Last night Jumboheroes published a great article on the state of being a Purdue fan. The crux of it was that for years we didn’t have a lot to really cheer for. Danny Hope gave us the upset of the Buckeyes in 2009, but that was really the last time we made much of a blip nationally. Instead of being the springboard to something bigger it was an outlier. It was a fun little upset that happens from time to time in college football and that was it.
From there, Purdue slipped from mediocre to horrifically, comically bad under Hazell. Then Jeff Brohm came. Yes, Purdue was only 7-6 last season, but we were competitive again. As Ledman said, we got our Saturdays back. We may not win, but we feel like we at least we have a chance against anyone. So far Brohm has had just one shot at a top 10 upset in last year’s game against Michigan. The Boilers made a game of it, leading deep into the third quarter before running out of gas.
We get another shot on Saturday. Ohio State is coming to town for the first time in five years. During their last visit we saw just how stark the difference was between them at the top of the Big Ten and us clear down at the bottom. The second play from scrimmage was a pick-six and it was a rout from there on. The Buckeyes rolled to an easy 56-0 win that wasn’t even that close.
Now Ohio State comes back as the No. 2 team in America. We haven’t beaten a No. 2 team since beating them 28-23 in West Lafayette during the 1984 season. There is little question that the Buckeyes are the class of the Big Ten, but West Lafayette has been a house of horrors for them this century. They have lost only 25 games in Big Ten play in that time. They have lost just 13 road games in Big Ten play in the 19 seasons so far since the start of the 200 season.
Four of those losses have come in Ross-Ade Stadium.
I am not going to say we’re going to win. Beating the Buckeyes would be a tremendous accomplishment and it is going to take a near perfect game from our Boilers because they are well ahead of us on sheer talent. We have a chance, however, and that is a credit to what Brohm has done.
2018 Record: 7-0, 4-0 Big Ten East
2017 Record: 12-2, 8-1 Big Ten East (Big Ten Champion)
Bowl Result: Beat USC 24-7 in Cotton Bowl
Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 39-14-2
Last Purdue win: 26-23 (OT) at Purdue on 11/12/2011
Last Ohio State win: 56-0 at Purdue on 11/2/2013
Head Coach: Urban Meyer (73-8 in 8th season at Ohio State, 177-31 overall)
Ohio State is 7-0 because it has been fantastic offensively so far. They are second nationally in yards per game at 557 and sixth in points at 46.3. Only Penn State and Minnesota have held them under 40 points. In their two previous road games (and I count TCU at JerryWorld as a road game) they have beaten teams that were ranked in the top 15. They have a quarterback putting up video game numbers and receivers with speed to burn. Purdue will score its share of points on Saturday, but any chance at a victory hinges on at least slowing them down and keeping them under 45.
Who to Watch on Offense
Dwayne Haskins – QB – Simply put, the sophomore has been excellent. He is third in the nation at 2,331 yards passing and his 28 touchdowns are more than most teams get in an entire year. He leads the nation in touchdown passes and he rarely makes mistakes. He’s completing 72.3% of his passes and has just four interceptions. This is a kid that might win the Heisman Trophy in a few weeks and he still could return for two more years. He is not the running threat that J.T. Barrett was, but he can move if necessary.
Parris Campbell – WR – Rondale Moore might be the best receiver in the Big Ten, but Campbell is not far behind. The 6’1” senior has 43 receptions for 557 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has speed to burn and if he gets a step on a defender, good luck catching him.
K.J. Hill – WR – Purdue’s secondary will be tested big time because Hill is not far behind Campbell. He has 40 receptions for 551 yards and four touchdowns.
Terry McLaurin – WR – As if it wasn’t bad enough chasing Hill and Campbell around, McLaurin is just a big play guy. He only had 16 receptions on the year, but they have gone for 332 yards and 7 touchdowns.
J.K. Dobbins – RB – Oh, if the Buckeyes need to, they can run the ball as well. Dobbins leads the team with 497 yards on the ground and four touchdowns and Mike Weber is a close second with 471 yards and three scores. In terms of rushing both Purdue and Ohio State are nearly even. They average only 6 more yards per game than Purdue on the ground and the teams are 1-2 in the Big Ten in passing.
Who to Watch on Defense
The Buckeye defense has not been the brick wall it has usually been. It hasn’t mattered because the offense has been putting up ridiculous numbers, but there are some questions that Purdue can hopefully exploit. They are giving up just 19.1 points per game, but you can move the ball on them. They are giving up an un-Ohio State-like 148 yards per game on the ground and 221 through the air. Oregon State is awful and had a running back go for 168 yards and two scores on 11 carries. Last week Minnesota freshman Mohamed Ibrahim went for 157 yards and two scores to keep the Gophers in it. Indiana’s Peyton Ramsey threw for 322 yards and 3 TDs.
The Buckeyes have not faced an offense as good as Purdue’s yet. Penn state, the No. 3 team in the conference, is the best they have faced and they squeezed out a 1-point comeback win. Of course, Penn State has a much better defense than, us, but it gives you an idea of Purdue’s potential.
Jordan Fuller – S – The sign of a questionable defense is when a safety is the leading tackler. It usually means that the last line of defense is making the stops. Fuller leads the team in tackles with 39, 11 more than anyone else. He has also broken up three passes and recovered a fumble.
Pete Werner – LB – Ohio State’s pass rush suffered a huge loss when Nick Bosa went down with an injury, then announced he would not return as he prepared for the NFL Draft. He is a top 5 pick talent and a gigantic loss for anyone. Werner has helped to supplement the pass rush with three sacks as a linebacker and 5.5 tackles for loss, but Bosa had four sacks in the three games he played.
Dre’Mont Jones – DT – Jones is having a good season being disruptive in the middle of the defensive line. He has a team high 5.5 sacks and even has an interception and two fumble recoveries.
Who to Watch on special Teams
There is one interesting thing to watch here. Blake Haubeil has struggled to regularly generate touchbacks on his kickoffs with only 24 in 57 kickoffs. This means Rondale Moore will get a couple of shots on kickoff returns with the ball in open space. Every chance Moore gets with the ball alone in space always has the potential for a big play.
Drue Chrisman – P – Chrisman is good at pinning teams deep with a 44.5 yard per kick average. 14 of his 26 punts have been downed inside the 20.
C.J. Saunders – PR – Three different players have returned punts for the Buckeyes and all three have a return of at least 15 yards. Saunders averages 6.2 yards per return.
This has all the makings of a shootout. Buckeye fans have some major concerns about their defense based on what some lesser teams have been able to put up. In most cases it has not been a problem as the Buckeye offense has basically said, “Fine, but you’re going to need at least 50 to beat us.” Penn State came the closest and arguably got a little too conservative in the end.
For Purdue to have a shot here David Blough is going to need to stay hot, D.J. Knox needs to rush for at least 100 yards, and the receivers need to cut back on drops even more. We’re going to need a Missouri-esque performance on offense and finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals.
Even then, can we slow down their offense enough? I don’t see Purdue winning this without some turnover luck. It’s going to take a tipped pass that is picked off, a kickoff returned for a touchdown, or a critical fumble to go our way. It might even take multiples of these. I can really see a scenario where Purdue scores 45 points but loses because it gives up 56. The best chance we have is to get an early lead and make them play from behind. Even then there are no guarantees as Penn State did this and couldn’t put them away.
Either way, we at least have a shot. There will be offense on Saturday night.