5 Questions: Colorado at Ohio State

Narrowing down to five the list of issues facing Ohio State this week was no easy task, but we managed to do it. This week we will focus on the defensive rotation, the wide receivers and, of course, quarterbacks. We also wonder if the OSU defense can start faster and contain a Columbus high school product headed home.

1. How will the Ohio State quarterbacks bounce back?

Maybe some day we will get around to a different top question, but for now this remains the Buckeyes' No. 1 concern.

Everyone knows senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller struggled last week at Miami. No one knows yet if one of them will get more reps this week than last.

Head coach Luke Fickell was somewhat coy when asked the question Tuesday but acknowledged whoever wants to own the job must avoid turnovers and make plays for the OSU offense.


2. Can the wide receivers help the Buckeyes out?

Last week was surely not the first time a wide receiver failed to catch a pass for Ohio State in a football game, but it may not have happened since at least the Woody Hayes era. That ended in 1978.

Unlike Hayes, today's coaches do not have the luxury of concluding two of the three things that happen when a pass is thrown are bad and thus try to avoid it at all costs.

Ohio State will need plays from young wideouts Chris Fields, Verlon Reed, Evan Spencer and Devin Smith in order to get the offense in gear. Look for the coaches to work hard to make sure speedy tight end Jake Stoneburner is back to being a valuable part of the passing game as well after he was shut out in Miami.


3. Will the OSU defense avoid another slow start?

An early 14-0 deficit did not improve the plight of the offense last week. The Hurricanes had a hard time stopping the Ohio State rushing attack, but they were able to sit back in coverage and make the Buckeyes settle for short plays in the passing game.

That probably exacerbated the struggles of the quarterbacks.

A reversal of fortune this Saturday could help the Buckeyes control the tempo and create more favorable matchups in the secondary for its beleaguered quarterbacks and pass catchers.

"We talked last week about starting fast," Fickell said. "That's the one thing we did not do a good job of. I'll put that on me and make sure we know we're ready to go this week."


4. What will Rodney Stewart do on his return to his hometown?

Stewart, a 5-6, 175-pounder, has already led the Buffaloes in rushing three straight seasons and entered the 2011 campaign with eyes on breaking Eric Bieniemy's career rushing record of 3,940 yards.

A dual threat, the Columbus Brookhaven product enters this game leading Colorado in rushing (74.3 yards per game) and second in receiving (92.3 yards per game). He is 17th in the country and No. 2 in the Pac-12 with 169.7 all-purpose yards per contest.


5. Will there be changes in the back seven of the Ohio State defense?

Fickell said he is happy with how many players have contributed to the front four, but he wants to see what more people can do at linebacker and in the secondary.

The most likely player to see more minutes a linebacker would seem to be freshman Ryan Shazier. He played only sparingly against the Hurricanes but made an impact by forcing a fumble. With senior Andrew Sweat hobbled a bit by an undisclosed injury and fellow starters Storm Klein and Etienne Sabino battling inconsistency, Shazier might provide a boost. He has knowledge of both the Sam and Will linebacker positions, having played the former during spring ball and the latter since fall camp, so he provides more than one option for reconfiguring the lineup.

In the secondary, Dominic Clarke and Bradley Roby figure to continue to compete at cornerback opposite Travis Howard while Christian Bryant may be able to force his way into some minutes at safety, where Orhian Johnson has performed to poor reviews early this season.

"I think every time (Bryant) gets in there he makes a play," said C.J. Barnett, the other starting safety along with Johnson the first three weeks.


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