The Purdue Boilermakers have been a colossal thorn in the side of the Ohio State Buckeyes through recent years, at least since 2000. Purdue has five wins against the Buckeyes over the past 20 seasons and that is even more remarkable when you figure that Purdue has played fewer games against Ohio State with the two teams playing in separate divisions of the Big Ten.

Purdue’s five wins against Ohio State from the 2000 season has happened in just 13 meetings, the only other team with five wins over the same span of time is Penn State and that has taken 22 match-ups. Wisconsin sits next with four (over 17 games) and then Michigan and Michigan State each have three wins as divisional foes.

ALSO: Bucks and Boilers have had some moments

Another way to look at this is that almost 19-percent of Ohio State’s league losses over the past 20-plus seasons have come at the hands of Purdue, five of 27. Or try this one on for size, Purdue has beaten Ohio State 38.5.-percent of the time the two teams have faced off over the past 20-plus years.

It almost sounds far-fetched, but it is true.

What are we to make of the 2021 edition of this game? The Buckeyes are close to a three-touchdown favorite but the Boilermakers were also a road underdog going into Iowa before knocking off the then No. 2 Hawkeyes and while betters were not willing to be fooled again going into the Michigan State game, nobody seems to be giving the Boilers much of a chance against the Buckeyes.

Is that a mistake? What are we missing here/

Let’s just get to the Tale of the Tape already and see if we can bring some clarity to this one.

Ohio StateStatRankPurdueStatRank
Rushing Offense189.4 YPG42ndRushing Defense144.4 YPG61st
Passing Offense352.8 YPG6thPassing Eff. Defense113.0612th
Scoring Offense44.9 PPG2ndScoring Defense18.4 PPG16th

Ohio State QB/WR/TE vs. Purdue Defensive Backs

What is exactly going on with the Ohio State offense? After scoring in the 50s for four consecutive weeks the Buckeyes have combined for 59 points over their last two games. It is not fair to put this all in the passing section but it has to live somewhere and this is where it is for now. CJ Stroud and the Buckeyes threw for 305 yards against Penn State and 405 yards against Nebraska but the biggest question is why the Buckeyes are having to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, to the tune of eight field goals over the past two games. Not having Garrett Wilson last week was an obvious negative, even with Jaxon Smith-Njigba stepping up for a record amount of receptions, it did show what happened with the Buckeyes lacking one of their downfield threats, especially with Ohio State being limited in downfield throws during the course of the game. Stroud has been right in the 65-to-66-percent completion rate over the past two games, down from where he was at during the previous games where the Buckeyes were enjoying putting up points by the bunches. In four of Ohio State’s five losses to Purdue throughout the 2000s, the run/pass balance was heavily skewed towards the pass with Ohio State having 135 more passing than rushing yards with only the 2011 loss seeing more rushing than passing yards and only by a margin of 31. This discrepancy was illustrated in the last meeting of 2018 when Ohio State threw for 394 more passing yards than it was able to get on the ground. With Ohio State coming off of a game where it had 310 more passing yards than rushing yards against Nebraska, this is something that will have to be noticed, and while it is not a pure predictor of what the outcome could be, the pattern has been shown that once Ohio State gets too reliant upon the pass, troubles ensue against Purdue, granted all five of the losses this century happened on the road and this game will be played at home. In Ohio State’s eight wins over the past 20-plus years, the Buckeyes have averaged 224.6 yards per game, 31 fewer yards per game than in its five losses.

Purdue has done a good job this season against the pass and has 11 interceptions as a team but eight of those came in two games, four each against Nebraska and Iowa. Now, that does not mean that Purdue can’t get multiple picks against any team in any setting, but just that the bulk of the sudden changes happened in two games and over the course of the remaining seven games there have been just a total of three picks. Cam Allen leads the team with four picks from his safety position. Cornerback Jamari Brown is a big corner at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds while fellow corner Dedrick Mackey is a fifth-year player but a more traditional size at 5-foot-11, 190-pounds. No team this season has thrown for 300-plus yards against Purdue with week one foe, Oregon State, coming closest at 285 yards. Purdue has not faced a top-30 passing offense this season (Ohio State is No. 6) and Nebraska would be the tops on the list of teams played at No. 35. In a strange look at the numbers, in the 13 games that these two teams have played from the year 2000, Purdue has at least one interception in nine of the games and Ohio State has thrown at least one pick in the last three games. There is no rhyme or reason when it comes to using that as a predictor of an outcome as Ohio State has lost a game where it did not throw a pick and won three of them, just as Ohio State has won games where it threw three picks (2007). Only four teams on the schedule have attempted 30 or more passes against Purdue, but teams are also averaging just 61.2 plays per game on offense to Purdue’s 77 plays. Edge: Ohio State (provided we see a more balanced attack and not a 2018 type of attack)

