Purdue Preview

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Last updated: 10/19/2012 3:44 AM
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Purdue at Ohio State Preview
By Tony Gerdeman

#7 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) and Purdue (3-3, 0-2) have split their last six matchups, and the Buckeyes haven't officially gotten a win over the Boilermakers since 2008.

Removing OSU's 2010 49-0 win that has since been vacated, Ohio State hasn't scored more than 23 points against Purdue since 2001.

The Buckeyes are 37-14-2 all-time against the Boilermakers and 25-5-2 at home. Purdue hasn't won in Columbus since 1988, which has been their only win in Ohio Stadium since 1968.

With a win, the Buckeyes will be the only 8-0 team in the nation.

When Purdue Has the Ball

The Boilermakers run a spread offense, which has been the Ohio State defense's Achilles heel. Sometimes, however, they don't run it very well.

Purdue could end up playing three quarterbacks on Saturday simply because one rarely gets the job done.

Caleb TerBush will likely get the start, and he is completing 61.2% of his passes with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. He has thrown for 716 yards in his five games this season.

Robert Marve will also get some action, and he is completing 67.1% of his passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions. The third quarterback that could see some action is Rob Henry, who is the running threat of the group.

Regardless of who is at quarterback, the Ohio State front four will need to get more pressure than they did last week against Indiana. The Boilermakers are eleventh in the conference in sacks allowed, so there should be plenty of opportunities here.

Bolstering the Buckeyes' pass rush will be the return of defensive end Nathan Williams, who missed last week with a concussion. With Williams, and the improving health of fellow defensive end Michael Bennett, this may be the healthiest the Ohio State defensive line has been all season.

What isn't healthy, however, is the Ohio State linebacker group. Former fullback Zach Boren will likely get the start at middle linebacker for the Buckeyes. Expect Ohio State to go with just two linebackers for most of the game, using safety Orhian Johnson as the nickel back instead.

Boren was somewhat lost in last week's game, but will grow more comfortable with each snap.

Purdue uses three main receivers to move the ball, and they will throw a ton of screens in the process. O.J. Ross (38 rec), Antavian Edison (31 rec) and Gary Bush (21 rec) are all frequent targets, but rarely are any of them catching passes down the field. Ross averages 7.9 yards per catch, Edison is at 12.0 yards per catch, and Bush averages just 8.9 yards per catch. Of course, it will be up to the Buckeyes to tackle them and hold them to their low averages.

The Buckeyes come into this game allowing 122.3 yards rushing per game, but for the Boilers to reach that number, they will likely need at least one 40-yarder.

Akeem Shavers leads Purdue in rushing, averaging 54 yards per game on the ground. His 4.2-yard per carry average is less than stellar. Ralph Bolden returned from injury last week and he should get a few carries in this one as well. Akeem Hunt is a big-play threat, but he only has 23 carries on the season.

Purdue uses a pair of kickers in Sam McCartney and Paul Griggs. Together they are 4-4 on the season kicking field goals. However, McCartney is just 9-12 on extra points.

Cody Webster is again having a very good season punting the ball, averaging 43.3 yards per punt with a long of 72 yards. He will, however, give Ohio State quite a few chances at a return.

Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt return kicks, and both are capable of going the distance. The Buckeyes are fourth in the conference in kickoff coverage.

When Ohio State Has the Ball

In their two Big Ten games this season, Purdue has allowed 385.5 yards rushing per game. The Buckeyes enter this game having rushed for 362 yards per game in their last two contests.

Putting two and two together (or 385.5 and 362), the Buckeyes should have a pretty good afternoon on the ground.

Provided the Ohio State ball carrier can get by defensive tackle Kawann Short, who leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 9.0, there will be plenty of open spaces for them to run.

Quarterback Braxton Miller is rushing for 130.3 yards per game on the season, and is leading the nation with 31 carries of ten yards or more. He has four carries of over 50 yards this season, and is a pretty good bet to improve that number in this game.

