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Interviews with the Enemy: A Q&A with Land-Grant Holyland

The leader of SBNation’s Land-Grant Holyland stops by to talk Ohio State Football.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State enters this week’s game looking to stay in one of the coveted Playoff positions, but Purdue can returns as the Spoilermakers and ruin that. To discuss Saturday night’s game Geoff Hammersley of Land-Grant Holyland stops by to talk about the Bucks.

T-Mill: The Ohio State offense has been incredible so far. Is it the best and most balanced we have ever seen from the Buckeyes?

Geoff: This is not the most balanced offense we’ve seen from the Buckeyes. In a press conference early, Urban Meyer said that some of Dwayne Haskins’ throws were supposed to be run plays. I’m not complaining on this topic, because Haskins has been throwing for absurd numbers. However, the running game hasn’t been as effective as originally thought. Outside of the Week 1 win against Oregon State, Mike Weber, who had a career-best day against the Beavers, hasn’t really come close to matching that performance. J.K. Dobbins has looked to be the No. 1 RB for the Buckeyes, but he hasn’t really found his rhythm in games, mostly because the offensive line isn’t giving him anything to work with.

T-Mill: What did Minnesota do last week to slow things down? How did they have defensive success?

Geoff: Stopping the run. Short down situations have been a problem for the Buckeyes, and last week was no different. On a fourth-and-1 rush up the middle, Dobbins was stopped for a loss of one. Also, Weber took a rush on a fourth-and-short, and, I think, didn’t actually reach the first down marker—even though the ref ruled that he did. I thought we’d see Tate Martell in short yardage situations running a QB-read option against the Gophers. That didn’t happen.

On top of stopping the run, pressuring the QB was something Minnesota did well. Haskins was sacked three times, and offensive tackle Isaiah Prince had a not-so-good day. I think the blueprint to stopping Haskins showed up against Penn State. If you can bulldoze the line and pressure him, then you may have a shot at staying in the game. Indiana did the same thing and got a couple interceptions out of it.

T-Mill: You guys have talked a lot about Ohio State’s defensive struggles. Can you please elaborate? Is it more in the passing game or is the run defense struggling?

Geoff: Giving up big plays every week. I don’t recall any OSU team (Jim Tressel or Meyer) that gave up as many chunk plays as this year’s squad. Against TCU and Penn State, 93-yard TDs were scored in each game. TCU did it on the ground; PSU did it on a slant route from Trace McSorley to K.J. Hamler. Oregon State also had an absurd TD pass, too.

The defensive line does a great job, even sans Nick Bosa. Chase Young and Dre’Mont Jones have that part locked down. However, everything behind them is iffy. When teams start running plays further away from the line, the higher probability that a big play is going to be given up by the Buckeyes. Against Minnesota, their running back, Ibrahim, went up the middle for a rush. A bad approach angle made that run a lot worse than it really needed to be.

Also, injuries have plagued the defense. Not counting Bosa, lineman Jonathon Cooper and linebackers Tuf Borland and Malik Harrison have missed various amounts of time because of injuries. That’s a part of the game, and it’s starting to take its toll on the Buckeyes defense.

The part that concerns me the most this week is the YAC (yards after catch). If David Blough hits Rondale Moore in stride or on a comeback route, will the OSU secondary—or someone—take the best approach angle for the tackle? If not, we could be seeing sprints downfield.

T-Mill: What is Purdue going to have to do in order to pull off this win?

Geoff: Blough and Moore need to be the dynamic duo again for the Boilermakers. They gotta take shots downfield, and not be afraid to get aggressive. My hot take is that if Blough was quarterbacking Minnesota, they may have very well won that game last week.

The passing game is only part of the equation, though. Jeff Brohm has to coach with a play-to-win style. James Franklin and PJ Fleck threw both games away to Ohio State by melting in the pressure via conservative playcalling or outright Tressel-esque playcalling, respectively. That Weber rush from last week on fourth-and-2, the one where I didn’t think he got it, should’ve been challenged. Fleck didn’t do that, and on, literally, the next play, Haskins threw the ball for a 41-yard TD. If Purdue gets to the OSU40, that’s four down territory. You will not beat OSU by kicking field goals, and you especially won’t beat OSU by punting the ball back to them.

On the defensive side of the ball, your DEs hold the key. Thayer Munford, OSU’s left tackle, is listed as probable for the game. Combine that with Prince coming off a bad game at RT, and you have an O-line that is not where it needs to be in their pursuit for the championship. Having Higgins or Reviere get around the tackle will be key to either a) stopping the run or b) pressuring Haskins. Purdue’s linebackers can help with the cause, but it’s gotta start upfront with the DEs.

Purdue does not have to play a perfect game, but they need to play a very smart game.

T-Mill: Ohio State has lost only 13 Big Ten road games since 2000, but four have been in West Lafayette. Does that raise any concerns?

Geoff: It doesn’t really raise any concerns—at least for me. What does raise my concern, though, is that this team has looked incredibly shaky at times. It’s different when you are shaky at home, since you have the crowd behind you. On the road, a shaky start can easily snowball into a nightmare performance. I was at the Iowa game last year where OSU lost by 31. When the crowd gets going, all bets are off at what happens. Also, as the sun got lower and lower into the sky, the atmosphere got a little more electric.

Getting this game in primetime is a huge help for the atmosphere at Ross-Ade. I covered the last game OSU played in West Lafayette in 2013, and boy, that atmosphere was not great. A half-empty stadium makes life easy for the road team. (Now that I think about it, I think I saw more Scarlet in the stadium in that game than Black and Gold). I haven’t been to Ross-Ade since the Hazell Era ended, so I can’t tell you how the atmosphere has been impacted. But, I do know everyone wants to beat Ohio State. If the fans show up and start rocking out in the stands, then this becomes a true road contest, with a true road game feel.

T-Mill: Finally, what is your pick?

Geoff: Forecasting, I think a near unanimous amount of people at Land-Grant will be taking Ohio State in this game. Against Penn State, there was only one hold out that picked against the Buckeyes. That hold out was me.

I tried to convince myself that Ohio State’s lackluster performance last week was because they were looking ahead to Purdue. Even though OSU is currently pegged as a near two touchdown favorite, I feel like this game has upset potential.

The two outcomes I see happening are either a) OSU runs away from this game by like 35, or b) Purdue squeaks by with a win. I don’t see Purdue falling apart in this game, if Moore and Blough show up.

I think Purdue is going to jump up early on Ohio State, but after halftime, Ohio State will start the comeback charge. However, I think this is the week were the reliance on second half adjustments catch up to the Buckeyes.

Unless any injury updates occur, I have Purdue 38 Ohio State 34.