Ohio State wants its third trip to the state of Indiana this season to be as successful as the first two when the No. 3 Buckeyes visit West Lafayette to play upset-minded Purdue on Saturday.
In a quirk of the schedule for the Buckeyes (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), the matchup against the Boilermakers (2-4, 1-2) means they will have played as many games in their neighboring state as in Columbus so far this season.
Ohio State already owns victories in Bloomington against Indiana and South Bend against Notre Dame.
Logic suggests the Buckeyes will make it a sweep against a Purdue team still trying to find traction under first-year coach Ryan Walters, who replaced Jeff Brohm when he left for his alma mater, Louisville, after six seasons with the Boilermakers.
Purdue is coming off a 20-14 loss at Iowa in which quarterback Hudson Card was sacked six times and threw two interceptions. Walters said he and his staff need to put Card in better positions to succeed.
“We can also help him out in that area and give him better answers and put him in scenarios where the ball is designed to get out quick,” Walters said. “That’s one of the things that we’ve looked at, that we need to adapt and adjust to give our quarterback the best chance to be successful on Saturdays.”
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s once-dynamic offense failed to score a first-half touchdown for the second straight game and needed a pick-six by safety Josh Proctor to rally for a 10-10 halftime score before the Buckeyes prevailed 37-17 against Maryland last Saturday.
The Buckeyes totaled 142 yards in the first half. For the game, they rushed for only 62 yards while averaging 1.9 yards per carry.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said the running game is not up to the Buckeyes’ standards.
“This is the expectation. I get it,” he said. “Nobody wants to run the ball more than me. We’ve just got to execute it better. We have to coach it better, and that starts with me.”
Team leading rusher TreVeyon Henderson missed the game due to an undisclosed injury, but Day said Tuesday that he expects him to be available Saturday.
Ohio State is nearly a three-touchdown favorite, but history says don’t count out the Boilermakers.
The last time Ohio State visited, in 2018, the unranked Boilermakers humiliated then-coach Urban Meyer’s second-ranked team 49-20. The lone loss of the season for the Buckeyes kept them out of the College Football Playoff.
Walters is embracing that upset and said it was addressed at a team meeting Tuesday.
“We’ve got some creative ways to just kind of give the history of this game and what it meant the last time they were here,” he said. “So they’ll definitely be aware.”
Proctor, Xavier Johnson and Matthew Jones are the only current Ohio State players who were on the 2018 team.
“It means a lot,” Proctor said of returning to Purdue. “I haven’t been back since, so I’m definitely looking forward to that one.”
The Boilermakers have won five of eight at home against the Buckeyes since 2000.