Ohio State Running Backs vs. Purdue Linebackers

Ohio State is not going to win this game if it rushes for only 90 yards. That is pretty much a given. Sure, the Buckeyes could have seven touchdowns of five-yards or less in the red zone and that would prove that statement to be incorrect, but we saw a very unbalanced offense last week against Nebraska and we saw a very unbalanced offense against Purdue in 2018 and saw what resulted out of that. For those who have blocked that game out of their minds, Ohio State ran for 76 yards in that game while throwing for 470 yards in a game that went horribly awry. In the past 13 games, Ohio State has not exactly gashed Purdue in a major way, averaging 138 yards per game on the ground in all games. That numbers moves up to better than 159 yards per game in the wins and shrinks to 104.2 yards per game in the losses. The questions are being asked if TreVeyon Henderson has hit a freshman wall or if the wall he is hitting is opposing defenders as the offensive line is not quite as successful as it had been in previous games. Another question is why aren’t the Buckeyes getting Henderson to the edges more, rather than more runs between the tackles. Henderson has the body and the game to be a between the tackles type of runner but he had so much success off-tackle, it begs to question if teams have gotten wise to slowing down Ohio State’s interior run and it is time for Ohio State to make a few changes. The Buckeyes are quite thin at the position with the loss of Marcus Crowley for “a significant amount of time” but there have to be situations for both Miyan Williams and Master Teague to come in and spell the true freshman back. We have come a long way from everyone complaining that Henderson was not seeing enough playing time. 2018 was the last time that Ohio State had back-to-back games where it did not break 100 yards rushing with the Purdue game being the second one in that run, resulting in a loss. Ohio State could be looking at a similar situation if it can’t spring the running game in this one, by any means necessary.

Purdue is a mid-pack team when it comes to run defense and teams that have wanted to run the ball, have been able to run it this season. The numbers can be a little deceptive with Oregon State only rushing for 78 yards, but there were three touchdowns on those 25 carries, so while Purdue may have won the battle of limiting yardage, the Beavers won the war with 21 points scored off of the ground game (and yes, Purdue won the biggest war by winning that game 31-20). Purdue has given up six rushing touchdowns over the last three games combined with Wisconsin also hitting the three touchdown mark but that was on 51 carries for 290 yards. Purdue has faced five top-35 rush offenses this season, so the Boilermakers have seen teams that are more then capable of running the ball and Ohio State will not be able to walk in the door and just blow the Boilers away with something that they have never seen before. Ohio State’s hope is that the Buckeyes are the most balanced attack that the Boilers have seen, but the last two weeks for Ohio State might not exactly prove that to be the case as Ohio State has become very pass heavy without any real threat of a quarterback run to keep defenses honest and respecting a mobile quarterback position. Purdue’s linebackers are all seniors and while the names of Kieren Douglas, Jaylan Alexander and Jalen Graham are not household names around Buckeye Nation, they have all been very strong pieces to a defense that is better than advertised. Edge: Unknown (are you going to promise me that we will see the real Ohio State run offense this week?)

Ohio State Offensive Line vs. Purdue Defensive Line

Just a couple of weeks ago I was singing the praises of the offensive line as the strength of this team and now we sit here wondering if the right five guys are in the right five positions. Is a line of four tackles and a center really working for Ohio State or have teams found out the best way to defeat the line in run blocking and turn the Buckeyes into the very one-dimensional team that we have railed against all season long in these pieces? Three linemen graded out as champions in the Nebraska game and that grading seems to be a little off. The pass protection has been really good, there is no denying that but are we seeing the same type of push up front when the Buckeyes want to run the ball, or need to run the ball? What exactly is going on in red zone offense? What is the answer? Is now the time to make some moves to get guys in the best positions or do you try and ride with the hand that you dealt at the start of the year? Where does Matt Jones fit into all of this? He has proven to be too good not to play but do you move a miscast piece like Paris Johnson off for now and know that he is more than capable of stepping in as needed but his future is next year at tackle? A lot of serious discussion have to be taking place at the WHAC because the offensive line room is way too talented for some of the results that everyone has been seeing down the stretch.

