Prior to each Ohio State game this year, LGHL is going to bring you some “bold predictions”. This will include somewhere around five predictions for the game, whether it be passing yards, points scored, sacks, or a number of other things that we could see happening during the game.
We’d love to hear your bold predictions. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your bold predictions in the comments.
No punts until the fourth quarter
Ohio State has punted less than any team in the Big Ten this season (and less than any team in the FBS except Oklahoma), with just 23 punts on the year. Purdue’s no slouch either, totalling a mere 41 punts so far in 2021. That’s owing, at least on Ohio State’s side, to an explosive offense that efficiently gets out of range where punting is a viable option (there’s also this fun trend of teams opting to go for it more on fourth down with analytics indicating it as a more viable option, though the Buckeyes have successfully converted just 5-of-12 fourth down attempts).
Of course, as a fun fact, when those punts do happen, they’ll probably be somewhat underwhelming, since Ohio State’s Jesse Mirco and Purdue’s Jack Ansell are 13th and 14th respectively in the conference in yards per punt
A special teams touchdown
On that note (and perhaps yes, I’ve been calling for this for too long), the Buckeyes are primed for a special teams touchdown. Freshman receiver Emeka Egbuka leads the Big Ten in kick return yards per attempt with 34.1 (the next player on the list, Michigan’s Blake Corum, is averaging just 25.3). He’s also fourth in the FBS in the same category. In short, Egbuka has been explosive.
While Egbuka’s returns have been critical in setting up Ohio State’s offense to score touchdowns, the young receiver is hungry for one of his own. Maybe this week will be the one he takes a return all the way. Plus, given that we’ll likely see very few punts in today’s matchup, Egbuka’s specialty as a kickoff returner feels like it will be extra relevant this afternoon.
Record games for opposing receivers
The Big Ten’s top two receivers by receiving yards are squaring off today. Purdue’s David Bell has put up magical numbers in 2021 as the only 1,000-yard receiver in the Big Ten (he broke that mark last weekend with his 217-yard performance against Michigan State) and one of just seven in the FBS.
But it helps that he’s really the only receiver Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell is throwing to. Milton Wright, the next receiver on the list, has just 368 receiving yards this season.
Then there’s the Buckeyes. On the other sideline from Bell is Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who’s 105.3 receiving yards per game are second only to Bell. Of course, Smith-Njigba is joined by future first-rounders Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, who share the wealth of C.J. Stroud’s many touchdown passes.
A rushing touchdown for Stroud
C.J. Stroud clearly doesn’t love running, but hear me out: What would be a greater misdirection than an adamantly pass-happy Stroud tucking and running for a score?
Let’s also take a moment to appreciate that Stroud has just five (FIVE) rushing yards on the season. Yes, Stroud is technically averaging just over half a yard per game, and has no scores on the ground. Granted, college football tracks sacks as negative rush yards against the quarterback, but still: Given most of Ohio State’s quarterbacks in recent memory have been undeniably dual threat, it’s strange to see a quarterback who, when the opportunity presents itself, simply will not take off.
It’s not that Stroud is slow. We do not seem to have a Tom Brady situation on our hands. At its best, it looks like outstanding patience in the pocket, waiting for something to open up downfield. At worst, it’s losing out on a three yard gain on the off-chance a 10-yard pass gets open.
A track meet in Waco and a soccer game in Happy Valley
Okay, it’s not that bold, but the over/under for No. 8 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 Baylor is just 62.5, which feels like it’ll get blown out of the water. Oklahoma is averaging nearly 43 points per game and giving up north of 24. Baylor, meanwhile, is putting up more than 36 a game and allowing 20.5. Each will be the most powerful offense the other has faced this season, so expect a typical Big 12 track meet.
At the other end of the spectrum, No. 6 Michigan travels to Penn State, where the over/under is 48.5.While Michigan’s offense in particular can put up points (the Wolverines are behind only Ohio State in the Big Ten with 36.2 points per game), the defenses are, in short, stingy. Might we see under 30 total points in that matchup?