Ohio State has had its share of recent struggles on the road against Purdue. Last year was no different, which wasn't as unexpected, given the struggles the Buckeyes endured all season long. As Drew Basil's extra point was blocked, sending a frustrating game into overtime, the 2011 Buckeyes' four-game losing streak was born.
The Boilermakers, however, have never beaten the Buckeyes in back-to-back years, and the game returns to Columbus this year, as Ohio State hopes to keep that streak alive and avenge last year's debacle.
This week we welcome Travis Baugh of the Purdue Exponent and Mike Carmin of the Lafayette Journal and Courier to share their insights on this Boilermaker team and let us know what to watch for this Saturday.
We're now at the midpoint of the season, and Purdue is 3-3, winless in the Big Ten. How does this differ from preseason expectations you may have had for the Boilermakers?
Travis Baugh: Preseason hopes were high for this team with the most returning starters in the Big Ten, the Leaders Division situation and a schedule with three of Purdue's toughest conference games at home in Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State. Expectations were raised even higher when Purdue went 3-1 in non-conference play, with the one loss coming to a top five team on the road in Notre Dame. But Purdue has come out flat in Big Ten play, getting outscored 82-27 and ranking near the bottom of the conference in almost every statistical category. Purdue fans expected this team to be in a much better position than they are now.
Mike Carmin: The record isn't a surprise, based on what the Boilermakers faced in their first three Big Ten games. It's how Purdue has arrived at this point, suffering back-to-back blowout losses at home by a combined 55 points. Michigan and Wisconsin are solid teams, but the Boilermakers had the most starters returning of any Big Ten team. It's not that they lost, but how they lost. Neither game was competitive and over by halftime. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for any postseason games and Indiana and Illinois down, this was Purdue's prime opportunity to make it to Indianapolis.
Purdue used three quarterbacks against Wisconsin on Saturday, with no success. Can you give a brief explanation of the Boilermakers quarterback situation, and who/what we can expect to see behind the center on Saturday?
Baugh: Caleb TerBush entered the 2012 season as the starter after leading Purdue to a 7-6 record and bowl victory in 2011. Purdue head coach Danny Hope calls him his "winningest, healthiest, and most experienced" quarterback. Robert Marve provided the Purdue offense with a boost in relief of TerBush in 2011, and was doing so again this season before tearing his ACL for a third time against Notre Dame. He somehow missed just one game with a torn ACL and is back in his role in "providing a spark" for the Purdue offense, according to Danny Hope. Hope is careful to limit Marve's reps with the injury, however. Rob Henry is a dual-threat who can give Purdue a different look in the Wildcat formation. He's played sparingly in 2012.
Carmin: It changes week to week. It appears Caleb TerBush is going to get a bulk of the playing time against Ohio State. Danny Hope would've been better if he left TerBush in against Wisconsin, not that it would've made a difference. Robert Marve is playing on one good knee after tearing the ACL for a third time against Notre Dame. He looked good against Michigan, but had no impact last week. Rob Henry has seen limited action. More of a runner than a thrower and would bring a different dimension to the offense. About year out from his ACL surgery that cut his 2011 season short.
Purdue struggled the past two weeks against Michigan and Wisconsin at home, particularly when it came to rushing defense. Why has this been such an issue for them? Any reason to believe the Boilermakers will bounce back this Saturday against Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde?
Baugh: Purdue has battled some health issues, which has certainly played a factor in its 3-3 start. Defensive end Ryan Russell, defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, and cornerback Ricardo Allen have all battled through injuries but are not 100 percent. Purdue's linebackers are an inexperienced group that is suffering without middle linebacker Dwayne Beckford, who was dismissed from the team just weeks before the season started. Beckford's absence left outside linebacker Will Lucas as the only linebacker with game experience before 2012.
Carmin: Surprised Purdue's defensive line is getting pushed around. Kawann Short is one of the top defensive linemen in the nation and the group has depth. But they've disappeared the last two weeks. Not expecting them to stop Miller and Hyde. Can't stop them both. It's rare that in consecutive weeks that Purdue faced Denard Robinson, Montee Ball and now Miller and Hyde. Not sure many teams could withstand that stretch.
What is the biggest strength of this Purdue team that they will be looking to capitalize on against Ohio State?
Carmin: Right now, this team has no strengths. The Boilermakers can't run or throw effectively, thanks to inconsistent play from the quarterback position. They can't stop the run, haven't registered a sack in Big Ten play and the linebackers are nowhere to be found in pass coverage. Cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson are two of the best, but they can cover for so long. One strength is punter Cody Webster, who has placed 15 punts inside the 20. But he's had three blocked.
Can you give two Boilermakers, on each side of the ball, for OSU fans to look for on Saturday?
Baugh: Two of Purdue's biggest playmakers on the offensive side of the ball are wide receiver Antavian Edison and running back Akeem Hunt. Edison has caught a pass in 27 straight games and ranks fifth in the Big Ten in catches per game and 8th in yards per game. Hunt is a reserve running back with sprinter speed who averages 12.5 yards per touch and has three touchdowns of 50 yards or more. Also an excellent kick returner, Hunt ranks ninth in the Big Ten with 109.3 all-purpose yards.
Defensive tackle Kawann Short and cornerback Ricardo Allen are the unquestioned stars of the Purdue defense. Short, a preseason All-American, leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 9.0 and is fourth in sacks with 4.0. He's also the all-time Purdue record holder in blocked field goals with six after another one last week against Wisconsin. Allen is a playmaking cornerback whose four career interception returns for touchdowns are a Purdue record and tied for the most for active FBS players.
Carmin: At Purdue, you always watch the quarterback. TerBush will start and should play a lot. The offense features a lot of east-west throws and not many downfield. TerBush needs a big game for Purdue to have a chance. Also on offense, running back Ralph Bolden. It's his second game back after a third ACL injury last season. Received limited playing time against Wisconsin and should factor more in the game plan this week since the Boilermakers need to establish the run.
On defense, Kawann Short. Likely a late first-round draft pick next spring. Has a knack for blocking kicks. Keep an eye on Ricardo Allen. As a junior, he already has the school record with four interceptions returns for touchdowns, topping Rod Woodson's record. Needs one to tie the FBS record.
Final thoughts and prediction for the game?
Baugh: I think this game will be a high-scoring affair, similar to Ohio State's game against Indiana last week. Purdue will have some success against the Buckeye defense, but ultimately Braxton Miller will exploit the Boilermaker defense and be too much to handle. Ohio State 42, Purdue 24.
Carmin: Can't create a scenario where the Boilermakers are around at the end. They've been horrible in the third quarter against Big Ten teams the last two seasons. The offense hasn't shown any signs of progress against quality competition and not sure the defense can slow down Ohio State's offense. With the Buckeyes focusing on playing better defense, this is probably going to get out of hand early. Ohio State 49, Purdue 15.
Thanks again to Travis and Mike for sharing their Purdue knowledge with us. To read more from these contributors, please check out the links below.