Fresh off of a dominating 59-0 victory over FCS member Hampton, the Ohio Bobcats will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on a Purdue Boilermakers team that gave the Louisville Cardinals a difficult game before losing 34-27 in head coach Jeff Brohm’s debut. The offensive approaches used by both teams could not be any more dissimilar.
Perhaps it was the nature of their opponent in Hampton, but Ohio was very content to control the clock (Bobcats had the ball for nearly 36 minutes), behind a superior running game that amassed 248 yards on the ground on a whopping 53 carries, which translates to 4.7 yards per rushing attempt. The Bobcats did not have any one player run for more than 63 yards, but six different guys had at least five carries.
Taking a completely different approach, Purdue attacked Louisville early and often through the air, as quarterbacks Elijah Sindelar and David Blough combined for more than twice as many pass attempts (57) and rushing attempts (21). The Boilermakers no doubt are not only looking for more consistency from their quarterbacks but also more production out of their running game.
Ohio at Purdue
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX Sports 1
Spread: Purdue -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Ohio's running game vs. Purdue's defense
Louisville finished with 146 rushing yards on 33 carries (4.4 ypc) in its win over Purdue, but most of that came from quarterback Lamar Jackson. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner had a game-high 107 yards on 21 carries (5.1), including a long of 15. No other Cardinal had more than six rushing attempts. Ohio leaned heavily on its running game in its opening win over Hampton with nearly three times as many rushing attempts (53) compared to passes (19). The Bobcats also featured six different players in their ground attack and will probably use a similar approach against the Boilermakers. Purdue’s defense will need to stymie Ohio on the ground to force quarterback Quinton Maxwell to make plays with his arm. More success for the Bobcats’ running game also gives them a chance to control the clock and keep the Boilermakers’ offense off of the field.
2. Purdue's passing game vs. Ohio’s defense
Ohio was never threatened by Hampton in the air, as the Pirates completed only completed six of 24 attempts for 61 yards with a long of 27. Conversely, 85 percent of Purdue’s offensive production (293 of 344 total yards) against Louisville came from its passing game. All four touchdowns also were via the pass with Elijah Sindelar and David Blough each tossing a pair. Jeff Brohm’s offenses at Western Kentucky were known for its production through the air, finishing fifth in FBS last season, and this was the area that Boilermakers had the most success in against the Cardinals. Last season, the Bobcats finished 102nd nationally in pass defense at 255.8 yards per game. Needless to say after facing Hampton in the opener this will be a completely different kind of test for Ohio’s defense.
3. Purdue's turnover problems
The Boilermakers lost the coveted turnover edge in their loss to Louisville, finishing minus-one thanks to three interceptions and a lost fumble. To make matters worse, one of the interceptions was returned by the Cardinals for a touchdown. Ohio had just one turnover (interception) in its shutout of Hampton, while managing two takeaways (fumbles). Mistakes were a big problem for Purdue last season, as the Boilermakers finished last in FBS (128 teams) in turnover margin (-17). The Bobcats fared much better, ranking in the middle of the pack (tied for 64th) with a plus-one differential. As the game against Louisville showed, Purdue needs to take better care of the ball if the offense is to produce at its highest level, which also should put the Boilermakers in the best position to win games.
While Ohio is a traditionally strong contender within the MAC under longtime head coach Frank Solich, this game is going to come down to how well the Bobcats can keep pace offensively with a Purdue team that is already showing of being dynamic and explosive on offense under new head coach Jeff Brohm. Ohio can try to slow down the pace of the game by running the ball, but look for the Boilermakers’ defense to crowd the line of scrimmage, and force the Bobcats to throw the ball more than they want to. In this matchup of contrasting offensive approaches, give the edge to the one that’s more comfortable taking to the air.