Gap between Ohio State and rest of Big 10 painfully obvious

By Kenny Thompson

If last Saturday’s 59-31 score wasn’t enough of an indication, there’s a chasm of talent difference between Ohio State and Purdue’s football programs.

It might be safe to say the talent gap between Ohio State and the other 13 Big Ten members is wider than the Grand Canyon.

One indicator is a list of the projected top 32 NFL Draft prospects by Todd McShay, one of ESPN’s draft experts.

Ohio State has three players on that list, one of whom (Garrett Wilson) scored four touchdowns against Purdue.

The Boilermakers have junior George Karlaftis, rated No. 17 overall and fourth among defensive ends.

“Karlaftis played just three games in 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19, but he is healthy this season, registering 3.0 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles and a fumble-return TD in 10 games,” McShay writes. “He wins with power, holding his own at the point of attack and showing good stopping power. Karlaftis gets a good push as a power rusher and then falls inside when he is even with the QB. He has shown an ability to make an impact as an inside rusher as well.”

McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN’s face of NFL Draft expertise, both agree that junior David Bell would rank 10th among possible draft eligible wide receivers.

Kiper has Karlaftis ranked 21st on his list of Top 25 NFL Draft prospects.

“He gets double-teamed often along the Purdue front and he is physical in fighting through them,” Kiper writes. “He’s tough – he plays to the whistle and runs down whoever has the ball. I think he will test well at the combine too.”

Another indication of Ohio State’s talent supply? The Buckeyes lead the nation with 550.4 yards per game and 46.3 points a game.

One area where Purdue can approach Ohio State is passing. Another big game by senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell upped the Boilermakers’ average to 338.2 yards per game, which ranks seventh nationally behind Ohio State at 353.6.

The emergence of O’Connell as well as the improvement on defense (aside from the Ohio State game) are reasons why the Boilermakers have a chance to double the oddsmakers’ victory forecast (4) this season if they can win at Northwestern on Saturday and reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket from Indiana in two weeks.

Praise for Westfield’s Smith

Westfield senior guard Braden Smith made it official last week, signing his letter of intent to play basketball at Purdue.

Joining him are fellow Indiana Mr. Basketball candidate Fletcher Loyer of Homestead and Minnesota’s Cam Heide, whose father Craig is a 1979 Lafayette Jeff graduate. Loyer’s mother, Kate, was a multi-sport athlete at McCutcheon.

“Our staff did a great job in a tough year when we couldn’t go on the road recruiting,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said of his latest recruiting class. “Looking back to the last class, we did a great job evaluating (Carmel’s) Brian Waddell when we couldn’t really watch him much. We had really recruited the other two guys (Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn) for a long time, so we knew all about them, but getting Brian was really big for us. They continued that this year in evaluations and knew this group would be great fits for us.”

Smith led Westfield to an 18-5 record in a 2020-21 season that ended with a sectional loss to Waddell and eventual state champion Carmel.

“We were very fortunate to be able to get Braden,” Painter said. “We weren’t able to see him live and we were blown away when we watched him on film with his basketball savvy and tenaciousness. He has an ability to make players better. He can really pass the basketball and has unlimited range. He’s extremely crafty on both ends and we feel really good about what he will bring to the program.”

Smith will be part of a five-man class with freshman eligibility when he arrives on campus. Waddell had already planned to take a redshirt season before suffering a torn ACL last week during practice.

His father, Matt, suffered a similar injury before his senior season at Purdue but returned in time to help the Boilermakers win a Big Ten championship.

Painter announced before the season opening victory over Bellarmine that Kaufman-Renn also would take a redshirt year in 2021-22.

Purdue honor roll

It’s just three games in November but how deep does this Purdue basketball team appear to be?

A nominee for the Naismith Trophy and coaches Player of the Year award is coming off the bench for the Boilermakers.

Trevion Williams, along with sophomore guard Jaden Ivey, is on both watch lists.

Williams became Purdue’s 54th 1,000-point scorer during the 96-52 victory against Wright State Tuesday night. The senior finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, one of three Boilermaker big men to record double-doubles.

The last time Purdue had three players record double-doubles in a game? The answer comes from Chris Forman, Purdue’s associate strategic communications director. On Dec. 21, 1977, future All-American Joe Barry Carroll (20 and 11), Walter Jordan (17 and 11) and Wayne Walls (16 and 13) accomplished the feat against Miami (Ohio).

Sophomore Zach Edey, the 7-4 Canadian who was ranked the 447th best recruit in the class of 2020, had 18 points and a career-high 12 rebounds in 18 minutes. Williams and Edey have combined to average 30.3 points, 19.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.7 blocks per game.

In three games, Edey and Williams are shooting almost 73 percent (32 of 44) from the field and 26 of 35 (74 percent) at the free throw line.

Edey and Williams, along with Ivey, are a big reason why Purdue has scored 90 or more points in three consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 18-27, 2000.

The third member of the double-double attack is 6-10 freshman starting forward Caleb Furst, who put up 14 points and 11 rebounds against Wright State. Imagine the possible lineup combinations once last year’s starting forward, Mason Gillis, returns from suspension on Sunday?

In theory, Purdue could have 15 fouls to give from the center position – including Furst – without giving up much in athletic ability or scoring and rebounding. That could be an edge come NCAA tournament time.

No pressure, coach Painter

That front line depth likely played a significant factor in a pair of CBS Sports writers to pick Purdue over Gonzaga for the 2022 NCAA championship.

“I’m stepping out on a ledge here with my Purdue pick, but in a few months it won’t feel all too contrarian,” writes Kyle Boone, who is joined in his Boilermaker forecast by Matt Norlander.

“Truth is, this may be Matt Painter’s best Boilermakers team yet. Led by senior big man Trevion Williams, they have two capable sophomore stars in tow in Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey, and a supporting cast of role players that are experienced. It’ll be hard to find a trio as good as Williams-Ivey-Edey on any team in college hoops. This roster has the goods to go the distance.”

Purdue graduate and noted NCAA tournament bracketologist Jerry Palm, perhaps in a bit of reverse psychology, chose Gonzaga over Purdue in the title game.

Meanwhile, The Athletic is predicting Matt Painter to win National Coach of the Year honors. Painter outpolled Texas’ Chris Beard 6-4. Indiana’s Mike Woodson received one vote from the 15-person panel.

“Give me Matt Painter at Purdue, perennially one of the more underrated coaches in the country,” the uncredited story states. “This season, though, Painter finally has the talent to go along with his basketball mind. Usually this award goes to the coach of a team who overachieves, and while Purdue is a top 10 outfit to open the year, that’s not familiar territory for the Boilermakers. If Painter can keep this group in that realm all season, he’ll be a strong candidate here.”


Big Ten Network basketball telecasts will have a decidedly Gold and Black influence this winter.

Stephanie White has joined the network after departing the Vanderbilt women’s coaching position. She will be an analyst for both men’s and women’s games.

Rapheal Davis is among the new faces on the men’s basketball side, joining a deep roster that includes ex-Boilermaker Robbie Hummel . . .

Purdue isn’t the only hot team in the state. Coming off its largest victory ever against a Top 15 opponent, the Indiana women’s basketball team moved up to a program-best No. 4 ranking in Monday’s Associated Press poll . . .

With Maryland at No. 3, the Big Ten has two teams in the top five for the first time since Purdue was third and Penn State fifth in the final poll of the 2004 season. The Big Ten has a nation’s best five teams in the women’s Top 25 with Iowa (No. 8), Michigan (13th) and Ohio State (21st) also ranked this week.

Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Cou­rier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.