5 Questions: Ohio State at Purdue

This week running the ball and stopping the run will be key, as will pass protection for Ohio State. The Buckeyes will also look to put an end to their slow starting ways and solve what has made Purdue so much tougher to play against in West Lafayette.

1. Will the Boilermakers enjoy a boost at home?

Sometimes coaches claim an opponent is "a different team at home," but that seems to be true about this Purdue squad.

The Boilermakers are 4-1 at home and 0-4 on the road. They looked listless in losses at Michigan and Wisconsin the past two weeks, but could they get a lift upon returning to the friendly confines of Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette?

It's happened before. The Boilermakers have won three of the past five against Ohio State in West Lafayette but haven't beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus since 1988.

"They were up 28-0 on Minnesota at home," Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell said. "They were up 21-0 on Illinois at home. They play a lot better at home. We have to make sure our guys understand that's what you're going to see."

2. Will Ohio State impose its will on the Boilermakers again?

Last season, offensive coordinator Jim Bollman had his team establish a clear identity early in a 49-0 white-wash of Purdue. The Buckeyes went 60 yards in five plays, all runs by Dan Herron en route to establishing a 7-0 lead. They eventually balanced things out and ended up with 184 yards rushing with 305 through the air, but there was never a doubt which team controlled the line of scrimmage.

This year Ohio State is unequivocally the a run-first team, averaging 204.3 yards per game, and Purdue has struggled to stop the run (191.2 ypg.). The Boilermakers particularly struggled the past two weeks, allowing 703 yards combined on the ground in losses to Wisconsin and Michigan.

3. Can Ohio State shut down the Purdue rushing offense?

The Buckeyes pride themselves on stopping the run, but they have had some down moments in that department this year. They allowed more than 200 yards to both Miami (Fla.) and Nebraska in losses earlier this season and gave up 159 last week against Indiana.

The Boilermakers bring a shotgun-oriented attack reminiscent of Indiana's into the game Saturday with a pair of capable runners: 5-9, 190-pound senior Ralph Bolden and 5-1, 203-pound junior Akeem Shavers. The duo has combined for 787 yards so far this season, and both average 4.6 yards per carry.

4. Will the Buckeyes be able to protect Braxton Miller?

This was a major issue two years ago as the Boilermakers upset No. 7 Ohio State 26-18 in West Lafayette. The OSU offensive line struggled to hold up against an onslaught of pass rushers led by standout Ryan Kerrigan and never were able to get a consistent offensive attack going.

Kerrigan is gone, but Ohio State fullback Zach Boren said he sees a solid front left behind.

"They're huge up front and attack all the time," Boren said. "They love speed rushing and love getting to the quarterback."

The leader up front is tackle Kawann Short, who is tied for fourth in the Big Ten with Ohio State's John Simon with 12.5 tackles for loss.

5. Can the Buckeyes avoid another slow start?

This is a question that keeps coming up as Ohio State continually seems to need time to get acclimated to games.

The Buckeyes fell behind 10-0 last week and have been outscored 56-44 in the first quarter of games this year. They have excelled in the second, however, with a 63-16 advantage.

Fickell attributed that to the youth of his squad but said there was no excuse for not getting the problem fixed yet.

Purdue has outscored teams 150-125 in the first half of games, including 78-52 in the opening quarter.

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