Ohio State Football: Buckeyes Can't Afford Letdown at Purdue

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2013

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 12: Kawann Short #93 of the Purdue Boilermakers celebrates after sacking Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ross-Ade Stadium on November 12, 2011 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue defeated Ohio State 26-23 in overtime. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Despite owning the nation's longest winning streak at 20 game, No. 4 Ohio State isn't getting much respect from national media, polls or college football fans in general.

If the Buckeyes struggle against Purdue on Saturday—something that has happened with surprising consistency over the last decade, their reputation will take another hit it can't afford.

Ranked a distant fourth in the AP poll behind undefeated Alabama, Oregon and Florida State, and with other unbeatens such as Baylor and Miami nipping at their heels, the Buckeyes need to win impressively—like they did last Saturday against Penn State—to keep pace in a race that few are giving them a chance to win.

It would be safe to assume that the Boilermakers, who enter Saturday's game with a 1-6 record along with the country's 120th-ranked offense and a defense that is giving up an average of 274 rushing yards to Big Ten opponents, would be the kind of team that Ohio State (8-0) could blow out.

But the Buckeyes don't usually blow out Purdue. In fact, they typically leave Ross-Ade Stadium with a black eye and a humbling loss in tow.

That's not likely to happen this Saturday, as Ohio State is currently favored by a historic margin of 31 to 32 points, via Covers.com.

Purdue doesn't mind the underdog role, although against the Buckeyes, it hasn't mattered. The Boilermakers have won three of their last four games against Ohio State at home. 

In 2011, a Buckeyes team that struggled early found a groove with consecutive victories over No. 16 Illinois, No. 15 Wisconsin and Indiana. The Boilermakers entered their contest against Ohio State coming off back-to-back losses to Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined score of 98-31.

Nevertheless, Purdue dominated in regulation and took control in overtime to capture a 26-23 victory.

Two years earlier, the seventh-ranked Buckeyes were heavy favorites over the 1-5 Boilermakers. That was before Purdue flustered Terrelle Pryor into four turnovers and limited the Ohio State offense to just 287 total yards.

The Boilermakers confounded Ohio State's defense with a variety of screen passes, building a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter before finishing off a 26-18 victory.

The 2004 Ohio State team, much like the 2011 squad, surged late in the season after a disappointing start. The Buckeyes entered Ross-Ade Stadium on a three-game winning after the exciting Troy Smith replaced Justin Zwick at quarterback.

Those same Smith-led Buckeyes who went on to throttle No. 7 Michigan the following week, looked lost against Purdue, gaining just 338 yards in a 24-17 loss.

Over the last decade, Ohio State's only road victory against Purdue came in 2007, when the Buckeyes defense shut down a dynamic Boilermakers offense in a 23-7 win.

Of course, it's hard to forget how close Purdue came to knocking off Ohio State last year, and that was in the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium.

For whatever reason, the Buckeyes struggle against the Boilermakers. Considering how close the national title race is, Ohio State can't afford any kind of letdown against Purdue this time.


Unless noted otherwise, all stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.