Saturday’s game will be a meeting of two teams with opposite trajectories.
No. 4 Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) comes to West Lafayette with the nation’s longest winning streak and national championship aspirations. Purdue (1-6, 0-3) is just trying to stay afloat, losing six of seven this season.
The last two meetings between these teams have gone to overtime with the Buckeyes winning 29-22 last year thanks to Kenny Guiton. The Boilermakers prevailed in 2011 26-23 due to a blocked extra point to force the extra period.
Ohio State leads the all-time series 39-14-2, but only 12-8 in West Lafayette.
Purdue’s head coach Darrel Hazel was an Ohio State assistant for seven seasons and linebackers coach Marcus Freeman was a Buckeye linebacker from 2004 to 2008 and a graduate assistant in 2010.
When Purdue Has The Ball
The Boilermakers have been atrocious on offense. They are averaging 13.1 points per game, 278.6 yards per game, and are only converting 29.5% of their third downs – all last in the Big Ten.
Purdue has one of the youngest teams in the country. In their last game against Michigan State, the Black and Gold started four freshmen on offense.
Their youth begins with their quarterback, true freshman Danny Etling, who took over after five games for Rob Henry. He made his first start against Nebraska going 14-for-35 for 184 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
For the season, Etling is completing just 47.5% of his passes for 585 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions.
Etling’s numbers are not great, but he is viewed as the future at Purdue. He can distribute the ball to his receivers and his primary target is DeAngelo Yancey who had back-to-back 100 yard receiving games against Northern Illinois and Nebraska.
For the season, Yancey only has 15 receptions –best for a receiver on the team – and one touchdown, but has 327 receiving yards – best overall on the team.
Junior running back Akeem Hunt has caught the most passes – which tells you where the passing game is for Purdue – with 24 receptions.
Tight end Justin Sinz has the second-most receptions with 21 for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Ohio State cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Doran Grant should be able to hold the Boilermakers’ receivers in check. The Spartans held the receivers to just six catches and 82 yards.
The linebackers and safeties must contain the other pass catchers – Hunt and Sinz. These are Purdue’s weapons, but Ryan Shazier, Curtis Grant, C.J. Barnett, and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown should be up for the challenge.
The Black and Gold’s passing game may not strike fear in opponents – 202.4 yards per game – but that is nothing compared to their inept running game.
Hunt is the most experience back, but is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and just over 44 yards per game.
Freshman Dalyn Dawkins is their second-leading rusher, but has only 118 yards on 31 carries. Neither back has a rushing touchdown this year.
It could be another very long day for the running game. Ohio State’s rush defense is sixth-best in the country and has not allowed a run of 20 or more yards. Michigan State’s defense – the best rushing defense in the country – only conceded 101 yards on the ground.
The offensive line has three seniors – two of them fifth-year seniors – but has been ineffective creating holes for the backs. They have also given up 20 sacks, 11th in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes’ defensive line has been good but not great. They have pressured quarterbacks to the tune of 20 sacks, but have not been consistent. After success against Penn State, they will be in search of a second-consecutive productive outing.
Sophomore Paul Griggs has been inconsistent this season, making only half of his field goals with a long of 47 yards, but missing from under 30 and 40 already.
Punter Cody Webster is on the 2013 Ray Guy Award watch list. He is 15th in the nation and best in the Big Ten, averaging 43.9 yards on his punts.
Since Webster tends to drive the ball, Meyer believes Corey “Philly” Brown may have a better chance for a big return than he has this season.
Jordan Hall and Dontre Wilson have gotten the Buckeyes in good starting field position when able to return the ball, but are still looking for their first return touchdown of the year.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
The Ohio State offense should continue to do what it has done the last two weeks: Dominate.
Braxton Miller seems to finally be settled in the offense and showing improvement from last year after returning from a knee injury that cost him most of three games. The reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week has passed for 474 yards and five touchdowns, while completing over 78% of his passes the last two weeks.
Purdue’s passing defense – 206.9 yards per game – ranks ahead of Ohio State's, but they haven’t faced a passing attack like the Buckeyes'.
Senior cornerback Ricardo Allen is on both the Jim Thorpe Award (best all-around athlete) and Bronko Nagurski Award (top defensive player) watch lists and will likely have the task of matching up with Miller’s top target, Philly Brown.
Brown is averaging 14.1 yards per catch and 65 yards per game while leading the team in receptions and touchdowns.
Brown’s numbers would be better if Miller did not have the plethora of options to throw to including Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Chris Fields, Dontre Wilson, and Jeff Heuerman, who all have more than 10 receptions and at least one touchdown.
The offensive line – which has a combined 126 starts – has been declared one of the best in the country by their head coach. They have allowed 11 sacks, though not all their fault, and given Miller time to make decisions.
Possibly most importantly, they have led the way for Carlos Hyde to terrorize the opponents’ defense. Hyde has 590 yards rushing in five games with 7 touchdowns. Remarkably, he has not yet lost a yard on a run this season and much of that credit goes to his line.
Despite missing three games, Hyde is second in the Big Ten with 137.2 yards per game and tied for first in touchdowns.
The Boilermakers are giving up just under 200 yards rushing per game, so don’t bet against Hyde to have another big day; maybe just a big half.
The defensive line for Purdue has struggled to get pressure. Backs have been able to get to the second level and they have only managed 10 sacks this year. OSU’s experienced front should get a good push against this line after averaging the fourth-best yards per carry in school history last week.
The top tackler for the Black and Gold is sophomore linebacker Anthony Brown. The rest of Purdue’s defenders are upperclassmen, but they are having issues stopping the opposition.
They did hold Michigan State to just 14 points – only seven scored by the Spartans’ offense – but are averaging 34.4 points against each game.
Drew Basil is yet to miss a kick – field goal or extra point this season – while Cameron Johnston is not allowing the returners to hurt his net yards.
Frankie Williams had a 40-yard punt return this year, which is the longest for Purdue since 2010.
How It Will End Up
This is a mismatch on paper and the Buckeyes are heavily favored because of that.
After the Penn State game, it looks as if things have finally come together for Ohio State. The question will be, can they put together a second-straight complete game.
At times this year, OSU has played down to the level of their opponent and it has cost them in the BCS standings. Though the coaches don’t want to talk about style points, the players realize they will need them in order to achieve their goals.
Because of how poor the Boilermakers have been, the only way the Buckeyes can affect their rankings is to lose.
With the week off, the Black and Gold will likely have something up their sleeves. The Scarlet and Gray has had issues with Purdue in the past, but each year brings a different team.
There is little chance of that happening; this team is focused on keeping things rolling.
Meyer is 30-3 in November during his coaching career. Make it 31-3.
Ohio State 55 Purdue 10