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Offseason Dispatches: A Q&A with Land-Grant Holyland

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Can Purdue pull a Harboring away from home?

Ohio State v Purdue

“Purdue Harbor” is a term that Ohio State fans dread. It has been born out of the strange dominance the Boilers have had over the Buckeyes in West Lafayette since 2000. Purdue has not beating the Buckeyes away from home in 33 years, however, and Chris Renne from Land-Grant Holyland is here to give us a small amount of hope that it might happen:

T-Mill: Ohio State has been a Death Star in the Big Ten this century, while Ross-Ade Stadium has been the small thermal exhaust port right below the main port. What is the bizarre hex we have and how can we bottle it and take it to Columbus?

Chris: Purdue has been the exhaust port, the kryptonite, or whatever other weakness you want to come up with the past 20 years. There’s no easy answer for this one on why they have been so successful at playing spoiler against Ohio State, but whether it’s a weird part of the schedule or after a huge win, the Boilermakers tend to play their best on those Saturday nights in Ross-Ade against the Buckeyes.

What Purdue needs to bottle up is that lack of fear and nothing to lose attitude they are so good at encapsulating at home. If they show up with a creative gameplan like they have in the past this game should be close. Ohio State has to travel to Lincoln before, and that can play into the Boilermakers’ favor.

With the quarterback play being the driving factor, players like David Bell could create problems if Ohio State has similar issues this year defensively. By the end of the year Ohio State should have a figured out QB situation, so they won’t be able to take advantage of that.

T-Mill: Ohio State is 45-5 the last four years with four B1G titles, all with a coaching change. Aside from recruiting at another level, how have you done it?

Chris: The last four years have been a dream for Ohio State fans aside from not winning a national championship. Over Ryan Day’s tenure there have not been any questionable losses (no offense Purdue), but even with those few the level of continued dominance can’t be ignored.

You pointed out the obvious answer with the level of recruiting they’ve been able to operate at, that puts the Buckeyes in an extremely beneficial position before practices even start. Whether it was Urban in his final year or Day the last three recruiting cycles the player accumulation is where it starts. Once the players are there it’s about preparation and execution, with Ryan Day the Buckeyes have never taken an opponent for granted. The only two teams he’s lost to have been perennial powers over the decade with two elite QB’s. Ohio State has taken the execution up another notch under Day and that is an important factor.

The other aspect is player development, yes Ohio State has ready made NFL players, but it’s also the unsung heroes in recruiting classes that develop into starters that play a huge role. Guys like Pete Werner, Damon Arnette, Malik Harrison, and Davon Hamilton the last couple years came in as 3-stars/4-stars and elevated themselves into draft picks.

In short, the easy answer is to have better players than everyone else, when you have Justin Fields, JK Dobbins, Jeff Okudah, and Chase Young it’s a lot easier. That’s not the only reason though as teams across the country and Urban Meyer showed, sometimes there’s more to the game than talent. Game day execution starts with coaching and preparation which Ryan Day has managed perfectly since he took over.

T-Mill: I am enjoying your Broken records series over at Land Grant. Please give our readers a recap and who hits an all-time record against Purdue?

Chris: The player most likely to hit a record against Purdue is probably Chris Olave who is in the hunt for 3 career receiving records at Ohio State, with a full season last year I think he’ll have them by week 6. Olave needs 90 catches, 1,100 yards, and 13 TD’s to break the career records in those categories. Of the three TD catches has the best chance to be broken by when Ohio State plays Purdue.

He averaged 104 YPG last year and had 50 catches in 7 games, so going off those aggressive clips already he’d need at least a couple of more games. Being the touchdown machine he is, going into the game with the record tied would not surprise me, he’s had around a dozen multiple touchdown games and has always shined in the biggest games which Ohio State has a few of early. Purdue in game 10 is right there if he averaged a touchdown a game which he’s more than capable of. He just needs whoever the new QB is to do his part.

T-Mill: Justin Fields is off to the NFL. Who is the next 5-star QB to come in and threaten for the Heisman? Does the QB situation make Ohio State mortal in the B1G this year?

Chris: Fields will not be easily replaced regardless of what an Ohio State fan tells you, the innate ability as an athlete and thrower is going to be extremely challenging to replace and replicate with a first year starter. The people in competition to take over after Fields are CJ Stroud a blue chipper from CA, Kyle McCord a 5-star from PA, Jack Miller a forgotten figure in the QB battle, and possibly 5-star all-world reclassfier Quinn Ewers.

My pick for the guy taking over is CJ Stroud, he was the informally announced backup last year and although he didn’t throw a pass got crucial reps in practice that put him ahead of the curve. He is physically talented as a passer, but his arm won’t wow you. His athleticism is elite for the position and he adds that outside running factor as well. The former Elite 11 MVP has shown he can grow immensely as a passer in short order with his recruiting ranking starting outside of the top-300 and getting all the way up to 41.

This situation will make them mortal in weeks one and two, but by the end of the year with the tutelage of Ryan Day I believe Ohio State will be clicking on all cylinders again. QB is not really the position of worry due to the talent level in the room, but the lack of experience is leading to some uneasiness among the Buckeye faithful.

T-Mill: Rondale Moore got all the headlines in 2018, but David Blough did a good job carving up the Buckeye secondary. What’s different now?

Chris: David Blough did not get enough credit for that night, and our secondary took huge strides after that game the following season. Now we’re on a different coach and with different players in the room everything is different. Unfortunately last year’s Ohio State team regressed to 122nd in passing yards allowed per game and looked like the 2018 Purdue game on repeat.

Kerry Coombs has his work cut out for him, but there is a good mix of veteran talent as well as an influx of second year guys who can be big time contributors. Sevyn Banks is probably penciled in as a starter and there’s a few guys like Ryan Watts, Marcus Williamson, and a healthy Cam Brown in year two under Coombs can hopefully take positive steps. On the back end the safety position will be manned by Josh Proctor, a multi-year starter and the nickel/bullet depending on personnel will have a long list of players to choose from. Overall it will all be about what mix of players works best.

Schematically Ohio State has gone from a traditional 4-3 in 2018 to a 4-2-5 that can move three types of personnel in and out of it to give multiple looks. The Buckeyes love to mix in a third linebacker, bullet (our safety LB hybrid), or a nickel corner. Our main coverage is a one high look with either man-to-man or cover-3 looks which provides much simpler assignments. Day and Coombs have changed the defense a lot and it will be interesting to see how it looks in year two by the time Ohio State takes on Purdue.

T-Mill: Purdue has not won in the ‘shoe since 1988, our longest drought in B1G play. Aside from a complete miracle or Rondale coming back, what will it take for the upset?

Chris: Purdue winning in the shoe would be monumental for Jeff Brohm and the program’s outlook. They need a lot of things to break right for them for 4 quarters and it starts with forcing turnovers. If the Boilermakers can win that and keep Ohio State’s offense off the field they can get comfortable. Then it’s about making them one dimensional like 2018 when Dwayne Haskins threw the ball 73 times. If they can get ahead early and make Ohio State play catch up they can replicate some of the magic from 2018.

Then it will take an out of world performance from Aidan O’Connell/Austin Burton/Jack Plummer/Michael Alaimo and David Bell to keep up with the Buckeyes’ loaded arsenal. Ohio State would need a high-level defensive collapse like 2018 as well, but Day’s feel for game management seems unlikely. Ohio State will probably win this game comfortably, but we’ve said that before.