I’m going to combine the offensive and defensive preview today, because honestly, I don’t think it’ll matter much. Ohio State is loaded for bear and Purdue is only a squirrel at this point. If the unthinkable happens and the Boilermakers pull off the victory, it’ll be because something unforeseeable happens, and nothing I can preview. In theory, Ohio State has a couple potentially vulnerable areas on both sides of the ball. I don’t think Purdue has enough to exploit them, but someone could down the road.
Anyways, here we go!
Ohio Sate Offense
Potential Vulnerable Area
It all comes down to Kyle McCord. Indiana held Ohio State to 23 points in the opener because McCord had a bad day. Granted, it was his first college start, and he’s got 4 more under his belt now, but he still went 20-33 for 233, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception. The Buckeyes ended up kicking 2 red zone field goals against the Hoosiers.
One of the keys for Purdue is making things difficult for the Buckeyes when the field shrinks and getting red zone stops against a team that occasionally struggles to run the ball. Any drive that ends in a field goal should be considered a win for the Purdue defense.
McCord also struggled against Notre Dame, going 21-37 for 240 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. The Irish held the Ohio State to 17 points. Now, Purdue’s defense is closer to Indiana than Notre Dame, but either way, McCord has struggled against two Indiana schools this season. Maybe Purdue can be the third?
There aren’t many weak spots on this Ohio State offense, and calling McCord, a guy with 8 touchdowns and 1 interception a “weak spot” is a stretch, but it’s all I’ve got. If Purdue can limit what McCord does down the field, and get his receivers on the ground when the do catch the ball, they might be able to keep a lid on this offense.
Of course they’ll be trying to do that starting a true freshman corner and a recently transitioned wide receiver as the first guy off the bench, but it’s all I’ve got.
Ohio State’s run game could be better. Without TreVeyon Henderson last Saturday they only managed 62 yards on 32 carries. Lead back Deamonte Trayanum ran for 61 yards on 20 attempts for a robust 3.1 yards a carry. Despite Ryan Day’s protest (mainly towards Lou Holtz, the weirdest beef in college football), Ohio State’s reputation of lacking toughness is still in full effect.
Maryland’s defensive line bullied Ohio State in the run game. Maybe Purdue’s 5 man front could give them issues? Probably not, but hope springs eternal, especially if they hold back Henderson again.
If by some odd set of circumstances, Ohio State has a rough day throwing the ball (come on mother nature, this thing needs to be sloppy!), Purdue can’t let their rather pedestrian running game win the game.
Potential Way Forward
Ohio State’s passing game will gut Purdue. The wide receivers are absurd. Marvin Harrison Jr., in terms of raw talent, could be the best since Megatron. Oh, and they also have former 5* recruits Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming and Carnell Tate if Harrison Jr. isn’t enough fire power for you. Honestly, Purdue’s best bet moving forward is kidnapping one of Ohio State’s 5* receivers and hoping they don’t notice. Purdue lining up an abducted Carnell Tate against Nebraska would solve a few problems. If McCord gets bored throwing it to those guys, he can switch it up and throw a few toward former 4* outside linebacker turned tight end Cade Stover.
I see it like this; Purdue’s only shot is to try an disrupt the timing of McCord early and then hope the pass rush gets to him late. It’s a small, statistically insignificant way forward, but it's the only opening I see.
The decimated Purdue corners couldn’t cover the Ohio State receivers if everyone is healthy. The only way to slow down the passing attack is to disrupt McCord. If he’s allowed easy access throws early, Ohio State’s receivers will do the rest. If he’s allowed to sit in the pocket, he’ll deliver deep shots over the top all day. Heat him up and see if he throws you one, or at least throws a few into the dirt.
I see no downside in blitzing McCord. If I’m going to “pick my death” it’s McCord beating the blitz over him sitting in the pocket and letting Harrison Jr. set an NCAA record (he might do that either way if I’m being honest).
Ohio State Defense
Purdue doesn’t get a break from the talent deficit when they take the field on offense. Ohio State is stacked on that side of the ball as well. In fact, I like their defense more than their offense at this point of the season, especially if Henderson is out.
Potential Vulnerable Area
Front 7 vs Run Game?
