The seventh-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes put their perfect record on the line once again, as they play host to the Purdue Boilermakers in Big Ten Conference action on Saturday afternoon.
Purdue opened the season with wins in three of its first four games, but the start of conference play hasn't been as rewarding with the team losing two in a row to Michigan (44-13) and Wisconsin (38-14). Scoring a total of 27 points in the last two outings is a far cry from the 105 the team put up in its previous two bouts -- wins over Eastern Michigan and Marshall.
Ohio State has made Urban Meyer's first season as head coach a memorable one, even if the Buckeyes can't win the Big Ten title or go to a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions. The team recently won at Indiana, 52-49, marking the second straight week and third of the year in which OSU scored at least 52 points -- 56-10 win over Miami-Ohio on Sept. 1, 63-38 win over Nebraska on Oct. 6 being the others.
Ohio State owns a 37-14-2 advantage in the all-time series with Purdue, which includes a 25-5-2 mark in Ohio Stadium. The Boilermakers have won in Columbus just twice in the last 60 years.
The Purdue offense struggled to find its footing last week against visiting Wisconsin, generating a mere 252 total yards. RB Akeem Hunt didn't get a whole lot of touches, but did make the highlight reel as he scored on an 81-yard run late in the fourth quarter. RB Ralph Bolden appeared in his first game of the season as he continues to rehab a serious knee injury suffered in the 2011 season finale, and he finished with seven yards on four carries. The Boilermakers used three QBs in the game, and the trio combined to go just 11- of-31 for 124 yards with no TDs and one interception. They were sacked a total of five times.
As for the defense, it was battered into submission by a bruising Wisconsin rushing attack, as star RB Montee Ball ran for 247 yards and three TDs, helping the Badgers hammer out 467 yards on the ground. The Boilermakers did a decent job against the pass, yielding just 178 yards and one TD. The PU defense was on the field for nearly 39 minutes, and got a solid effort from S Landon Feichter, who tallied a dozen tackles, 10 of which were unassisted, and he had an interception as well. LB Will Lucas made two of his four stops behind the line of scrimmage.
While acknowledging that the unit was a bit banged up coming into last week's contest, Purdue head coach Danny Hope was disappointed with the overall effort of his defense.
"The result was from our team not being fundamental. We tried to tackle but we were diving at ankles. We weren't able to wrap guys up and were diving at ankles too much. We needed to cover in the back half of the defense and cover them better. We weren't able to stop their play action attack and they had guys wide open. That kind of thing is inexcusable If you load the box up you have to be able to cover up in the back half of the defense."
For the season, Purdue is allowing (27.5 ppg) nearly as many points as it is scoring (32.8 ppg), while being outgained on average by roughly 25 ypg (412-387).
Shavers (324 yards, three TDs) heads the team's rushing list, while Caleb TerBush (74-of-121, 721 yards, eight TDs, six interceptions) has taken the bulk of the snaps, and O.J. Ross (38 receptions, 299 yards) and Antavian Edison (31 receptions, 371 yards, five TDs) headline the receiving corps.
No defensive player has more than 33 tackles (Lucas), but Feichter has three picks and DT Kawann Short has four of the team's 11 sacks.
Braxton Miller threw for 211 yards and two TDs while rushing for 149 yards and a score, helping the Buckeyes roll up 578 yards of total offense in last week's high-scoring affair at Indiana. RB Carlos Hyde led all ground gainers with 156 yards and a TD, and WR Devin Smith finished with only two catches, but tallied 106 yards and a pair of scores. WR Corey Brown, who pounced on an on-sides kick late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory, led all OSU receivers with six grabs (51 yards).
The Ohio State defense failed to come up with a turnover or a sack, and surrendered 352 passing yards to the Hoosiers, who scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to make a game of it. Converted FB Zach Boren led the Ohio State stand with eight tackles.
While obviously pleased his team has yet to lose a game this season, Meyer is concerned with the play of his defense.
"Spread offenses right now are really exposing us. We have got to get something fixed. I don't want to take anything away. We are 7-0 and we ran the ball for 350 yards and had two guys really haul it running the ball. But we have got to get back to work."
He went on to say, "I have to get more involved and find out what the issues are. I know injuries are an issue. When you take your starting fullback and start him at inside linebacker, you have a little problem. I don't think you can pinpoint one thing right now. I have got to find out. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense."
The Buckeyes have allowed more combined points in their last two games (87) than they did in the first five (85), and their effort against the run (122.3 ypg) this year has been more impressive than versus the pass (277.7 ypg). The opposite holds true for the team's offensive performance, as it rushes for 263.6 ypg and passes for 188.9 ypg.
Miller has thrown for 1,271 yards with 11 TDs and four interceptions, while also leading the team with 912 yards and nine scores on the ground. Hyde has about half the number of yards (454) as his signal-caller, but has found the end zone seven times. As for the receiving corps, Brown has nearly twice as many grabs as Smith (41-21), but the latter leads the way in both receiving yards (457) and receiving TDs (six).
Linebacker Ryan Shazier continues to pace the OSU defense with his 65 tackles, while CB Travis Howard has three interceptions, DB Bradley Roby has 12 PBU, and DL John Simon three of the club's 16 sacks.