Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Purdue Boilermakers Complete Game Preview
No. 4 Ohio State has won 20 consecutive games and is coming off a 63-14 rout of the Penn State Nittany Lions.
This Saturday, the Buckeyes (8-0) will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to face Purdue (1-6), the team that came the closest to ruining Ohio State's perfect run.
Last year, the Boilermakers invaded Columbus, Ohio, knocked Braxton Miller out of the game and dominated in the trenches on their way to a 22-14 fourth-quarter lead.
That set the stage for Kenny Guiton and the Buckeyes to orchestrate one of the most improbable comebacks of the year.
The backup quarterback drove 75 yards with less than a minute to go and connected with Chris Fields from two yards out for a touchdown. Guiton tied the game on the ensuing two-point conversion with a pass to Jeff Heuerman, and Ohio State dominated in overtime to secure a 29-22 victory.
The Boilermakers have struggled lately, but they've had surprising success against Ohio State—especially at home, where they've won three of the last four against the Buckeyes.
Will Purdue's luck continue this year? According to Vegas Insider, it isn't likely as Ohio State is favored by 31 points.
Get all the details of Saturday's matchup with this complete game preview.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 2
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Place: Ross-Ade Stadium; West Lafayette, Ind.
TV: Big Ten Network
Ohio State Keys to Victory
Get the Running Game Going
Purdue enters the game with the nation's 69th-ranked defense, giving up 400 yards per game, but it struggles most against the run.
The Boilermakers are surrendering 194 rushing yards per game, but against Big Ten opponents, they've been much worse, giving up 274 yards on average.
Last Saturday against a Penn State defense that ranked 21st against the run, Ohio State went wild, running for a season-high 408 yards.
Ohio State's strength offensively is Purdue's weakness defensively, so the Buckeyes should look to exploit that.
Keep Braxton Miller Upright
In the last two meetings between Ohio State and Purdue, Braxton Miller has gone down in the backfield 10 times (seven sacks, three tackles for loss).
In last year's matchup, Miller was dragged down hard at the end of a 37-yard run in the waning moments of the third quarter. The hit ended his day as he left the game and was later taken to the hospital for examination.
To have success against Purdue and keep its hopes of playing for a national title alive, Ohio State needs to keep Miller on his feet.
Purdue Keys to Victory
In order for Purdue to pull off the biggest upset of the college football season, it would need to force Ohio State out of its groove offensively.
The best way to do that is to cause turnovers.
That's easier said than done, as the Buckeyes have only turned the ball over eight times this year, which is tied for 12th nationally. And over the last two weeks, Ohio State has been incredibly efficient, playing turnover-free football.
Purdue will have to be much more aggressive as it has only forced nine turnovers on the season. Both Ricardo Allen and Frankie Williams have two interceptions on the year, though. Those playmakers will have to be huge for the Boilermakers defense.
Get Big Plays
According to Jeff Svoboda of Buckeye Sports Bulletin, Ohio State and Purdue are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to big plays.
So far, Ohio State has 79 rushes of 10 yards or more, most in the Big Ten by 20. Purdue has 19, last in the Big Ten by 14.
In Purdue's near upset last year, the Boilermakes had three huge touchdown plays.
The first was a result of a busted coverage from the Buckeyes, and Caleb TerBush found Akeem Shavers for an 83-yard touchdown pass. The second came on special teams when Akeem Hunt took a first-quarter kickoff 100 yards to the house. The final one happened when Gary Bush took a simple screen pass and dashed for a 31-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
Big plays would help Purdue pull off an even bigger upset.
Players to Watch for the Buckeyes
Ohio State has been easing freshman Dontre Wilson into the offense as he learns the advanced aspects of the game, such as blocking and overall scheme.
If the Buckeyes get a big lead early, it wouldn't be surprising to see Meyer feature Wilson to get him some more game reps.
Wilson made two huge plays against Penn State. The first came in the second quarter when he showed off his speed and a beautiful spin move on a a 59-yard kickoff return. The second came when Braxton Miller hit Wilson with a quick outlet pass that he took 26 yards for a touchdown.
