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Preview: Purdue at Ohio State
Preview: Purdue at Ohio State
Ohio State starts the second half of the regular season with Saturday's home game against the Purdue Boilermakers. The Buckeyes (5-1, 2-0) are in a tie for first place in the Big Ten, and will be looking to take one more baby step toward their third straight conference championship. Purdue is 2-3 overall, and 0-1 in the Big Ten, and they haven't looked very good getting there. No-brainer, right? Buckeye Dan gives us his thoughts.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Ohio State vs Purdue University
3:30 p.m. (ET)
Ohio State starts the second half of the regular season with Saturday's home game against the Purdue Boilermakers. The Buckeyes (5-1, 2-0) are in a tie for first place in the Big Ten, and will be looking to take one more baby step toward their third straight conference championship. Purdue is 2-3 overall, and 0-1 in the Big Ten, and they haven't looked very good getting there. No-brainer, right?
Well, there are plenty of reasons for optimism for Buckeye fans:
Back home after an emotionally uplifting
over Wisconsin last week, the Buckeyes should be growing in confidence, and perhaps poised for a breakout game over a team they know they should beat. The ongoing maturation of Terrelle Pryor as a college quarterback should continue, and Chris Wells showed the nation last week that not only is he healthy, but that he is one of the elite running backs in the land. Together they can be a devastating offensive force.
The defense had some shaky moments against Wisconsin, but they held the Badgers to 92 second-half yards and snuffed out their last hope with a turnover to seal the victory. And the Buckeyes totally
dominated Purdue last year
in West Lafayette, in a nationally televised night game against a 5-0 Boilermaker team. The 2008 version of the Boilermakers has been a disappointment so far in Coach Joe Tiller's last season. No wonder the line is 19 points.
So why do I think the game will be closer than that?
What Me Worry?
The first cause for concern might be that Purdue is a better team potentially than they have demonstrated thus far in 2008, and they must have a good game in them somewhere. Last year's embarrassment against the Buckeyes should be sufficient motivation for them, if their own under-performance this year doesn't do the trick.
Second, the Buckeyes have a recent track record of playing down to the level of the competition in home games against lesser opponents. Even though the games against
seem like ancient history in some ways, given the early season re-tooling of the Buckeyes with Pryor at QB, the memory of those two OSU performances should certainly guard against overconfidence (and giving the points).
Plus the Buckeyes are banged up. Running back Boom Herron and receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, who both had the lights go out on big hits in the Wisconsin game, are out for this one. Beanie says he's resigned to playing with the pain in his big toe, but he took a beating at Camp Randall along with everybody else, and he's sore. Receiver Ray Small is doubtful with a knee injury that will be evaluated day to day, and linebacker Austin Spitler will also sit this one out.
The physical play of the Badgers seems to take a toll on the opposition. Their 2007 opponents went 3-7 in the week following their games with Wisconsin, and that includes the Buckeyes loss to Illinois in Columbus. Then there's the potential for an emotional letdown after an important road win. Then there's the fact that "breathers" in the Big Ten are rare (and Purdue is way better than Ohio U.) Still want to give your brother-in-law the 19?
What's up with Painter?
Four-year starter at quarterback, Curtis Painter leads the conference's top passing offense (254 ypg), and yet Coach Tiller benched him last week against Penn State for his ineffectiveness, and then
called him out
in this week's press conference, putting the fault for Purdue's offensive woes squarely on their "accuracy" problems in the passing game. Not exactly spreading the blame around. Think Painter might have some personal pride on the line Saturday in Columbus?
He needs just 112 passing yards to reach the 10,000 yard mark for his career, and to become just the fourth quarterback in Big Ten history to do so. While that's a nice milestone and a credit to Painter, he is also looking for his first career victory over a ranked team. Wonder which one he wants more?
Painter has 1225 yards passing in 2008, with 5 TD's and 5 interceptions. His 57.6 completion percentage is five points off last year's figure, but that could have as much to do with losing four of the top five receivers from 2007 as it does with anything Painter has done differently. Only Greg Orton (2007 - 67 catches, 752 yds.) returns in Painter's receiving corps. The Boilermakers also lost two offensive linemen to graduation, and then saw two more projected starters go down with injuries. Returning starter at tackle Sean Sester is out for the year with a back problem, and projected starter at guard, Jared Zwilling was also lost for the season.
The Purdue running game is in good hands with Kory Sheets, a versatile and talented back with 498 yards on 93 carries, and 8 TD's already in 2008. An injury to projected backup Jaycen Taylor has left all the heavy lifting in the running game to Sheets, but he has responded with a good first half.
But Purdue had a big time offense last year too, when they welcomed the Buckeyes to West Lafayette in early October. Painter and Sheets were on a roll then, and Purdue was rolling up nearly 500 yards a game on their way to a 5-0 start. That night the Buckeyes held Sheets and the Purdue rushing attack to
net yards for the game, and the result was a 60-pass night for Painter. He completed just 31 of those 60 attempts, for just 268 yards and a meaningless touchdown with ten seconds remaining in the game to avert the shutout.
You'd think the Buckeyes will be trying to follow the same script this time around. Stop Sheets and the running game first... force Painter to throw...prevent the big play...pressure the passer...and wear out the receivers with big hits.
Purdue 'D' Struggling
Purdue's best chance of knocking off the 12th ranked Buckeyes is for Painter and the Boilermaker offense to dominate the time of possession, and keep the Purdue defense off the field. The Boilers are last in the conference in passing yards allowed (239.8), rushing yards allowed (196.0), and inevitably, total yards allowed (435.8).
In each of their three losses they have surrendered at least 200 rushing yards, including giving up 306 to Oregon. Penn State racked up 422 total yards against them last week, showing good balance between rushing (202 yds) and passing (220 yds), but as long as the Boilermakers struggle to stop the run, their disappointing season is likely to continue.
The Buckeyes of course would love to set the tone early with their two-headed rushing machine, Terrelle Pryor and Chris Wells. In the two full games they have played together, Wells and Pryor have 391 combined rushing yards, for an average of 195.5 yds. per game. As a team, the Bucks averaged 231 yards rushing in those two games. Look out Purdue.
Up front on defense the Boilermakers have talent, athleticism and experience. The defensive tackles are solid, with Ryan Baker and Mike Neal leading a deep group in the middle. Alex McGee was an inside player last year, but is the starter at defensive end now, along with Ryan Kerrigan. But it is in the back seven where Purdue's defensive problems get serious.
Senior linebacker Anthony Heygood is a returning starter and a very good player, but he is the only one of Purdue's six leading tacklers from 2007 to return, and the younger players have struggled. Safety Brandon King and cornerback David Pender are the experienced hands in the secondary, but four of the back seven are first-year starters. This group did hold the high-powered Penn State offense to just 20 points last week, but the Purdue offense never really threatened the Lions, and Penn State played it very conservatively on the road.
The Buckeyes have won their first two conference games by running the ball nearly twice as much as they throw, and by playing solid defense and preventing the big play. There's no reason to think that Coach Tressel is going to mess with a winning formula on Saturday. I do think the Boilermakers will throw everything in the playbook at the Buckeyes, and that Painter will improve on his 2007 outing against OSU. I look for Purdue to score a bit more than most people think they can, but still fall short on the scoreboard. Let's say OSU by a 30-16 count.
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