5 Questions: Michigan at Ohio State

Michigan gives Ohio State's defense plenty to worry about, but what will the Buckeyes try to do against a lowly Wolverine stop unit? We look at the quarterbacks, play-action passing, Ohio State's options when it has the ball and two key defensive players in this week's Five Questions.

1. Can Ohio State contain Denard Robinson?

If Michigan is to pull a major upset, the Wolverines' sophomore quarterback will surely play a big role.

He enters the game as the No. 3 rusher in the nation at 139.8 yards per game, but he has thrown for over 200 yards per game as well.

Ohio State has faced plenty of spread offenses, but the Buckeyes have not seen a quarterback with such elusiveness and breakaway speed this season.

"The biggest thing is making sure that you do your job, making sure that you execute," nose guard Dexter Larimore said. "Even on top of that, just being aware of where he's at, aware of what he's doing. He is so much of a playmaker and they have so many weapons offensively and they like to get those guys out in space and running around and stuff like that, so I think the biggest thing is making sure you do what you need to do, but after you do that, make sure you know where the ball is because the guy is going to be running around and making people miss. You need to be able to swarm as a defense and try to get him down with two or three guys because one guy is probably not going to be enough."


2. Can the Ohio State defensive backs hold their water?

Michigan is a run-first outfit, but the Wolverines have made a bevy of big plays through the air. Much of that is thanks to the threat of the running game opening up favorable matchups or causing blown coverages on the outside.

Ohio State safety Aaron Gant and friends must not get caught looking in the backfield as a wide receiver then one of Robinson's passes zip over their heads.

Michigan's No. 1 receiving threat is Ohio native Roy Roundtree, but Junior Hemingway has had some big performances as well.

"They have good hands and great speed," Gant said. "They run good routes and they do well on hot routes when they see what the defense is doing."


3. Air it out, or ball control?

Michigan's defense has struggled in all phases of the game this season, but Ohio State's coaching staff seems to change what it wants to emphasize on a weekly basis.

There have been weeks tailback Dan Herron was the focal point, but other times quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been the No. 1 weapon on the ground, through the air or both.

Last season he struggled passing, so the Buckeyes turned to the zone-read running game when their preferred power attack was gummed up.

"Anytime we get in these big games – especially in November you never know what you're going to get with the weather – that we like to establish the run game," receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "There's no secret there. But I've been surprised this year because we've been relatively balanced. You never know, but if we get something going, we're going to stay with it.

Wisconsin lined up and overpowered the Wolverines last week, but the Badgers' and Buckeyes' personnel is not quite the same. Of course, the Badgers also threw the ball efficiently when they wanted to.


4. What kind of day will Terrelle Pryor have?

Ohio State's quarterback is 2-0 against Michigan, but he has not exactly lit the world on fire when the winged helmets have been flying around him.

He threw an interception on the first drive of his first game against the Wolverines two years ago, and overall he is 14 for 30 passing for 187 yards with three touchdowns to go along with two picks.

Last season he did the majority of his damage on the ground as the Buckeyes turned him loose on the zone-read for 74 yards on 19 carries.

Given the headlines Robinson has earned this year, one can safely conclude Pryor would like to outshine him in a head-to-head matchup.


5. Who has the bigger impact, Mike Martin or Cameron Heyward?

Heyward gets a lot more help in Ohio State's defense, but Martin probably has a more important role.

As by far Michigan's best defensive player, it is up to Martin to control the middle, draw extra blocking attention, and make plays. He can make the jobs of his teammates easier, and they figure to need all the help they can get. Heyward is coming off one of his most productive games, and he will need to play well for the Buckeyes as Michigan puts a lot of pressure on the edge of a defense with Robinson and the run game.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories