Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The No. 7-ranked Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) will continue their pursuit of the Big Ten Conference Leaders Division championship and an undefeated season against the Purdue Boilermakers (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten). As always, pesky Purdue has a habit of presenting OSU with a formidable midseason stumbling block.
The Boilermakers eliminated OSU from the divisional title race last season, and nearly erased the Buckeyes from Big Ten title contention in 2009, with home wins. . Beyond those two OSU disappointments in West Lafayette, Ind., the teams share a back-and-forth history, having split their last six meetings.
A win to advance OSU’s record to 8-0 and improve its standing in the Leaders Division will likely require more of the same high-flying offense Buckeye Nation has enjoyed all season long, as well as an improved defensive effort.
OSU has a seemingly undeniable advantage when it comes to offensive production, and the Buckeyes’ offensive line is directly responsible. The line, comprised of redshirt junior left tackle Jack Mewhort, junior left guard Andrew Norwell, redshirt junior center Corey Linsley, redshirt junior right guard Marcus Hall and senior right tackle Reid Fragel, has helped the Buckeyes field one of the strongest rushing attacks in the country. Through their work, the Buckeyes have steamrolled to 724 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns in just the last two games. The running game has developed during the season, but the Buckeyes have been lighting up the scoreboard all year, having scored 283 points in their seven wins. Purdue has put up some points as well, and is averaging almost 33 points per game. That won’t be enough to match the more than 40 points per game OSU is scoring.
OSU and Purdue’s 2012 meeting could become a high-scoring affair very easily. From the Buckeyes’ perspective, their defense is in the midst of an unsettling, downward trend. After allowing just 16 points in its Sept. 29 Big Ten Conference opener against Michigan State, OSU allowed 38 and 49 points in its last two games against Nebraska and the Hoosiers, respectively. The OSU defense is allowing 400 yards per game, making it the 69th-ranked defensive unit in the country. Purdue’s defense isn’t particularly stingy either – the Boilermakers are allowing 412 yards per game and are the 76th-ranked defense in America. The Buckeyes might make their mark in Saturday’s game by turning Purdue over, but the Boilermakers are likely to do the same. OSU has 13 turnovers – 10 interceptions and three fumble recoveries – to Purdue’s 14 turnovers, which include five fumble recoveries and nine interceptions. The OSU defense’s ability to cope with nagging injuries to several players could be a deciding factor in the game.
Not surprisingly, largely untested OSU redshirt junior kick Drew Basil missed a medium-range field goal attempt Saturday against Indiana. His season-long field goal came against the Hoosiers from 35 yards out, but his miss came from the same distance. All told, Basil has hit 3-of-4 field goal attempts on the year, but is a bit of a wild card just because he hasn’t had many opportunities. Basil’s doing fine on kickoffs – he already has 12 touchbacks through seven games compared to last season’s total of 14. The Purdue kicking tandem of redshirt freshman Sam McCartney and freshman Paul Griggs is 4-of-4 on field goal attempts in 2012. Giggs has done the main legwork, hitting all three of his attempts, including 40 and 37-yarders against Michigan.