INDIANAPOLIS | A quick look at the records would make Ohio State's game against Purdue this weekend appear to be sure win for the Buckeyes.
The Boilermakers, however, have played their best this season against their most highly regarded opponents.
Purdue has lost five in a row by a combined 33 points. The two toughest teams on the schedule, Oregon and Notre Dame, had to make plays in the closing minutes to hang on. In both games, Purdue paid for avoidable mental errors.
If the Boilermakers can finally break through against the No. 7 Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) on Saturday, it would be a huge boost for first-year coach Danny Hope's program.
"They can see that this is a very unique opportunity to have a great team like Ohio State coming into Ross-Ade Stadium, and it's an outstanding opportunity for our football team," Hope said Tuesday. "We certainly need to do some things better as a football team in order to have a chance to win."
Purdue's losing skid began with a 38-36 loss at Oregon. The Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2) trailed by two with just over a minute to play but failed on a two-point conversion attempt that could have forced overtime. The Ducks had two defensive returns for touchdowns in that game.
Two weeks later, the Boilermakers came within a minute of beating Notre Dame. A hobbled Jimmy Clausen threw a game-winning touchdown to Kyle Rudolph with 24.8 seconds to play in the Fighting Irish's 24-21 win. Purdue? Thirteen penalties for 103 yards.
Hoosiers look to rebound
BLOOMINGTON | Coach Bill Lynch didn't recognize the Indiana team he saw last weekend or on tape.
The poor tackling, the inability to convert on third down and the lack of big offensive plays made the Hoosiers look less than full strength. There was a reason.
Lynch revealed Tuesday that Indiana was hit hard by the flu bug last week though he downplayed the impact it had on Saturday's 47-7 loss at Virginia.
"I would never use that as an excuse because I think it's something we're going to have deal with throughout the fall," he said. "It looks like it's on every college campus, and I'm not sure we're done with it. We had several guys on defense that didn't get a chance to practice last week and if you don't practice, it sometimes reflects what happens on the field."
Jeff Keag, an athletic department spokesman, said there were no cases of swine flu on the team.
But the flu kept nearly half a dozen key defensive contributors out of practice last week. Among those sitting out were safeties Nick Polk and Austin Thomas, defensive end Greg Middleton, defensive tackle Deonte Mack and middle linebacker Matt Mayberry.
Purdue (1-5, 0-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (5-1, 3-0)
When: 11 a.m. Saturday.
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network (cable); WJOB-AM (1230).
Illinois (1-4, 0-3 Big Ten) at Indiana (3-3, 0-2)
When: 6 p.m. Saturday.
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network (cable); WIND-AM (560); The Lakeshore-FM (89.1).