Here in the SB Nation Network one of the newer blogs is the Ohio State site Land-Grant Holy Land. Luke Zimmermann is doing an excellent job of covering the Buckeyes, and he was kind enough to answer some questions about their trip to Purdue in November:
T-Mill: Is there some legitimate fear coming into this game despite the talent difference because of Ohio State's bizarre troubles with Purdue?
Luke: Not at all. Ohio State are 17 point favorites in the earliest credible lines and with good reason. Last year's game was more of an aberration than anything given the talent differential between the two teams and while we know and love Darrell Hazell, Kent State was 5-7 in his first year there.
T-Mill: Purdue's secret seems to have been stellar defensive line play that contains Braxton Miller/Terrelle Pryor and dares him to throw. Is that a vulnerability this year?
Luke: Not at all. The offensive lines a then freshman Braxton Miller and sophomore Terrelle Pryor played behind in past Purdue road losses were maldeveloped and under coached. The Buckeyes now have one of the best talent evaluators in the country calling the shots on the line and an experience laden corp that should be able to play with anyone. Bruce Gaston's great but I'm not sure that front seven is causing Tom Herman or any of the offensive think tank to lose any sleep just yet.
T-Mill: Why has the Ohio State offensive line struggled so greatly vs. OSU?
Luke: I don't think they have as a rule. In the two games you're alluding to, probably because both of those offensive lines were bad and poorly coached.
T-Mill: The Buckeyes got some big breaks in last year's unbeaten season. Can they repeat or where does the luck run out?
Luke: Last year's team lived on the edge, played up and downed to their opposition, but still just about earned every bit of luck they got. They rallied to improbably beat Purdue without the best offensive player in the league, kept their resolve after surrending a late lead against Wisconsin to win in overtime, then prevented Michigan from getting past the 50 in the second half without the conference's defensive player of the year.
Braxton Miller can't take the sort of punishment outside the pocket he did last year. If that happens again, the Buckeyes will need some serious good fortune. Assuming they manage to escape the injury bug and the kind of mental gaffes 18-22 year olds are sometimes prone to, the schedule is unbelievably forgiving and should help put them on a path to another unbeaten season.
Northwestern aside, it should be pretty smooth sailing until the Big Ten Championship Game. The nightmare scenario (sans potholes) at present is an overconfident, unbeaten 12-0 team looking ahead past that game to whatever's next and getting caught off guard. Meyer's track record is pretty good on that front, but I guess that's the most back of the mind fear beyond something completely unexpected.
T-Mill: Is Wisconsin the only Leaders team with a realistic chance of winning the division other than OSU?
Luke: Wisconsin's very much a team in transition. For all their positives, adjusting to a new coach and system isn't an overnight thing ordinarily. I'm not 100% sure they have the personnel to put it altogether, even in a nightmare fuel multiple conference loss scenario for Ohio State. With Penn State ineligible, I guess it's them by default...Again. But even if somehow OSU lost Braxton Miller for the year, I have a hard time envisioning anyone other than Ohio State winning the final Leaders division title.
T-Mill: If Purdue stuns the Buckeyes again are you glad they contacted the league and will be ducking the Boilers?
Luke: Yeah, you're on to us. Big Ten expansion and realignment is an elaborate conspiracy to get away from Purdue.
T-Mill: Finally, how do you expect Urban to put his mark on year two of running the program?
I think much short of a Big Ten title would be disappointing given the assets at hand. The Buckeyes should have one of the best offenses in the country and if the defense just regresses to the mean, that will probably be good enough to put them in position to play for a title. Urban Meyer certainly wouldn't be thrilled with any hypotheticals like that just yet though, and probably encourage us all to just focus on Ohio State-Buffalo.