5 Questions: Michigan State at Ohio State

This week we are focusing on the opportunism of the Ohio State offense, the secondary's test from the MSU passing game, special teams and the potential impact of youth.

1. Can the Buckeye defensive line take over the game?

Ohio State's best chance to derail a veteran Michigan State offense is to take advantage of the Spartans' weakness up front. What was a question mark heading into the season in East Lansing has bloomed into a full-on emergency as starters Blake Treadwell and right tackle Skyler Burkland have gone down with injuries early in the season.

Meanwhile, junior Johnny Simon leads a loaded group of defensive linemen that Jim Heacock has been supplementing with young talent since the start of the season.

Michigan State wants to lead with its talented running backs then let senior quarterback Kirk Cousins bomb away, but the Buckeyes could damage both plans significantly if they take away the running game and hit Cousins in the pocket.


2. Will the Ohio State offense continue to be opportunistic?

If the Buckeye defense creates chances for the offense to score, Braxton Miller and the rest of the offense must take advantage as readily as they did last week in a 37-17 defeat of Colorado.

Ohio State had great field position all day, but that would have meant little if the Buckeyes did not cash in with such regularity. This applies to more than just the freshman quarterback, though. The wide receivers must help him out by winning their individual matchups and catching the ball when it comes their way.

"We need that," head coach Luke Fickell said. "We know people are going to pack it in on us with a lot of run stuff. We need the wide receivers out there to have the ability to make plays, especially when people are going to get up on them."


3. Could a youthful mistake turn the game?

There will certainly be no lack of opportunities for youngsters to have a major impact on this contest, especially when the Buckeyes have the ball.

The two teams list a total of 12 first- or second-year players between the Ohio State offense and the Michigan State defense. The Spartans start five sophomores and a redshirt freshmen on that side of the ball while the Buckeyes will counter with a true freshmen, a redshirt freshman and four sophomores on offense.


4. Can the Ohio State secondary hold up?

The rebuilt Buckeye secondary is ranked in the top 25 in the nation against the pass but faces by far its sternest test of the year to date in Cousins and the Michigan State receiving corps.

Cousins has completed 81 of 117 passes for 947 yards with five touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. His favorite target is B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State's all-time leader in receptions. The 6-2, 215-pound senior enters this contest leading the Big Ten in receptions (7.3 per game) and receiving yardage (107.0).

The 5-11, 189-pound Keshawn Martin presents a smaller, quicker alternative at the other wide receiver spot, and the Spartans have a trio of tight ends Cousins can use as a safety blanket.


5. Which team will get better results from its special teams?

Any game featuring two head coaches who were Jim Tressel assistants figures to have a prominent role for special teams.

The Buckeyes have been coming on in all phases of the kicking game since a slow start, but the same cannot be said of the Spartans.

Dantonio said he is encouraged by the fact mental mistakes are mostly to blame for a touchdown allowed on a kickoff return against Notre Dame two weeks ago and a blocked punt last week by Central Michigan.

"We'll get it fixed, we'll continue to work on it, and all eyes are on those things as the games continue on," Dantonio said. "Our coaching will be there, and I think we'll continue to emphasize it and hopefully we need to get better. We can't have a slip up like that down in Columbus."


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