The Lantern sports editors share their insight on what fans should know about this weekend’s matchup against Purdue.
1. Can the Buckeyes overcome the West Lafayette blues?
After last week’s 63-14 win against Penn State, the Ohio State football team (8-0, 4-0) extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 20 games. The last time OSU lost a football game was Jan. 1, 2012, against Florida, 24-16 in the Gator Bowl. That was the tail end of a four-game losing streak that started with the Buckeyes’ last road matchup against Purdue. The Boilermakers won, 26-23, in overtime. OSU had an extra point attempt late in regulation that would have won the game, but the try was blocked. It was the third time in OSU’s last four trips to West Lafayette that Purdue had beaten the Buckeyes. The game before that, in 2002, was also a tough one for OSU, who came in ranked second in the country and escaped with a win only because of a play known simply as “Holy Buckeye.” For whatever reason, West Lafayette, Ind., gives the Buckeyes trouble whenever they visit, something that needs to be remedied if they hope to keep their championship dreams alive.
2. Can Carlos Hyde keep rolling?
Since Big Ten play began Sept. 28 against Wisconsin, senior running back Carlos Hyde has been averaging 137.3 rushing yards per game, and has tallied seven touchdowns. This has come against some of the nation’s top run defenses. The Boilermakers come into Saturday’s matchup giving up the 93rd most yards on the ground to opponents, by far the lowest ranking of any team the Buckeyes have faced since Hyde returned from his three-game suspension stemming from an incident at a Columbus bar in July. Hyde will hope to exploit a Purdue team that allowed 388 rushing yards to Wisconsin Sept. 21.
3. Will Devin Smith and Corey “Philly” Brown continue to grow up?
Coming into the year, perhaps the Buckeyes’ weakest offensive position was considered to be the wide receivers. As the year has progressed, though, junior Devin Smith and senior Corey “Philly” Brown have gone on to become two of the most threatening receivers in the Big Ten. Both players are in the top 10 in receiving yards in the conference. Each receiver has recorded at least three catches in every game this season except for the season opener when Brown only caught two balls for 25 yards. If these two can continue to grow as players, their presence could cause problems in the Boilermakers’ defensive secondary and allow for junior quarterback Braxton Miller and Hyde to find more space running the ball.
4. How will Bradley Roby play?
Purdue does not necessarily have a high-powered offense by any stretch of the word (it averages a B1G worst average 13.1 points per game), but OSU redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby has had his ups and downs since returning from a one-game suspension stemming from an incident at a Bloomington, Ind., bar in July. He is still confident in his abilities, though, and said Saturday getting beat is “part of being a cornerback.” His assessment could be accurate, but it will be interesting to see if he will gamble against the poor Boilermaker offense to try to intercept freshman quarterback Danny Etling.
5. If the game is in hand in the second half, will OSU coach Urban Meyer call off the dogs?
The Buckeyes’ blowout of Penn State last weekend helped to shrink the gap between OSU and No. 3 Florida State in the BCS standings. Meyer and the rest of the OSU coaching staff began taking starters out of the game early in the second half against the Nittany Lions, but with the way the BCS works, style points are a must for the rest of the season. Don’t be surprised if Meyer keeps his foot on the pedal until the clock hits zero Saturday.