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Purdue at Ohio State Preview

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Purdue winning in the Horseshoe would be monumental.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Purdue is ranked not only in the top 25 of this week’s College Football Playoff rankings, it is in the top 20. That makes for an extremely rare event this week. For the first time since 2007 Purdue will take part in a ranked team vs. ranked team game. It’s opponent back then? Ohio State, when the Buckeyes beat #23 Purdue 23-7 in a rare win in Ross-Ade Stadium for them. Purdue has only been in the AP poll for one week since then, and that was just a few weeks ago after the Iowa win.

Now we’re in the College Football Playoff poll for the first time ever. Does that negate the strange voodoo Purdue has as an unranked team over top 5 teams? Even in the AP Poll, Purdue is unranked, while Ohio State is 6th. I guess we’ll have to go with the coaches poll, where Purdue is unranked and Ohio State is 5th.

Rankings fun aside, Ohio State is very likely better than the Iowa and Michigan State teams we have already beaten. As always, they are a legitimate contender for the national championship, but we have wrecked those hopes before. Those were in the personal house of horrors that is Ross-Ade Stadium for Ohio State. Doing this in the ‘shoe would be much tougher.

Worse teams have come close though. Think 2012.

2020 Record: 7-1

2021 Record: 8-1, 6-0

Bowl Result: Lost to Alabama 52-24 in National Championship game

Blog Representation: The Only Colors

Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 39-15-2

Last Purdue win: 49-20 on 10/20/2018 at Purdue

Last Ohio State win: 56-0 at Purdue on 11/2/2013

Head Coach: Ryan Day (31-3 in 4th season at Ohio State)

Their Season Thus Far

Ohio State is very good, but they have been a little more shaky than usual so far. They were ousted at home in a big non-conference game by Oregon 35-28. The defense gave up 31 points to Minnesota in the opener (albeit when Mo Ibrahim was healthy). Tulsa and Nebraska stuck around with them for far too long as well.

They have a defense that is somewhat vulnerable. They are 11th in the Big Ten against the pass at almost 250 yards per game given up. That is while playing some truly awful passing offenses like Minnesota, Indiana, and Akron. Still, that defense doesn’t matter when they ratchet up an explosive offense. They have been over 50 points in four games, blasting Akron, Rutgers, Maryland, and Indiana.

This is the best offense in the conference. They average nearly 45 points per game and throw for 352 yards per game. Even if Purdue’s passing game remains as potent as last week the defense will have to slow down an explosive attack.

Who to Watch on Offense

C.J. Stroud – QB – Stroud is playing extremely well for a freshman. He has thrown for 2,675 yards and 25 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. His offensive line has protected him (only 7 sacks), so he will have plenty of time to throw. He is a talented freshman given a wealth of high caliber weapons around him. Unless Purdue gets to him early and often, he is going to do well.

TreVeyon Henderson – RB – Kenneth Walker III was a very good back who still got his yards last week. Henderson has slightly worse numbers overall, but at 937 yards and 12 touchdowns he is still extremely dangerous. He averages over 7 yards per carry and can break the big run. As strong as the Ohio State passing game is, Henderson gives them the most balanced attack we will see all season.

Chris Olave – WR – Olave is one of the best, if not the best, receivers Ohio State has ever had. The senior has had an incredible career with more than 2300 yards and 32 touchdowns. He only has 42 receptions for 623 yards, but he has 10 touchdowns. When you score once every four times you touch the ball, that’s really good. He also has an excellent No. 2 with Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has 50 catches for 888 yards and four scores. He had a 75 yard TD last week at Nebraska. Oh, Garrett Wilson also has 687 yards and 6 TDs for good measure.

Who to Watch on Defense

Ronnie Hickman – S – The Ohio State defense can give up yards through the air, but Hickman is excellent at patrolling the middle with 73 tackles and two interceptions. He was all over the place in the Penn State game with 14 tackles and has 29 more than the No. 2 guy on the stat sheet.

Haskell Garrett – DT – Garrett is a big defensive tackle at 6’2”, 300 pounds that plugs the middle and leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Purdue can’t run the ball anyway, so going away from him with the short passing game neutralizes him somewhat. We’re not going to get anywhere by going straight at him.

Cody Simon – LB – Ohio State always has good linebackers, and Simon is a good one. He is listed at 6’2”, 232 pounds and is second on the team with 44 tackles. Ohio State doesn’t get much of a pass rush from the outside, but he does have a sack. Both he and Teradja Mitchell are solid players to have in the middle of the defense.

Who to Watch on Special Teams

Noah Ruggles – K – Ruggles might be the best kicker in the conference. He is 15 for 15 on field goals and perfect on extra points. He only has a long of 46, but he was 4 for 4 last week as the Cornhuskers held them to field goals.

Emeka Egbuka – KR – Egbuka has not returned a kickoff for a touchdown yet, but he has an impressive average of over 34 yards per return on 10 returns.

Game Outlook

Purdue is probably playing the best football it has played under Jeff Brohm. Aidan O’Connell is playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the country and the defense has closed out the last three wins by forcing turnovers. The short passing game has worked like a running game, and Purdue has been able to bleed clock when it has had a lead late.

It is probably going to have to be better in all these aspects to win on Saturday.

Nebraska came somewhat close to the upset last week by holding the Buckeyes to field goals. They still gave up almost 500 yards of offense and hit on a 75 yard pass. When this offense really gets going it overwhelms teams. A 20 point quarter is nothing for them, and they even had a 30 point quarter against an Indiana defense that is admittedly decent.

Purdue is playing with house money here. It is a three touchdown underdog on the road. An 8-4 season is still very much alive even with a loss, and that would be a sign of tremendous progress after the last two seasons. There is also a nice financial stake in it for Coach Brohm. He clinched a 7.5% bonus for getting win No. 6 last week, and that jumps to 10% for win No. 7. A win gives him an additional $122,500 (which he will probably get anyway, plus a a total of $588,000 due to a 12% bonus if he gets win No. 8) There is not a single Purdue fan that would have turned down 6-3 going into the Ohio State game, and it really could have been 7-2. A win would be beyond our wildest dreams and open the door to a rematch in Indianapolis, a January bowl game, and, dare I say, New Year’s Day in Pasadena?

Nah, it is too early for that. This is a tremendous challenge and we don’t have Ross-Ade magic to help. Purdue has not won in Columbus since 1988, and as good as things are going right now, I don’t see it this year. Pull off another big upset though, and the dreams can really begin.