October 19, 2012

What to watch for: Ohio State vs. Purdue

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Although you wouldn't know it from the negativity around the Ohio State football program that's been provided by fans and media like, the Buckeyes are still undefeated, and will look to remain so when they host 3-3 Purdue at noon in Ohio Stadium tomorrow. With OSU quickly becoming one the nation's most talked about teams under first-year head coach Urban Meyer, we take our weekly look at which storylines you should keep an eye on heading into the Buckeyes' battle with the Boilermakers.

Keep on rolling

Before we get to the bad, let's take a look at the good. Over the past two weeks, the Buckeyes offense has been responsible for an average of 50.5 points per game, with special teams and the OSU defense each being responsible for touchdowns in the Buckeyes' wins over Nebraska and Indiana.

Tomorrow will provide an opportunity for Braxton Miller and company to continue their stellar play as of late, which has resulted in the Buckeyes ranking eighth in the nation in rushing, and 20th in scoring. Ideally, OSU would add more passing to its attack, considering that the Buckeyes are currently 103rd in the country in that statistic, but when push comes to shove, it's hard to argue against offense that has averaged 362 rushing yards in each of the team's past two games.

Getting defensive

Now, for the bad.

To say that the OSU defense has struggled in each of the past two weeks would be an understatement. The Buckeyes surrendered an average of 43.5 points in each of the team's past two wins, with lowly Indiana putting up 49 points in a 3-point loss to OSU.

That performance alone has left many criticizing the Buckeyes' defensive players and coaching staff and has also led to Meyer vowing to become more involved in OSU's game planning on that side of the ball. The Boilermakers won't exactly be bringing a dominant offense to The Horseshoe tomorrow, but it also hasn't taken one to rattle the Buckeyes' defense through their first seven games.

Stopping the spread

One of the biggest reasons why the Buckeyes defense has run into trouble this season has been its failure to stop playmakers in space, and Purdue possesses a few of them in wide receiver O.J. Ross and running back Ralph Bolden.

Players such as Shane Wynn, Brendan Bigelow, and Rex Burkhead have found success in racking up big numbers against the OSU defense, and Saturday will provide the Buckeyes with another chance to prove that they are capable of keying in on an opponent's top player and shutting him down, which could be made even more difficult with fullback Zach Boren again expected to play linebacker for the Buckeyes.

Getting Short

Defensively, Purdue possesses a playmaker of its own in defensive tackle Kawann Short. A projected NFL draft pick, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Short is a load in the middle of the Boilermakers' defense, and allows Purdue the versatility to line up with multiple fronts on that side of the ball.

OSU center Corey Linsley will draw the assignment of stopping Short, perhaps the toughest opponent he'll face all season. Meyer said earlier that he needs to see more out what he calls "the apex" of his offense, so Saturday's matchup will provide linsley with the opportunity to do just that.

The march to New York

Thanks to a bowl ban, the Buckeyes already know that their season will end on Nov. 24 following their game against Michigan, but with the way Miller has been playing, the program has the opportunity to find some success in the weeks following 'The Game.'

That's because the OSU quarterback has found himself as one of just a few players to be mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy winner. Now that at least 300 yards of offense and 100-plus yards of offense seem like a given for No. 5 in the Ohio State backfield, Saturday should provide Miller with the opportunity to add to his already impressive highlight reel resume this season.


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