No. 4 Ohio State on upset alert vs. plucky Purdue

NCAA Football

Momentum and history make an intriguing combination for Purdue going into its game against No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

Living up to its reputation as “Spoilermakers,” Purdue (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) has the opportunity to defeat its third top-five opponent this season. The Boilermakers hope to pull off an upset of the heavily favored Buckeyes (8-1, 6-0) for the second time in four seasons.

While Ohio State struggled to a 26-17 win at Nebraska last week, the Boilermakers downed then-No. 3 Michigan State 40-29 in West Lafayette, Ind.

Purdue also won 24-7 at No. 2 Iowa on Oct. 16. It’s the first time since 1960 that the Boilermakers had beaten two top-five teams (No. 3 Ohio State and No. 1 Minnesota) in a season, and they were the fourth program in the past 50 years to do so while unranked in both games.

That won’t be the case this time if the Boilermakers win because Purdue jumped into the College Football Playoff rankings at No. 19 this week.

“They certainly have our attention,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm was asked this week about the Boilermakers thriving as underdogs, which included his 2018 team embarrassing No. 2 Ohio State 49-20 in West Lafayette. The Buckeyes have won 24 straight Big Ten regular-season games since.

“I probably can’t put my finger on it,” Brohm said. “I do think that we have an aggressive approach, an aggressive style that can sometimes look really good and sometimes not. I think we’re willing to take some chances against really good opponents that maybe others aren’t.

“So, I do think that we’re not afraid of the challenge, and we look forward to really tough opponents and seeing how we match up.”

History can work against Purdue as well. The Boilermakers have lost eight straight in Ohio Stadium since a 31-26 win in 1988. The Boilermakers have not played in Columbus since a 29-22 overtime defeat in 2012.

The Buckeyes are trying to regain their swagger on offense. While they rank second nationally in total offense at 542.2 yards per game, they have been held to a 481.0 average in the past two games vs. Penn State and Nebraska.

Of more concern is producing just two touchdowns on nine trips to the red zone in those games, allowing Noah Ruggles to become the first kicker in school history to make four field goals in consecutive games.

“You don’t play high-level football and win championships kicking field goals,” Ohio State offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson said.

The Buckeyes will be looking for balance in the attack after throwing on 54 of 84 plays against the Cornhuskers.

Last week, in the absence of leading receiver Garrett Wilson, who likely will be available Saturday, Jaxon Smith-Njigba set a school record with 15 receptions, including a 75-yard score, against Nebraska for a career-high 240 yards.

Purdue will counter with quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who threw for 536 yards and three TDs against Michigan State with David Bell making 11 catches for 217 yards and a 5-yard touchdown.

“Some people are just amazing players,” Ohio State safety Marcus Williamson said of Bell. “We have a ton of respect for him.”

–Field Level Media

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