George Karlaftis, that is what you need to know here. You hear his name a lot, you will hear his name a lot. When I went to look at his stats, I was surprised they were not double or triple what he has, but the guy just makes plays, even if they don’t show up in the book. He leads Purdue with 7.5 tackles for loss, is second on the team with three sacks and if he is not making the play, he is generally chasing the person with the ball into someone else, who will make the play. He is not the most imposing looking player on the team for the Boilermakers at 6-foot-4, 275-pounds but don’t let that fool you. He is flanked by Kydran Jenkins, a 6-foot-1, 270-pound end on the other side. Brandon Deen leads the team in sacks at his defensive tackle position while Lawrence Johnson is a bit of a space eater at 6-foot-3, 310-pounds. Purdue is not a team with a lot of sacks (16) or TFLs (51) but with Purdue just giving up a little more than 18 points per game, something has to be working for this defense. Edge: Ohio State (and I say that just based on I see this being a bounce-back game for the line)

Ohio StateStatRankPurdueStatRank
Rush Defense107.6 YPG15thRush Offense77.1 YPG128th
Pass Eff. Defense123.1835thPass Offense332.4 YPG8th
Scoring Defense19.0 PPG19thScoring Offense24.8 PPG90th

Ohio State Defensive Backs vs. Purdue QB/WR/TE

It really is going to come down to this. If Purdue is able to throw the ball all over the field, put up points and keep the Ohio State offense off the field, it could be one of those days. If Ohio State is able to slow down this unit, there is not much else left with this offense to consider as the Boilermakers have been among the nation’s least productive running teams. Denzel Burke may have said that Jahan Dotson was, ‘nothing I can’t handle’ when Ohio State played Purdue (Dotson had 11 receptions for 127 yards and zero touchdowns, but was not always lined up against Burke) but how does Burke feel about Purdue receiver David Bell? (More on Bell later in this section). Is Ohio State going to really just match-up against Bell with Burke, or could Cam Brown and Sevyn Banks get their turns as well? No opponent has thrown for more than two touchdowns against Ohio State in a game and the last three have all been held to one per game. Penn State’s Sean Clifford threw for 361 yards, Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez threw for 248 yards, so there is the ability to move the chains but the Ohio State defense has been able to stiffen and not allow teams into the end zone, but neither the Nittany Lions nor the Cornhuskers were as single-minded about throwing the ball as Purdue is. In Purdue’s five wins over Ohio State from 2000-current, the Boilers average 326.8 yards per game throwing the ball while in Purdue’s eight losses the number falls to 205.1 yards per game. The blueprint is pretty obvious but sometimes knowing what you need to do and being able to do it are two different things.

We will get to David Bell in a second, let’s first address what can the Buckeyes expect at quarterback, or who? Last week for Purdue it was Aidan O’Connell the whole way but we have also seen games where Jack Plummer and Austin Burton get in, even if it is O’Connell, a former walk-on, responsible for most, if not all, the passing. Against a top-five Michigan State team, O’Connell threw for 536 yards on 40-54 passing, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. That doesn’t mean that O’Connell doesn’t throw picks, he has eight on the season, but in that giant showcase game, he had a clean sheet. He was clean as well against Iowa, the other “Spoilermaker special” of the season. So much of this comes down to having a freak target like David Bell, who plays his best ball in the biggest games. Both of his 200-plus yard games were in the top-five matchups this season, going 11-217-1 against Michigan State and going 11-240-1 against Iowa. For everything that we hear about Bell, he only has one game where he has scored more than one receiving touchdown (UConn) but with 22 of his 64 catches on the season and 457 of his 1,003 yards taking place in the two biggest games of the season-to-date, we should just call him “Big Game Bell” at this point and see how the Buckeyes fare. Milton Wright has 36 grabs, 368 yards and three scores while tight end Payne Durham has 36 catches as well for 356 yards and four scores. Also keep an eye on TJ Sheffield who has three scores of his own. Edge: Purdue (just because this will be by far the toughest test the Ohio State pass defense has seen this year, by a wide margin)

Ohio State Linebackers vs. Purdue Running Backs

It has been seven games since an opponent has rushed for more than 115 yards against the Buckeyes and while Ohio State has given up three rushing touchdowns over the past two games after going six games without giving up a touchdown on the ground, things appear to be going well for the run defense. Ohio State did not have Steele Chambers last week for the first half after he had to finish out his targeting call penalty picked up in the Penn State game, Chambers came right into the game to start the second half and proved to be among the best on the defensive side of the ball. With Purdue’s lack of success in running the ball, there does not feel like much to talk about here when it comes to run defense. Who will draw the assignment of staying on Purdue tight end Payne Durham in the passing game? Will the Buckeyes assume that Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer is in to run the ball, and more importantly, how will they go about making that happen? This game is going to be so tilted towards the passing game that it is almost dangerous just because of that because it is easy to grow complacent, but you can’t do that against a Purdue team that finds itself ranked once again and has to major pelts on the wall as it has taken down a pair of top-five teams and the Buckeyes don’t want to be the third and have their season ruined by the Boilers.