The running game is really coming together for the Buckeyes, and it's due to the emergence of tailback Carlos Hyde, who has carried the ball 50 times for 296 yards in Ohio State's last two games.

With Hyde's inside presence, and Miller's outside presence, they are providing a one-two punch that defenses have yet to find a defense for. Purdue will try to provide an answer with various run blitzes, as well as spies for Miller. No one solution works, however, because Miller can do so many different things.

Behind Kawann Short is linebacker Will Lucas, who leads the Boilermakers in tackles (33). Lucas is an active player with speed, but is smaller than Carlos Hyde and could lose a couple of battles at the point of attack.

If not for a handful of drops last weekend, Braxton Miller would have thrown for over 300 yards and notched a career high in passing yardage. This week he faces a much better secondary, most notably cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson. Allen is one of the Big Ten's best, and is extremely dangerous returning any interceptions that he should happen upon.

Against Indiana, receiver Devin Smith caught touchdown passes of 60 and 46 yards, giving the Buckeyes their first ever game with two 100-yard rushers and a 100-yard receiver. The scary thing is that Smith dropped nearly another 100 yards in passes.

Against Allen and Johnson, Smith will have to keep his focus, because he likely won't be running as free and easy as he would like.

Corey Brown has caught 21 passes in three Big Ten games this season, and will catch another 6-8 passes this week as well. He has also carried the ball at least once in every game but the opener. He rushed for a twelve-yard touchdown last week on a triple-option pitch, so the Boilermaker defense will be very wary of that this week. They shouldn't be so wary of it, however, that they allow Miller to keep the ball and go 80 yards.

The Ohio State tight ends are getting more involved in the passing game, and that will continue on Saturday as well.

It's not clear whether Purdue will open in their base 4-3 defense, or combat Ohio State's spread offense with a nickel. If they go nickel, the Buckeyes will pound them on the ground. If they try to stop the running game, then the Buckeyes will take the game to the hashes and spread things out to create space.

The Boilermakers' best bet is to just keep Braxton Miller as uncomfortable as possible. Indiana got to him a handful of times last week, but the Purdue defense will have to do better than their average of just under two sacks per game. They need to keep Miller contained in the backfield and not let him out, because if he escapes, he could be gone.

The Buckeyes blocked a punt and had a punt blocked last week, so almost anything can happen whenever somebody is back to boot it away.

On placements, Kawann Short leads the nation with four kicks blocked this season. The Buckeyes will obviously have to try and keep him from getting a hand in placekicker Drew Basil's face.

The Buckeyes have begun to improve in the return game, as tailback Rod Smith is emerging as their best returner. His 27.5-yard average on four returns is pretty impressive when you consider that his long is just 33 yards.

Corey Brown had a long punt return called back due to an unnecessary block in the back last week. Couple that with his 76-yard touchdown return the week before, and things seem to be improving here as well.

How It Will End Up

Last week, the Ohio State defense gave up just 150 yards in the first half to Indiana. That is the type of defense the Buckeyes will show in this game.

Purdue throws some very long screen plays, so there will be time for the Buckeyes to rally around the ball and tackle as a group.

The front six should be able to handle the Boilermaker running game, which will make the Purdue offense much more predictable.

The Ohio State offense, meanwhile, has the capability to make the Purdue defense's head spin. The Boilermaker defense will dictate what the Buckeye offense does, and they will try to get them to throw the ball.

If Ohio State is going to win comfortably, Miller is going to have to hit some passes early on to open things up. The Buckeyes will be able to run regardless, but it may not come as easy for them as it did for Wisconsin or Michigan the last two weeks.

Eventually, however, Ohio State's offensive line will wear Purdue down. Carlos Hyde has rushed for over 90 yards in the second half of the Buckeyes' last two games. He won't need to do it again this week, however.

Ohio State 42 - Purdue 20

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