If Purdue gets to Ohio State, and again, that’s a huge, huge, massive “if”, it’ll need to get the run game moving. Notre Dame’s Audric Estime ran for 70 yards on 14 carries (5.0 average). His back up, Jeremiyah Love, ran for 57 yards on 8 carries (7.1 average). Granted, Purdue doesn’t have a single starter that would start for Notre Dame’s offensive line and Hartwig might be the only one capable of making the two deep. Maryland didn’t have the same per carry success, but they managed 106 yards on 35 carries and put one in the end zone.
The Buckeye front 7 is daunting for certain, but their edges are, in theory, built to rush the passer. Simply put, Purdue can’t block J.T. Tuimoloau or Jack Sawyer as pass rushers, but they might be able to move them in the run game? Maybe the Boilermakers bust a few screen passes to Burks or Mockobee and take advantage of an over aggressive Ohio State defense looking to pad stats? I don’t know y’all, I’m grasping at straws here, and these straws are on top of the Empire State Building and all I have to reach them is a step stool.
What Purdue can’t do is turn the ball over. If the offense relies on Card to move the ball through the air, he’s going to throw the ball to Ohio State multiple times in the process of getting murdered by the defensive line and linebackers. Purdue wouldn’t be able to block Ohio State’s pass rush with their full compliment of offensive linemen and a guest appearance from 1999 Matt Light. Without M’Bow at right tackle, things get much, much worse.
Potential Way Forward
It's got to be the run game mixed with quick passes to the perimeter.
Purdue can’t protect Card, and the main goal in this game is to not get him killed. Mockobee needs to cover the ball up, because the Ohio State defenders will be ripping away when he gets in traffic, and he’ll get plenty of work in this game. I might look at incorporating Burks and Sheffield in the run game as well. It’s going to be tough to get them the ball through the air, but Purdue’s only way forward is to bust a few big plays in the run game, and without Tracy, I don’t think they can do that without getting Burks and/or Sheffield involved.
Again, Ohio State’s going to need to help out. Purdue can’t block them straight up. I’d like to see a few counters and traps in the run game to try and take advantage of an aggressive Ohio State front 7 and see if they’ll run themselves out of position. Reverses are tough because their secondary can fly, but it’s going to be tough running everywhere for the Boilermakers. Of course, Ohio State has seen all of this and is familiar with teams throwing everything, including the kitchen and bathroom sink at them. It’s tough to fool them, because fooling them is the only way teams like Purdue can move the ball.
The screen game might be the best solution to the running and passing issues. Get the ball out quick to Burks or Sheffield on the perimeter and see if Ohio State’s talented cover corners are interested in tackling. Purdue’s at a decided disadvantage in the trenches. They need to turn this into a perimeter run game and the fastest way to do that is to throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage to receivers and backs. They’re going to give up some plays for loss, and the fans are going to get frustrated and want to take shots down the field.
I want to repeat this once again, for everyone in the back. PURDUE CAN’T BLOCK THE OHIO STATE FRONT, AND YOU HAVE TO DO THAT TO THROW THE BALL DEEP! THROWING THE BALL DEEP AGAINST OHIO STATE WILL END UP IN A STRIP SACK!
The one opportunity I see to attack down the field comes out of a max protect package. Leave the tight end and running back at the line, block with 8, and let Miller and Burks work a two man route. Maybe you can get a safety to bite up on Burks and give Miller a 1 on 1 chance on a deep seam route. I’m not sure if the line can hold up, even with reinforcements, but at some point Purdue’s going to need to try and pick up a 3rd and long or take a deep shot and max protect with 2 man routes is the only way to do that without sacrificing Card to the turf.
Keeping Card alive and holding onto the ball as long as possible should be the goal of the offense. They won’t be able to sustain drives, which means they need to bust a few big plays, and those plays need to end in the end zone. Not the 1 yard line, not the 1 foot line, not the one inch line, but the end zone.
The odds of Purdue winning this game are slim, and slim is holding on by one finger nail. Indiana kept it respectable because they didn’t attempt to win the game. All they did was manage the score on offense. Maryland came out and played with Ohio State and eventually got their doors blown off, because they made an effort to win.
I expect Purdue to take the Maryland approach. I don’t see Ryan Walters sitting back and trying to lose by as few points as possible. He’ll try and win the game, and will most likely suffer a worse fate than the Terps, because Maryland has more talent than Purdue.
Sometimes it be like that.