(3) Ohio State Buckeyes 5-0 (2-0) v. Purdue Boilermakers 2-4 (1-2)
Third-ranked Ohio State will travel to West Lafayette this week to take on a Purdue Boilermaker team struggling on all fronts. Not to say the Buckeyes haven’t struggled themselves. Instead, slow starts are now part of the whole gameday experience for Ohio State fans. The Bucks end the game each week by showing signs of being a well-oiled, dominant team, only to seemingly take several steps backward in the next week.
The offensive line isn’t finding the second level of blocking. According to head coach Ryan Day, the second team O-line isn’t pushing the first team either. This lack of competition is breeding complacency, and anyone who has played in the trenches knows that complacency can destroy a team’s momentum in a heartbeat. Injuries are also plaguing the team as receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and now Emeka Egbuka are limited. Running back powerhouse TreVeyon Henderson’s complete absence last week hindered the ground attack to a standstill, forcing Ryan Day’s play-calling to be one-dimensional. Although the play calling may have been limited, quarterback Kyle McCord spent portions of the last game disregarding the concept of the designed scheme, favoring the check down. These issues and obstacles are slowing down an otherwise unworldly Buckeye offensive assault, and slow may be the only thing Purdue can use to overcome the Bucks this time around.
Historically, the Buckeyes have a clear advantage over the Boilermakers. Forty all-time wins against 15 for Purdue make the Bucks look like juggernauts. The last time the two teams played, Ohio State cruised to victory, scoring nearly sixty points as the Boilers struggled to put up any points. However, that was in Columbus, and the recent track record of Ohio State football in Northwest Indiana paints a different picture. Purdue has won three of the last four matchups at Ross-Ade stadium, the last one being the most embarrassing. 2018 saw a tremendous Scarlet and Gray roster, fueled by then-head coach Urban Meyer and his brilliant coaching, demolished by the “underdog” Boilermakers as they scored 49 points. Meyer’s defense that year had more next-level talent than any Ohio State roster in recent history. One would think a shutout was in order on paper with names like Bosa, Young, and Okudah. Instead, gadget plays ruled the day as the Boilers were not to be denied, playing in special uniforms on a unique night game for superfan Tyler Trent. In 2011, Ohio State was left reeling from an overhaul in their coaching staff due to a memorabilia for tattoo scandal that hardly seems like news in the current NIL college landscape. Under then-interim head coach Luke Fickell, Ohio State missed a last-second field goal and limped home during the only forgettable season in the past two decades.
This year is different. While the “overpowered” roster narrative is still in play for Ohio State, Purdue seems to be at a crossroads. They have a new head coach Ryan Walters, their quarterback is dealing with injuries, it will be a noon showdown, and Purdue won’t have a sick kid to rally behind.
Date: Saturday, 10/14/23
Time: Noon, Eastern
Venue: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Indiana (Capacity: 52,780)
Series: Ohio State leads 40-15-2
Last Meeting: Ohio State over Purdue 59-31 (2021)
What to Watch For:
All signs point to stud running back TreVeyon Henderson returning to action this week. I expect the offensive line to push their weight around, clearing the way for him to score in bunches. As much as this is beginning to sound like a broken record, quarterback Kyle McCord will continue to improve his play and make the necessary adjustments as the starter everyone wants him to become. Although McCord's statistics aren’t alarming (over 1,300 passing yards, with eight touchdown passes and only one interception through five games), the fact that fans are clamoring for more shows how embarrassingly rich the QB situation has been in Columbus over the past decade. On the other side of the ball, not enough can be said of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and the work his squad has put in, and I expect a grand day for the Silver Bullets. They can fly around the field, overpower the Boiler O-line, and overwhelm their quarterback.
Through six games, the Boilermakers do not look great. The only thing going for them is the new throwback-esque uniforms. Thus far, trying to channel the Drew Brees era has not been very successful in West Lafayette, as they have trouble in every phase. Quarterback Hudson Card has nearly 1,500 yards through the air but only six touchdown passes opposite five interceptions. He is also dealing with an ongoing injury that has hampered production. The Boilermaker special teams have only made 50% of their field goal attempts.
The Buckeyes could be poised to make this one ugly and early. Purdue doesn’t have the weapons to contend with the stout, fast Ohio State defense. It remains to be seen if they’ll pull out the same gadget plays from the Brohm era to try and create confusion for the Bucks’ defense. Meanwhile, if healthy, the Ohio State offense should outperform the Boilermakers easily; the only thing slowing the McCord-led offense would be the grounds crew “forgetting” to cut the grass. Minus the inevitable slow start, the Bucks cruise to victory 48-10 in a tune-up for the Penn State matchup next week.
(Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images)