Quick, who is Purdue’s leading rusher? If you said King Doerue then I am going to accuse you of cheating and looking it up. With Zander Horvath only playing in four games this season, Doerue has had to step up as the main running threat and he has 105 carries for 395 yards, two scores and a 3.8 YPC average. Purdue has five rushing touchdowns as a team, a 2.4 YPC (sack-adjusted) number and is averaging just 77.1 yards per game on the ground. Purdue has rushed for fewer than 100 yards in seven of nine games this season and the top rushing game took place against a horrible UConn team, a game where Purdue rushed for 187 yards and a score, on 42 carries. Purdue only has broken the 100-yard mark once in league play, a 41 carry, 116 yard game against Nebraska that only led to one score. In short, Purdue is not a running team. Over the 13 games these two teams have played since the 2000 season, Purdue averages just 77.1 yards per game against the Buckeyes. The number is a little bit better in the wins where the number balloons up to 104.2 yards per game and the number shrinks to just 60.1 yards per game in the eight losses. Purdue’s best rushing game against Ohio State over those 13 games came in the last meeting when the Boilermakers ran for 161 yards and 40 of that came on a DJ Knox run that put the Boilermakers up 23 points with less than seven minutes to go in the game. It is going to be tough sledding for Purdue to find much success running in this game, but is Purdue really concerned about that? Edge: Ohio State

Ohio State Defensive Line vs. Purdue Offensive Line

The Buckeyes have started to get home with the pass rush and while it is not in the same area code as a defense like Georgia’s pass rush, it has come a long way since the start of the season and this week could be another good week for Ohio State if you just look at the numbers of what Purdue has allowed in terms of sacks and the trending numbers of the Buckeyes. Purdue’s quarterbacks are not the most mobile in the Big Ten and while you always have to worry about the quarterback run, this game could have a good amount of opportunities for the line to really focus on the pass rush with little threat of a run game. Six players have at least four TFLs on the season (more importantly five are on the line) and five players have at least three sacks. It is going to be of the utmost importance for this unit to create as much havoc as possible as the Purdue passing game has been the entirety of the offense. Purdue has thrown for better than 70-percent in its last four games and has only been held under 70-percent in three games this season, the last time occurring against Minnesota. If Ohio State could keep O’Connell et al scrambling and not allow anyone to get set, it would go a long way in making this game a lot less stressful for scarlet and gray clad fans.

Purdue has given up 25 sacks on the year and the Boilers can’t run the ball. But this is still a top-25 team based on what the passing attack is able to do. You can stop the run on 1st down, sack the quarterback on 2nd down but if the quarterback throws for 25 yards on 3rd down to keep the chains moving, the drive stays alive and it is difficult to get the offense off the field with no points. Under the best of circumstances, opposing offensive linemen are rarely known, it is compounded when the school does not recruit against Ohio State for players and names become even more anonymous. There are few names on this line that are known outside of potentially right tackle Eric Miller who is from Mason (Ohio) and his back up, Cam Craig, who is a local player out of Dublin Jerome high school. The Boilers did go to the portal to pick up a pair of starters with Greg Long coming from UTEP to lock down the left tackle position and Tyler Witt from Western Kentucky to lock down the right guard spot. The line obviously is doing enough to allow the passing game to do its thing, the line is doing enough to push the Boilermakers to a pair of monumental upsets, but are either going to matter this week? Edge: Ohio State

CategoryOhio StateRankPurdueRank
Net Punt40.65 YPP45th36.66 YPP111th
Punt Return5.88 YPR93th7.06 YPR80th
Kickoff Return29.29 YPR5th13.46 YPR129th
FG Percentage15-15 (100%)N/A14-18 (77.8%)N/A

This one is pretty simple, Ohio State likely won’t have any major punt returns as that has been its calling card all season long. Jesse Mirco is punting about two to four times a game and the Buckeyes are doing a good job on covering those. Noah Ruggles has been called upon a lot more for field goals than touchdowns over the last two games, something that the Buckeyes want to reverse but any kick that Ruggles has been presented has been converted.

None of Purdue’s special team numbers are all that remarkable, Mitchell Fineran has a range from 48-yards out at place kicker but has struggled in the 30-39 range, going 6-10. He too is coming off a game where he went 4/4 on field goal attempts against Michigan State. The Boilers are second to last in the nation in kick returns but also have less than 1.5 attempts per game as most teams either kick deep or Purdue opts for a fair catch. Edge: Ohio State

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