On paper, Saturday's matchup with the Purdue Boilermakers should fairly easily result in adding yet one more to Ohio State's win column. Purdue is currently 1-6, has three true freshmen in key starting roles, and it's safe to say that the Buckeyes are on a roll. In reality, however, the Boilermakers' history against the Buckeyes points to the fact that Ohio State may have to work pretty hard for this one.
Ohio State owns a considerable advantage in the series history between these two teams, with 39 wins, 14 losses, and two ties since these teams first met in 1919. A closer look at recent history between these two teams reveals a number of close, hard-fought games, regardless of the relative strength of either team.
The Buckeye faithful remember the 2002 season well, particularly the fact that it culminated in a BCS Championship victory over the Miami Hurricanes. It probably would have unfolded differently had the Buckeyes not kept their undefeated season alive by squeaking past Purdue for a 10-6 win.
Late in the fourth quarter, Purdue held a 6-3 lead over the third-ranked Buckeyes, and Craig Krenzel converted a fourth-and-one into a 37-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins with just 1:36 left to play, sealing the win for Ohio State, and preserving their Big Ten title and National Championship hopes.
The following year, the Buckeyes were ranked fourth in the BCS standings heading into the matchup against 13th-ranked Purdue. The game was tied 13-13 as regulation expired, and Mike Nugent made a field goal, despite the fact that Purdue very nearly blocked it, to put the Buckeyes ahead 16-13. Purdue tried to answer, and their kicker missed the field goal.
Three of the last four times the Buckeyes have visited Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium have not gone well for Ohio State. In 2004, the visiting Buckeyes got off to a slow start against the Boilermakers, trailing 17-3 at the half. In the second half, it looked like the Buckeyes might have a shot to turn the game around.
The Buckeyes scored 14 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters, tying the game, but Purdue managed to pull off the win after quarterback Kyle Orton, who had been held out of the game with a hip injury, came in midway through the fourth quarter to replace Brandon Kirsch following an interception. Orton connected with Dustin Keller in the end zone with 2:17 remaining in the game, putting Purdue ahead 24-17, and sealing the Buckeyes loss.
In 2009, 7th-ranked Ohio State traveled to Ross-Ade Stadium only to suffer an upset loss at the hands of the Boilermakers. Terrelle Pryor had a rough game, throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles, and the mistakes were too much for the Buckeyes to overcome. A 25-yard touchdown pass to Devier Posey, plus a two-point conversion courtesy of Pryor's legs, gave the Buckeyes some hope midway through the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough.
The last time Ohio State played the Boilermakers at Purdue was 2011. It was a down year for Ohio State, with all of the fallout from Tattoo-gate rearing its ugly head. The Buckeyes went into the half trailing 17-7, and managed to fight back in the second half to tie the game 20-20 with 55 seconds remaining in regulation. The PAT attempt was blocked, and the game went into overtime.
Ohio State struck first, with a Drew Basil field goal, putting the Buckeyes in the lead 23-20, but Purdue answered with a one-yard touchdown run, winning the game 26-23.
Last season's matchup was memorable. It was a close game throughout, with the Boilermakers striking first on an 83-yard Caleb TerBush pass to Akeem Shavers, but Ohio State blocked the PAT attempt. Braxton Miller answered with a rushing touchdown, making the score 7-6, Buckeyes. Akeem Hunt returned the ensuing kick for a touchdown, giving Purdue a 13-7 lead that held until the third quarter.
The Buckeyes and Boilermakers traded touchdowns again in the third quarter, giving Purdue a 20-14 lead going into the fourth quarter. Toward the end of the third quarter, Braxton Miller was injured, and Buckeye Nation collectively held their breath, because it looked to be a potentially devastating injury.
Kenny Guiton took over for Miller under center and smooth-jazzed the Buckeyes to an overtime win. Early in the fourth quarter, Purdue added two points from a safety to their score, extending their lead to 22-14. With three seconds remaining in the game, Kenny G.'s touchdown pass to Chris Fields, and a successful two point conversion to Jeff Heuerman, tied the game, sending it into overtime.
A one-yard Carlos Hyde touchdown run gave the Buckeyes the advantage in overtime, and Purdue was unable to score on the ensuing possession, locking up an Ohio State win and preserving the Buckeyes' perfect record.
And so the Buckeyes will again be called upon to beat Purdue to preserve their ranking, their record, and their postseason hopes. Purdue has struggled mightily this season, beating only the Indiana State Sycamores so far, whose record is currently 1-7. Losing to the Boilermakers would be a shocking loss, indeed. The history of close games and Purdue upsets between the Buckeyes and the Boilermakers, however, should be a cautionary tale for the Buckeyes to not look past Purdue.