Since their humiliating defeat versus USC, The Ohio State Buckeyes have rattled off three straight wins, including last Saturday's nail-biter versus Wisconsin. This Saturday, the Buckeyes play host to the 2-3 Purdue Boilermakers in a Big Ten game that Ohio State must win.
Chris Wells has returned from his nagging toe injury and looks to be the running back everyone thought he would be heading into this season. The former Heisman hopeful runs hard and gets tough yardage, something he should be able to do quite easily versus Purdue's weak defense.
Purdue's problem is compounded by the new starting quarterback for Ohio State, freshman Terrelle Pryor. The number one prospect stepped in for Todd Boeckman after the drubbing at USC and has not looked back, taking over the offense and giving the Buckeyes another big play threat.
Wells has 385 yards this year and averages an astounding 7.9 yards per carry. This number must decrease for Purdue to stand a chance against the Buckeyes.
Part of their practice this week has to be stopping Wells on first down, or at least allowing him minimal yardage. By forcing Ohio State into second and long and third and long situations, they could make the Buckeyes rethink their game plan.
Last year, the Boilermakers held Wells somewhat in check, allowing him 85 yards on 18 carries. Last week, however, the halfback ran for 168 yards on 22 carries.
It's simple: If you limit his touches, he has less of a chance to be effective. The best way to do this is stop the big gains on first down. Purdue must take him out of the game and make the rookie quarterback Pryor beat them.
That may be easier said than done. Pryor is a threat himself on the ground, rushing for five yards per carry and four touchdowns. He becomes dangerous all over the field, but particularly in the red zone, where he can run draw plays for himself and look for open receivers.
The Boilermakers have their work cut out for them when Pryor passes as well, as his 64.6 completion percentage and five touchdown passes speak for themselves.
Purdue's defense is allowing an average of 435 yards per game this season, good for 109th in the NCAA. If they play like that, this game could be over by halftime. Purdue must keep Pryor in the pocket and make him throw in order to have a shot at winning.
I just don't see them stopping Wells and Pryor this week, and the Buckeyes should coast to another Big Ten victory before hosting Penn State next week.