Alex Boone does not appear to be best friends with ticket brokers across the state of Ohio.
A number of people that Boone knows apparently are in the market for such services with a 2-3 Purdue team coming into Ohio Stadium. Even as sun and 80-degree temperatures beckon for Saturday afternoon’s 3:30 start, many of Boone’s friends appear to be ready to line their pocketbooks rather than spend three hours in the stadium watching Ohio State take on a scuffling team that looks to be on the downswing.
Obviously, Boone has another take on the matter.
“A lot of my friends are saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to sell my tickets,’ but I’m like, ‘No, this is going to be a physical game. They’re going to try to come in here and ruin our season,’” Boone said. “The Big Ten championship is on the line, so we’ve got to play tough and we can’t overlook anybody.”
Adding to concerns about how Ohio State might handle Purdue, which has lost two in a row and is 0-1 in Big Ten play during head coach Joe Tiller’s final season, is the fact that the 12th-ranked Buckeyes are coming off of their best win of the 2008 season.
Ohio State went to Madison last Saturday and was able to knock off No. 18 Wisconsin thanks to a touchdown drive during the final minutes led by freshman Terrelle Pryor that was capped when the quarterback dashed for 11 yards with 1:08 to play.
Two schools of thought exist on how the win will affect the squad. The possibility remains that Ohio State could receive a shot of adrenaline from the late victory, one that Tressel did bill as enjoyable.
“Tough wins are the most fun, just like anything in life, anything that's tougher is more rewarding,” Tressel said. “That was a tough win. We made it tough because we didn't do as good as we could have maybe in some areas, but that makes it fun.”
On the other hand, perhaps the Buckeyes will be caught looking ahead with a road trip to Michigan State a featured night home game with Penn State, two of the Big Ten’s four conference unbeatens, next on the docket.
And there is some precedent for Ohio State struggling in games in which they are expected to dominate. That has been especially true in nonconference games, where the Buckeyes barely beat Ohio earlier this year and Akron during the 2007 campaign.
“We have respect for everyone,” cornerback Shaun Lane said. “Just like Ohio – who would have said they would have given us a game like that? We respect every opponent that comes into our stadium to play against us.”
Boone, and apparently Tressel, wouldn’t expect such a letdown against a Big Ten squad. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, Ohio State has lost only one conference game against a league foe, that being last season’s home loss to an Illinois team that ended up reaching the Rose Bowl. The team’s average margin of victory over such teams is 26.9 points during that span.
“Coach Tressel is trying to remind us, this is the Big Ten championship,” Boone said. “If you lose one game, you don’t get it. We know that so now we practice harder, play harder and be more physical.”
Tressel hopes that the team’s mistakes – Ohio State fumbled four times, losing one, and threw an interception – against Wisconsin help keep the team focused.
“Every week, we say, turn on the film,” Tressel said. “You see what you see, understand that we've got to get better. And the first film we turn on isn't our next opponent, it's us playing on Saturday, saying, ‘Oh, man, we've got to get better at this, our aiming points, our eye discipline.’
“I hope we're really caught up in us trying to get better and learning what they're going to try to bring to us and that Big Ten game is worth as much as any other Big Ten game. Ff you want to be the champions of the Big Ten, you better not have, quote, letdowns.”
Purdue brings an element of danger into the proceedings as well. The Boilermakers have played the Buckeyes close over the years, nearly ending Ohio State’s undefeated season in 2002 before the “Holy Buckeye” pass. A year later, the teams needed overtime to decide what became a 16-13 win for Ohio State, and Purdue earned revenge in 2004 thanks to a late scoring drive.
Last year, Ohio State dominated defensively on the way to a 23-7 win in West Lafayette, but the team still knows that the Boilermakers and quarterback Curtis Painter can pop off for points at a moment’s notice.
“Any team that comes in to Ohio State is going to give us a big challenge,” linebacker Ross Homan said. “We know they’re going to fight hard for four quarters, and we have to respect that.”