Despite being a 19-point underdog this Saturday, Purdue has Ohio State exactly where it wants: ranked in the top 3 nationally.

That’s a position that puts the Buckeyes squarely in the “Spoilermakers” historical wheelhouse.

Purdue has notably beaten the past 3 top-3 opponents it has faced in the regular season, although its overall winning streak against such opponents ended with a notable thud in last year’s Big Ten championship game 43-22 loss against then-No. 2 Michigan.

To paraphrase one famous football aficionado, Ohio State knows this story all too well.

The Buckeyes headed to West Lafayette ranked No. 2 in the country on Oct. 20, 2018 and went back to Columbus with egg on their faces after an improbable 49-20 beatdown. That outcome, Ohio State’s only loss of the year, kept the Buckeyes out of the College Football Playoff.

That makes it somewhat ironic that Ohio State climbed into the top 3 — in this of all weeks — for the first time this season. The Buckeyes were just outside of Purdue’s stipulated danger zone until Oklahoma beat Texas last week, bumping Ohio State up from 4th to 3rd in the polls.

Purdue’s reputation as a giant slayer might sound overstated to a modern-day Buckeye. There is little resemblance between 2018 and now. None of the players are the same. Even the coaches for both teams have changed.

Is this Purdue team actually suited to replicate that feat?

Better than you might think — though still a long shot.

Why Ohio State should be concerned

Even in a 37-17 loss, Maryland was able to expose a pretty glaring weakness of Ohio State.

The Buckeyes aren’t blocking very well. The Buckeyes allowed 5 TFL and 3 sacks against Maryland. Ohio State also averaged just 1.9 yards per carry against the Terrapins.

Starting running back TreVeyon Henderson missed the game due to injury, but it’s not as if that’s foreign territory for Ohio State. The Bucks didn’t have Henderson for last year’s game against Michigan and still managed to average 4.9 yards per carry against the nation’s No. 10 rushing defense.

The difference isn’t the absence of Henderson. It’s the absence of offensive tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones and center Billy Wypler.

And eventually some team will be able to exploit that for something more competitive than a 20-point loss.

Perhaps a team such as Purdue. The Boilermakers’ defensive strength matches up perfectly against Ohio State’s weak spot.

The defensive philosophy Ryan Walters used to make Illinois the top-rated defense in the country last year is starting to take hold in his rookie season as Purdue’s head coach. The Boilers are adept at causing chaos for opponents behind the line of scrimmage.

Purdue has a B1G-leading 39 tackles for loss and ranks 2nd behind Penn State with 18 sacks.

This looms as a potential star-turning performance for Boilermakers outside linebackers Kydran Jenkins, who has 4 sacks, and Nic Scourton — formerly Nic Caraway — who has 3.5 sacks. Jenkins and Scourton are currently the top 2 sack-getters in the Big Ten.

Why Ohio State should be confident

Of course, the Buckeyes have the unusual benefit of being the rare team where it doesn’t seem to matter how far behind the chains you can push them.

Last week’s game turned when Ohio State converted a 2nd-and-33 with a 37-yard pass from Kyle McCord to Marvin Harrison Jr. On the very next play — following a 15-yard penalty on Ryan Day, no less — McCord hit Cade Stover for a 44-yard touchdown.

The Buckeyes can make any defense susceptible to the big play. And thus far this season, no one in the B1G has been more susceptible than the high-reward, high-risk Boilermakers. Purdue has allowed 22 completions of 20-plus yards, which is last in the conference and tied for 101st in the country.

And then there’s the matter of Purdue’s offensive line, which makes Ohio State’s look like an impenetrable fortress in comparison.

The Boilers have allowed 41 TFL — 2nd worst in the conference — and 14 sacks. And most of that damage was done before starting right tackle Marcus Mbow, arguably the group’s top talent, was lost for the season late in last week’s 20-14 loss at Iowa.

Ohio State, which has played a conservative but highly effective style of defense this season, ranks last in the Big Ten in both TFL and sacks.

Against Purdue, Jim Knowles may be able to turn his troops loose a bit. Or the Buckeyes might still be able to get into the backfield without changing anything about their scheme. Blocking has been that much of a struggle for the Boilers.

How Purdue can win

Rondale Moore is a name that will forever live in Ohio State infamy and Purdue glory. Moore had 252 all-purpose yards — 170 as a receiver — and 2 touchdowns, setting the tone for the upset. The Buckeyes could not solve him.

The Boilers have a Moore Lite this season in the form of sophomore Deion Burks, who is tied with Harrison with a B1G-leading 3 receptions of 40 yards or more. If the Spoilermakers are to reappear, Burks will have an oversized hand in the upset.

But it will take a lot more than that for it to happen.

Purdue’s front 7 will have to continually get after McCord, because the back end isn’t going to be able to cover Ohio State’s pass-catchers if he has time.

Even if it can pressure McCord, Purdue still must play a perfect game — something it hasn’t looked capable of doing this year. The Boilers are 11th in the B1G with a minus-3 turnover margin, and 12th in penalty yardage.

If either of those bad habits shows up in this game, Purdue can forget about it.

Ohio State will almost certainly cover the considerable point spread if Purdue adds self-inflicted wounds to what the Buckeyes can do all by themselves. Frankly, there’s no knowing what the best version of the Boilermakers can do, because we’ve yet to see it this season.

But if that version exists, Purdue potentially has the right blueprint for adding to its legacy of stunning upsets. The Boilers merely have to execute that blueprint to perfection.