To Wilson, though, those don't qualify as big plays.
“I haven’t gotten it yet. You’ll know when I get it, when I break a 60- or 70-yarder," Wilson said, according to Ben Axelrod of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. "You’ll know.”
Maybe that will happen against the Boilermakers.
Noah Spence is another underclassman who's coming off a big performance against Penn State.
The sophomore defensive end had the best game of his career, registering four total tackles (three for loss), two sacks and a forced fumble. Spence showed tremendous burst and looked unblockable for much of the night.
Purdue is giving up nearly three sacks per game, so Spence could be in for another big performance.
Players to Watch for the Boilermakers
Purdue started the season with Rob Henry at quarterback, but after the 55-24 loss to Northern Illinois, Darrell Hazell pulled the plug and turned the offense over to freshman Danny Etling.
In his two games against Nebraska and Michigan State, Etling completed just 47-of-99 passes for 585 yards and three touchdowns against four interceptions.
He'll be going against a defense that shut down Penn State's freshman quarterback—Christian Hackenberg—last Saturday. Hackenberg was harrassed into the worst performance of his young career, completing 52 percent of his passes for 112 yards and a touchdown (and two picks).
Etling will need to be much better to give Purdue a chance.
After putting a solid campaign together last year, Bruce Gatson is breaking out for the Boilermakers this year.
The 6'2", 310-pound defensive tackle currently ranks fourth on the team with 32 tackles. Even more impressively, he leads the team with three sacks, a rare feat for a defensive tackle.
Gaston will need to play his most destructive game against the Buckeyes. Ohio State wears defenses down by blasting Carlos Hyde up the middle to complement its perimeter attack. If Gatson can clog things up in the middle, he could take away a big part of the Buckeyes offense.
What They Are Saying
That's something we think about all the time. I mean, that ‘L’ word is not a good word for anyone. So the one thing is we coach very hard. Lou Holtz said it best: ‘You coach hardest when you win.’ When you lose, it's very fragile. Now, you come out to practice and you are like, ‘My gosh, you act like the offense is the worst in the country, especially on Tuesdays. They're ‘Bloody Tuesdays’ around here for a reason.
As long as we're still coaching that way and we will, they'll be very hungry.
Purdue coach Darrell Hazell remembers Ohio State fondly, according to Mike Carmin of The Journal & Courier.
It’s hard for it not to creep into my mind. I spent seven really good years at Ohio State. There’s still a lot of people there I know. There’s a lot of players I recruited that I see on the film. It’s fun to be in that situation.
Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde wants to show off his speed, according to Patrick Maks of The Buckeye Grove.
I don't mind the contact, but I would definitely like to just out-sprint somebody to the end zone. People underestimate my speed, they probably don't think I have any. They see me just running between the tackles the whole game. Sometimes I show a little bit and I'm waiting for that one big run—like a 70-yarder. Something like that. Just really show it off.
After Purdue's close game against Michigan State, Hazell believes his team is improving, according to Mike Carmin of The Journal & Courier.
They played with a lot more confidence throughout the course of the game. They were pretty fired up on the sideline. There was a belief. They played so hard wire to wire. Keep taking a step forward.
Meyer says Ohio State's team goals are simple, according to ESPN.
We don't go into the season saying we want to win this one, or this one. If you look around there's not a bunch of goals. Our goal is to win the national championship, but we don't put that down. There's too many variables involved.
Ohio State 56, Purdue 13
The Buckeyes will come out quick, scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the first quarter before Purdue gets on the board with a field goal to open the second.
Ohio State will continue to pour it on, scoring two more touchdowns on two big runs from Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde before halftime.
Purdue will open the third quarter with its best drive of the day, but it will stall in the red zone and the Boilermakers will settle for a field goal. Ohio State will then answer with two more quick scores before Urban Meyer pulls his starters at the end of the third.
In the fourth quarter, Dontre Wilson will hit his big play, taking a screen pass 65 yards to the house. The Boilermakers will finally get into the end zone in garbage time as the Buckeyes close out the 56-13 victory.
Unless noted otherwise, all stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.