’s a pretty good chance both teams will be unbeaten at 5-0 coming in. Ohio State doesn’t have much challenging them before our game and we have a couple tough but definitely winnable games. If anything we may have an advantage here because we’ll have been more tested at this point than the Buckeyes. CFN predicts that this game will be their only potential stumbling block to an 8-0 start and I tend to agree.


They won’t be scared of the crowd, as our paltry 62,500 fans will probably have a big Ohio State contingent with them, and this is a team that regularly plays in front of six-figure crowds. They play in prime time much more often than we do, so that won’t help us. This is a big-time program that has been in a national spotlight for the past five seasons, and playing a night game at Ross-Ade will not faze them in the slightest.

Game Outlook:

As I said earlier, of our big three conference games this is our best chance to grab a win because it is at home. The top four of the conference in Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan is very tough this year, and we appear to be on the outside fighting to be the top of the next seven. With a win in this game we can at least make an argument there should be a top five.


For whatever reason we have also played some of Ohio State’s best teams very well recently. Whether it is matchups, us rising to the occasion, or Ohio State simply not playing that well against us we have played a series of very close games, since five of the last six have come down to the last possession. If the defense (a boring refrain at this point) steps up and can contain Wells we have a punchers chance of winning this. Any win will be an upset, but we have a good shot at pulling it off.


If Wells runs wild though you can forget getting a win. We can’t get in a shootout with these guys, as their defense is going to be just too good. I don’t like the matchup of our defensive front seven facing Wells though. We faced too many good backs and got shredded last year to give me any confidence.


Hopefully our experience will play a factor on both sides of the ball. We’ll need to be more aggressive against the run, and throw the deep ball more often. If we’re going to spring an upset this year, this will be the game.

Prediction:

I hope I am proven wrong, but I don’t think we can pull it off. I just haven’t seen that edge the last few years that we need. The last time we got a big win was in 2004, but we’ve lost that edge since the Fumble. Hopefully we can get it back in this game and prove me wrong. Ohio State 21, Purdue 10