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After dismantling Penn State, the Buckeyes careen toward offenseless Purdue with a 21st straight win — one short of the school record — in their crosshairs.
In the BCS/polls
The Buckeyes remained No. 4 in everything that matters: the USA Today coaches poll, the Harris Interactive poll and the BCS ratings, which takes those other two polls and combines them with a cumulative average from six computer rankings. Above them in the BCS are No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State.
Braxton Miller, who has gained 300-plus yards the past two games. It took the dual-threat quarterback a couple of outings to shake off thoughts of the mild left knee sprain that kept him out of almost three full games, and he had to deal with another wince on Saturday night. But he stepped back in to play as many had predicted in preseason.
What’s not hot?
Drew Basil’s squib-kicking form. At least that’s what he appeared to be trying just nine seconds before halftime when he instead kicked the ball in onside fashion, resulting in two thoughts: Either OSU was trying to get the ball back with a 42-7 lead, or it was trying to give the Nittany Lions a sporting chance.
What went right?
The offensive plan. The pregame stats said Penn State begged to be attacked through the air, so Miller and his receivers did that from the start. That loosened what had been some rather tight running seams in the Penn State front seven, which is where the Ohio State line and running back Carlos Hyde plundered. On the way to 147 yards (giving him 464 the past three games), Hyde scored two TDs. OSU is ninth nationally in rushing offense (295.6 yards) and eighth in total offense (517.3 yards).
Back to the drawing board
The Ohio State defense seems destined to give up at least one big play in the second half, as the mostly backups did on Allen Robinson’s dazzling 65-yard catch-and-run TD. The OSU defense did fall back early when Penn State stole a page from Iowa’s three-tight end pamphlet, but Corey Brown stepped in front of one of those tight ends for an interception in the end zone, and safety C.J. Barnett plucked another one headed for a tight end.
Considering middle linebacker Curtis Grant went down after a helmet-to-helmet collision, he’s likely on a day-to-day evaluation. Receiver Evan Spencer limped off with a left knee ailment, and special-teams leader Devan Bogard suffered an unspecified lower-leg injury.
In the second quarter, Miller spotted Devin Smith on a deep square-in on the left side with a safety bearing down from the middle. Miller threw the ball to Smith’s back (right shoulder), spinning the receiver away from the safety and past the trailing cornerback. It’s the kind of throw seldom seen from Miller a year ago.
Purdue, which in the first year under coach Darrell Hazell has one victory, over FCS member Indiana State. The Boilermakers had last week off, a respite that came at a good time because they were reeling from five straight losses. They are 120th nationally in total offense (278.6 yards), 119th in scoring (13.1) and 104th in scoring defense (34.4). But they are second in net punting (42.68 yards), so there is that.
This week’s challenge
After pushing the lopsided snowball over the top, the Buckeyes are obliged to keep it rolling, even if they will be a prohibitive favorite. They also must keep in mind — or perhaps a better approach might be to wipe it from their memory — that OSU has been upset in its previous two trips to Ross-Ade Stadium, and is 2-4 in its past six there. Taking anything for granted is folly.