October 14, 2009

Youth vs. Experience

One place that college athletics trumps professional athletics is the lack of movement from one team to another during the span of a career. Of course there are players that transfer or move around for one reason or another but usually you are going to see guys on the same team for anywhere between three and five years. You can't really say the same for the NFL, NBA, MLB or any other major sporting association in this day of high dollar free agency.

This loyalty is rewarded for teams when a class of seniors makes it into their final season and provide a boost of leadership on the field, in the locker room and even in the community in many aspects. Purdue is blessed with that situation on both sides of the ball with a two-deep that is dominated with older players. The secondary is made up entirely of seniors, the offensive line has three seniors and outside of starting running back Ralph Bolden the skill positions are made up of upperclassmen.

Now make no mistake, an interjection of youth is always a good thing and national championship teams have always found a way to have a mixture of the young and the old but there is always something to be said about having some guys who have been to the rodeo before to lead by example for the guys chomping at the bit to make their mark.

Of course the most obvious advantage is that these older players have had a chance to face a team at least and possibly more than once depending on how the Big Ten schedule falls.

"They're a very veteran team, they have played us before," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "They know they've gone toe to toe… they know what is ahead."

Quarterback Joey Elliott has been laying in wait for his opportunity to be the man in West Lafayette and despite a dismal 1-5 record he has flourished with the team being on the wrong end of some bounces and last second heroics.

"I think we have to do a great job with the back end in covering them up quickly so they can't get the quick passes and then hopefully allow our defensive line to disrupt them and I think they can do a lot of damage with that if we can get the coverage," Ohio State captain Kurt Coleman said. "Joey Elliot is a great, efficient passer and it is going to be a challenge for us."

But ultimately what does it mean going against a team that is dominated with seniors? Does that give a team an edge either in game planning or just overall maturity on the field to handle success and adversity?

"They are going to be a senior-driven team so they are going to give it all they got," Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "They are a dangerous team any game, any time they get on the field they are going to try and compete."

The Buckeyes come in with a different situation with only 14 seniors on the roster and only having a lone senior starter on offense (Jake Ballard) and four on defense. Do the Buckeye seniors see where Purdue could use that leadership edge against them?

"I think that is why most of their games have been so close because they have got so much leadership on the team that at any given moment they can explode," Ohio State return man and wide receiver Ray Small said.

"Especially for me, in a senior class you want to lead a strong team," Coleman said. "Especially if they have not started off strong but they can still make a bowl game if they win out. So they still have a lot to play for and they know that and I know we know that so we don't want to take them lightly."

So the age old question of experience versus youth will be asked and answered one more time on Saturday afternoon at Ross-Ade stadium. Las Vegas seems to believe that the kids have somewhere in the neighborhood of a two touchdown edge. But one never knows when it comes to a game with so many variables and the Buckeyes are not going to take any team lightly, double digit underdog or not.

"They have senior leadership and it is a tight knit family so it will be a great challenge for us." Big Ten defensive player of the week Ross Homan said.

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