West Lafayette, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes continue their quest for a second straight undefeated season as they hit the road for Saturday's Big Ten Conference clash with the Purdue Boilermakers.
Ohio State won its 20th consecutive game last Saturday by routing visiting Penn State, 63-14. The Buckeyes' impressive win streak in the longest in the country at present, and it is tied for the second-longest in program history. The longest is 22 games set between 1967-69. At 4-0 in conference, OSU is a game up on second-place Wisconsin in the Leaders Division, and the Buckeyes own the tie-breaker thanks to their 31-24 win over the Badgers in Columbus on Sept. 28.
Purdue was idle last weekend, affording them some additional time to try and figure out a way to pick up their first win over another member of the Football Bowl Subdivision as they are just 1-6 on the year and 0-3 in conference. The Boilermakers' lone victory came against FCS foe Indiana State back on Sept. 7, and it is currently mired in a five-game losing streak. First-year head coach Darrell Hazell is at a loss when looking for answers as to the reason his team has struggled the way it has this season.
"It's frustrating. You put a lot of work into it and you want better results," he continued, "You're working through those things and the whole goal of the program is you have to continually try to get better at little things, and there's a lot of things that you have to get better at, and that's part of it. That's part of the growing process and our staff is working tirelessly to get those things fixed."
Ohio State owns a 39-14-2 edge in the all-time series with Purdue, and the Buckeyes won last year's meeting in Columbus, 29-22, in overtime. In fact, the last two encounters couldn't be decided in regulation, with the Boilermakers taking a 26-23 overtime decision at home in 2011. They have won the last two meetings in West Lafayette.
Braxton Miller threw for three TDs and ran for two more, and Carlos Hyde rushed for 147 yards and two scores to lead the Buckeyes to their easy win over Penn State last Saturday night. Ohio State dominated the Nittany Lions, who suffered their worst loss since 1900, by racking up 686 yards of total offense, compared to 357 for PSU. In addition to Hyde and Miller, Jordan Hall (eight carries, 81 yards), Devin Smith (five rec., 90 yards) and Corey Brown (four rec., 67 yards, one TD) also had a hand in the lopsided outcome. Miller, who threw for a career-high 252 yards, passed for and ran for multiple TDs in the same game for the first time in his career.
OSU did not commit a turnover for the second week in a row, and has only eight giveaways this season. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring (47.2 ppg) and total offense (517.2 ypg), while also pacing the conference in third-down conversion rate (.528) and turnover margin (+8).
Despite missing time earlier in the season with an injury, Miller ranks seventh in the league in 180.5 passing ypg, and he has thrown 11 TD passes against only two interceptions. He is also a force in the run game, amassing 403 yards and a pair of scores. Hyde and Hall rank one-two on the team's rushing list, logging 590 and 519 yards, respectively, with the two combining for 15 TDs, while Brown and Smith have joined forces to tally 72 receptions, 1,044 receiving yards and 13 scores.
Defensively, the Buckeyes performed well against the run last week (120 yards, no TDs allowed), and came away with four sacks and three turnovers. Ryan Shazier continued his outstanding season by making a club-best 10 tackles, while Noah Spence had a pair of sacks against the Nittany Lions, who became the eighth team this season to fail to have a 100-yard rusher against the Ohio State defense, although Bill Belton came close with 98 yards on 22 carries. The Buckeyes did allow PSU standout receivers Allen Robinson to catch 12 balls for 173 yards and a TD, but with the outcome never in doubt, it didn't matter much.
Ohio State ranks in the upper half of the Big Ten standings in nearly every defensive category as well, highlighted by its No. 1 ranking in sacks (20) and No. 3 ranking against the run (95.9 ypg). Shazier has 66 tackles on the year, which includes nine TFL and two sacks. Spence has five sacks, and Bradley Roby has two picks to go with 38 tackles, eight PBU, 10 passes defended and a blocked kick.
Senior defensive back Corey Brown turned the tables on the typical coach speak following a hugely-satisfying win by giving praise to the guys who draw up the game plan from week to week.
"You could say it's a statement game in a way. We wanted to come out and stop their offense. Our coaches did a great job of putting us in the right formations in coverage. I give them all the credit."
With only one win this season, it's not surprising that Purdue ranks among the worst offensive teams in the nation, currently sitting 119th (of 123) with a scoring average of only 13.1 ppg. The squad is also 119th in rushing offense (76.1 ypg), and it has scored a grand total of three rushing TDs all season. As for the passing attack, it ranks 90th at 202.4 ypg, with the tandem of Rob Henry and Danny Etling combining to hit roughly half of their passes with seven TDs and 10 interceptions. Running back Akeem Hunt serves as both the club's leading rusher (80 carries, 293 yards, no TDs) and receiver (24 rec., 239 yards, two TDs).
As poor as the Purdue offense has been, there isn't much the defense can do besides try to stand its ground the best it can, and still that has resulted in opponents scoring an average of 34.4 ppg. The effort against the run typically yields 192.7 ypg (10th in the Big Ten), but the Boilermakers have performed well versus the pass with 206.9 ypg allowed (fourth in the conference). Anthony Brown and Taylor Richards pace the unit with 38 stops apiece, but the unit checks in at minus-5 in turnover margin and permits its foes to score on a league-high 92.6 percent of their trips to the red zone.