Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern photographer
Riding the longest winning streak of the season with three games, the Buckeyes will hit the road Saturday to take on the 4-5 (2-3 Big Ten) Purdue Boilermakers.
While much emphasis and attention will be placed on Penn State’s performance against Nebraska amid its scandal and looming matchup with Ohio State Nov. 19, the Buckeyes cannot overlook Purdue and will, as always, need a full team effort.
It will be more of the same for the Buckeye offense who registered 346 yards rushing last week, the highest total in 15 years for the team. Whether by coincidence or not, OSU is 21-1 in games in which senior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron rushes for 55 yards or more.
The obvious plan of attack for the Buckeyes is a steady run diet to give freshman quarterback Braxton Miller the luxury of play-action passes. Miller hasn’t attempted more than 13 passes in any contest so far this year, and don’t expect anything different against a defense which ranks 43rd nationally in pass defense and 92nd in rushing defense.
The coaches would be wise to give the majority of the non-Herron carries to sophomore Carlos Hyde. Hyde has shown huge bursts of big-play ability, including a 47-yard rush down the right sideline against the Hoosiers. Junior running back Jordan Hall is coming off of an ankle injury and will likely be hesitant to make certain cuts.
The defense has a bit of a chip on its shoulder after giving up 20 points and 333 yards of offense to Indiana in a game that wasn’t in the bag until the final three minutes. Whether they took the Hoosiers lightly is all speculation, but look for the defense to respond and get after the Boilermakers a little more on Saturday.
The Boilermaker quarterbacks have eight interceptions on the year and have surrendered 20 sacks to their opponents.
Sophomore corner Bradley Roby, tied for third in the Big Ten with three interceptions this season, may add to his total and move up the list.
The unit’s strongest group, the defensive line, will be drooling at the chance to take the quarterback down. Junior John Simon has five sacks in the last three contests and 10 tackles for loss in the last four. He will need to be a nightmare for the offensive line all game long.
Is there really anything to say about the special teams?
As for the Buckeye returners, sometimes calling a fair catch and having no return is the best option, rather than a turnover (Hall).
Junior punter Ben Buchanan is now second in the NCAA with 11 punts inside the 10-yard line for Ohio State and will be key once again in winning the turnover battle.
Sophomore kicker Drew Basil has connected on 12 straight attempts for OSU this season. Though it is unlikely that Basil will never miss a field goal again, the Buckeyes realistically need to win-out to have a shot at the Big Ten Championship this year and every point is precious.
The hardest part of every week, as coach Luke Fickell mentioned in his Tuesday press conference, is impressing on the team the importance of each and every game and how any Big Ten contest could go either way.
In that vein, Fickell will need to keep his team focused on the task at hand and ignore the potentially deciding game against Penn State on Nov. 19. He seems to have done so, as neither he nor fifth-year senior Tyler Moeller said they were aware of the Leaders division standings. However, there are many more on the team that I am sure are more than aware of where the Buckeyes stand.
Hyde is a playmaker and the coaches should give him the majority of the carries after Herron. Also, Hyde is the running back of the immediate future and the more touches he gets, the better.