Before the Indiana game I posted a blog asking if the Hoosiers really could win. Ignoring the "what are you, an idiot? for asking that question" kind of responses the weight of opinion was : yes, of course, on any given day a weaker team can win, but it will take a perfect storm for it to happen. We did not lose but we came close enough, and my take on it was that it was not a perfect storm, it was only IN playing offense the way they should have been expected to and OSU playing defense they way we had for the previous six games.
The weight of opinion now is that though we are 7-0 few who look behind the numbers are genuinely happy, or all that confident about the future. That lack of confidence does not seem to apply to this week. I've swallowed the kool-aid too, predicting publicly a 52-16 Buckeye win. Even in that post I said that my prediction was not based in logic, and while I am not ready to try to take that prediction back I think it still makes sense to ask if this team is good enough to beat Purdue 52-16.
The offense has been a well-oiled machine for a few weeks. But it was not until Nebraska that it became so on any consistent basis. In week one we struggled for an entitre half against Miami of Ohio. In week four we struggled all game long against UAB. The next week we scored 17 points. That was just three games ago.As recently as last week Devon Smith continued the drops he has had all year, a problem that has laregly been forgiven because he offsets them with long plays, but dropped passes can kill a team. That is a big reason why MSU lost to us. Hall's return is uncertain (or is it?) and behind Hyde is Smith who had a serious fumble problem last year that does not seem to have been fixed. Can we score at will? On the strength of two games it seems so but lesser defenses have stopped us this year. Not recently, but WVU was not held to 14 until they were.
The bigger question is defense. Sarah said explicitly thatr "it is what is is," or words to that effect. I'm not convinced that that is the case. Undersized, too slow, no head for the game, those are unfixable. Not strong enough? hit the weight room. Not tackling? the players can schedule "unofficial" practices and work on it. I'm more inclined to think that the defense is what it has been allowed to be. Personnel problems is an issue, but I think the issue is really coaching. This is not necessarily by neglect. It may be that Meyer is using this year only as preparation for next, and he is willing to take some embarassment, even some losses, to get a squad that knows the concepts and will be that much better for the title run in 2013. I'm not sure that I believe this either. I don't think Meyer likes losing or looking bad. I think the DCs have not done a great job, and UM did not get on their case soon enough. One fan's opinion.
Ragardless, assuming that OSU can score at will what is it reasonable to expect from Purdue? Their offensive struggles the past two weeks have come against good defenses and it is quite optimistic to think that in one week we will transform from a team that gave up 15 points in the last four minutes of the IN game, committing stupid penaltiies doing so, to a four-quarter shut-down machine. Earlier in the year Purdue scored over 50 twice and we have shown the defense that can let that happen.
Danny Hope may be on a hot seat but he does know how to coach. Purdue does not attract the quality of guys who come to Columbus, but the Boilermakers have done as well against us as anyone during Hope's years. More importantly, Hope knows how to coach a spread, and I expect the current Purdue roster knows how to run one. They might not have been doing it all year, or all that well, but they haven't faced a defense quite like ours in a few games. I expect that Purdue will have memorized the Indiana game film and will be doing as best as they can exactly what Indiana did. And since what IN did was nothing magic and we never did stop a basic IN play all game long I expect that if our defense does nt change approach PUR may have some success. With "some" including scoring in the 30s as Purdue has averaged, even factoring in but 27 points in their last two combined.
If Meyer is committed to the defensive scheme that has struggled and is willing to let the team struggle again as a learning experience a lot of people, including me, will be let down by the final score. It may be that he feels that scheme is the future and he can not abandon it. If that's the case if it is possible I'd like to see him over commit that defense to crowding the box. If opposing offenses are picking us apart by getting rid of the ball before we can get pressure on the QB then what we might be able to do is clog passing lanes with more bodies. This obviously carries the risk of PUR going behind a packed-in D, but given the big plays we are allowing, the short passes we are letting become 76 yard gallops, what have we to lose? More bodies up tight also allows for masking where the blitz is coming from. But perhaps this is not possible, I am asking Defense A to play like Defense B and no can do.
I'm not going to withdraw my 52-16 prediction. But truth be told I'm not feeling very good about it. Give me analysis that will make me more confident.