The Defense – Confidence Level 9
Jim Knowles and the Ohio State defense has been solid all season. The Buckeyes have given up an average of 264.8 yards per game, which is the eighth best in the nation. Every point Ohio State has given up this year has been earned. The Buckeyes have limited the chunk plays almost altogether, having yet to give up a 40-yard or more play this year. When opponents do score, it has been on long sustained drives, or because the defense or special teams turned the football over giving their opponent a short field.
The tradeoff for this defense, however, has been the inability to produce pressure in the backfield. Since the defense is playing more of a bend-but-don’t-break style, making sure to keep everything in front of them, there have been fewer blitz packages trusting the defensive front four to produce their own pass rush. That hasn’t gone well for the defensive line. Defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau and defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. both have one and a half sacks this season through five games.
If Ohio State is going to make a run at the College Football Playoffs, they are going to need the defensive line to start producing. Otherwise, at some point, Knowles will have to start taking more risks in order to create more chaos behind the line of scrimmage. If and when that happens, he will leave his defensive backfield on islands, which didn’t go so well against Michigan and Georgia to end the season last year.
Purdue’s offensive line has struggled at times this year. If there is ever a game for the defensive line to dominate the line of scrimmage and create turnovers through sacks and chaos in the backfield, it would be this game. Even if the Buckeye defensive line doesn’t dominate the game, which would be a bad sign, I still think the Buckeye defense dominates this game. My confidence in the Ohio State defense this week is at a nine.