Ohio State-Purdue football preview: 2 keys and a prediction for the Buckeyes

Ohio State is the latest Big Ten team to be exclusively on Peacock TV because of the Big Ten’s latest media rights deal with CBS, Fox and NBC.

A deal worth close to $8 billion demands that the conference plays a weekly Saturday prime-time football game on NBC. Part of that deal means that nine games will be exclusively streamed on Peacock, a subscription service that costs $5.99 a month, plus tax. Wisconsin and Rutgers played on the streaming service last week, as well as Purdue and Iowa.

It’s Ohio State’s turn to be exclusively on Peacock as the Buckeyes will face Purdue, Saturday at noon ET, on the streaming service. It’s also Purdue’s third straight week with a Peacock-only game.

That means if you want to watch Ohio State play this weekend you either have to pay for the service or watch at a bar or friend who has Peacock. Coach Ryan Day joked before the Maryland game that he has Paramount Plus instead of Peacock.

“I had to get it for ‘Yellowstone,’” Day said.

This is life for Big Ten football fans. The biggest games of the season like next weekend’s Ohio State-Penn State games aren’t on Peacock, but this is a crucial one as well for the Buckeyes. Streaming is the future for all entertainment, the Big Ten is forcing its fans into a decision to join now or wait it out.

Jim Knowles wants to give one linebacker more snaps

Ohio State’s linebacker corps became a major topic of conversation amongst fans after the win against Maryland.

The Terrapins ran for 106 yards, but 80 of those yards came in the first quarter and first drive of the third quarter. In those moments, Ohio State’s linebackers struggled with containing the run and filling the holes of the gap run schemes. Knowles rotated Tommy Eichenberg, Cody Simon and Steele Chambers in that game. Eichenberg played 73 of the 76 possible snaps, while Chambers played 58 and Simon played 21. Knowles wants to get Simon even more snaps, he said.

“I have to keep pushing his reps up,” Knowles said.

Simon is in his fourth year with the program and was expected to be a starter this season, alongside Chambers, before Eichenberg announced his return. He had two tackles on Saturday and has seen that snap count go up each week. It’s obvious Knowles trusts Simon, but also waiting for his time is former five-star linebacker C.J. Hicks. The Ohio native was the top linebacker prospect in the 2022 class but hasn’t seen the field for meaningful snaps yet in his career. After a strong offseason, many thought that would change this season, but it hasn’t, yet.

Knowles said that Hicks is ready, but it’s a byproduct of veterans playing ahead of him.

If the linebacker play dips, again, this week, Hicks could make a move into the lineup. It’s important to remember, too, that Hicks has already played in the first five games. If the plan was to redshirt him, because he played 12 games last season, that can’t happen. Ohio State is in a good spot with linebacker depth, but poor play is going to have fans asking for younger, high-potential players, as well.

But Knowles said he doesn’t think the linebackers are playing poorly.

“I think they are playing well. Always do better, but they understand the defense, they are managing things well,” he said. “They are pushing to get better, but I think they’re doing a good job.”

Some changes in receiver lineup

While Marvin Harrison Jr., is good to go despite dealing with an ankle injury, his partner, Emeke Egbuka, may miss time on Saturday due to an unspecified lower-body injury from the Maryland game. If he does miss time it’ll be the first game Egbuka has missed due to an injury and force Ohio State to broaden its receiving rotation.

Two players are likely to fill that role: Xavier Johnson and freshman Carnell Tate.

While offensive coordinator Brian Hartline said he wanted to keep plans regarding Egbuka or filling his spot a secret, both players should make an impact if Egbuka is out.
Johnson is likely to be the first one off the bench and is an all-around weapon for the Buckeyes. Though his numbers are low right now, just four catches for 58 yards, that’s also a byproduct of an offense that is getting adapted to a new quarterback and offensive line.

But Hartline said Ohio State can count on Johnson.

“You can see him last year whether he was playing in the slot or outside or in the backfield,” Hartline said.

The next idea is to give freshman standout Tate a bigger role. The offseason hype around Tate has been through the roof. It started in the spring and has continued with him overtaking Jayden Ballard in the pecking order. He’s seen the field this year, in big moments not just garbage time, and has 83 yards and a touchdown on five receptions.
Julian Fleming said the sky’s the limit for Tate, who may be playing his biggest role in the offense yet.

“He does everything well, has a very level head, he’s really mature, his route running is good, has good hands,” Fleming said.

The key for Ohio State, though, will be how it deals with Purdue’s game-plan shift. If Egbuka isn’t playing, Purdue will likely bracket Harrison like many other teams have done this season, including Notre Dame. It’ll just make it a little less risky to bracket Harrison if Egbuka isn’t also on the field.

That isn’t always as simple as just keeping two eyes on him. On film there are times defenses have dropped linebackers underneath one of Harrison’s in-breaking routes or put a safety over the top of a deeper route. There have even been times when a linebacker is underneath, a corner is manned up on him and a safety is over the top. It’s the type of presence Harrison has, even if he’s hurt.

“He makes such an impact with defenses trying to handle him and it really opens things up to different aspects of the game whether it be the run game or gives opportunities to other receivers,” Fleming said. “Defenses really have a hard time scheming him.”

But that will open up things for others.

While getting Harrison his touches is important, he was targeted on 50 attempts and has caught 25 of McCord’s 93 completions this season, there’s a balance. McCord also has to be able to find the one-on-one elsewhere and the receiver has to make plays. Outside of a more efficient run game, if Egbuka doesn’t play, how Ohio State’s receiving corps rotates will be one of the key points of the game.


This is a big one for Ohio State. It’s not quite to the caliber of next weekend’s game against Penn State, but it’s important.

Ohio State is coming off a game where the defense showed its strength, but the offense left a lot to be desired. Going into a game against the Nittany Lions, one of the best defenses in the country, Ohio State’s offense needs to get some things working. You’d like to see the offensive line show some improvement and Kyle McCord build on his strong second half against Maryland.

The good thing for Ohio State is that they’ll get the amount of plays Day would want. Purdue leads the Big Ten with 438 plays. That should give the Buckeyes plenty of reps on offense, as long as the defense can get off the field.

That style usually plays right into Ohio State’s hands, especially against a Purdue defense that is second-to-last in the conference in scoring defense and total defense. They’ll give up points and yards, the offense just has to take advantage of the mistakes.

The history at Ross-Ade Stadium is something to be considered. Ohio State has lost four of its last six trips there, dating back to 2004. Still, I like Ohio State in this one. I think the Buckeyes should cover the 19.5-point spread and get back to Columbus with some confidence going into Penn State.

Ohio State 38, Purdue 17.

Easy win, but not quite the 40-point mark we’re accustomed to seeing from Ohio State. And that’s OK, honestly.

(Photo of Marvin Harrison Jr.: Ben Jackson / Getty Images)

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