Facing a team with a 1-6 record, it would almost be impossible to expect Ohio State to have its full focus placed on Purdue heading into its latest Big Ten battle. But thanks to a recent history between the two teams -- particularly in games played in West Lafayette -- you’d be hard pressed to find a Buckeye who isn’t weary of playing the Boilermakers.
You’d have to go back to 2007 to find the last time that an Ohio State team won in West Lafayette, as Purdue enjoyed home wins over the Buckeyes in 2009 and 2011. The Boilermakers’ 2009 upset essentially knocked a Terrelle Pryor-led OSU squad out of the national title hunt, while their 2011 victory at Ross-Ade Stadium served as a negative catalyst in the Buckeyes’ disastrous 6-7 season.
Despite having only been at Ohio State for two seasons now, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is well aware that Purdue has been a recent thorn in his program’s side. Following his team’s Wednesday practice three days in advance of its trip to West Lafayette, Meyer didn’t downplay the storyline of the Boilermakers’ recent success against the Buckeyes.
“It’s huge,” Meyer said. “We had our team meeting today and just addressed giving (a game) away. ‘Are you guys overlooking this team?’ These guys played two years ago and lost. Last year, they got hit right in the face.”
The 2012 contest that Meyer brought up was a reference to Ohio State’s come-from-behind overtime victory over Purdue at Ohio Stadium. The Boilermakers proved to be the Buckeyes’ biggest threat to an undefeated season, as it took a last-minute drive and subsequent two-point conversion for OSU to even send the game into overtime in the first place.
Now in his 12th year of coaching, Meyer knows that upsets can happy at any time, which is why he’s placed such emphasis of taking care of business this weekend.
“You see (upsets) all the time. It’s our job to prevent it,” Meyer said. “Talking’s not how you do it. Addressing it and making sure a senior gets up there and addresses it because we do play a lot of young players who have never been there. You just gotta prevent it on Tuesday and Wednesday. You don’t prevent that on Saturday.”
Although the Buckeyes have struggled recently while facing Purdue in the Hoosier State, there’s a reason that OSU is a 31-point favorite on the road. The Buckeyes’ offense has been clicking in recent weeks, as evidenced by OSU’s 63-14 win over Penn State last weekend.
Meyer credited the Buckeyes’ recent offensive outburst to the play of quarterback Braxton Miller, who is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after his 320-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Nittany Lions.
“The quarterback position is playing exceptional right now. That means getting us in the right plays, making the right reads, even in the run game ... he’s playing a real efficient game right now. Like, real efficient,” Meyer said. “That was an explosive atmosphere, and our players jumped all over it.”
Of course, the atmosphere this upcoming Saturday won’t be as kind to the Buckeyes. Facing a 12 p.m. kickoff in a city that tight end Jeff Heuerman described as “gray,” Ohio State could be battling more than just the Boilermakers this weekend. But in order to prevent past problems from reoccurring, left tackle Jack Mewhort took it upon himself to speak to Meyer about concerns that two career losses in West Lafayette have left him with.
“Jack came to me and wanted to talk to me,” Meyer said. “He talked more about two years ago. He didn’t talk about them being a fly in the ointment. He just talked about what it was like in that locker room after the game and the locker room itself -- I guess it’s not the nicest locker room -- so just be prepared for what’s going to happen.
“It’s a tough trip.”