5 Questions: Purdue at Ohio State

There might not be much mystery in how the Buckeyes attack the Boilermakers, but will Purdue be up to the task? On the flip side, have the Silver Bullets learned anything about shooting down spread offenses? We're pondering those questions and three more this week.

1. Can Purdue stop the Ohio State running game?

This is certainly a matchup of strength against weakness. The Buckeyes bring the nation's No. 8 rushing offense into the game while the Boilermakers will counter with the 97th-best run defense. Ohio State is second in the Big Ten while Purdue is next-to-last and coming off of a week in which it allowed a staggering 467 yards to Wisconsin.

Purdue has maintained a strong defensive line through the past few seasons and sometimes given Ohio State trouble up front, but the Boilermakers have questions as far as tackling and effort are concerned. Look for Ohio State to try to exploit this.

2. Who will run the show for Purdue?

Head coach Danny Hope used three different quarterbacks last week, but none were effective as the Boilermakers managed only 252 total yards.

Caleb Terbush started and completed 7 of 16 passes for 80 yards and an interception while Robert Marve went 3 for 9 for 43 yards. Rob Henry threw for one yard while seeing five of his six attempts fall incomplete.

Hope said TerBush will start this week, but all three can expect to see some time again.

Henry is considered more of a running threat than the other two, but he is still shaking off the effects of a torn ACL that kept him out last season. Marve is playing with a torn knee ligament, but Ohio State fans will recall he provided a spark in relief of TerBush last season when he completed 10 of 13 passes for 94 yards and ran for the game-winning touchdown in overtime on a quarterback sneak.

3. How will the Buckeyes match up with another spread offense?

Head coach Urban Meyer said himself after his team gave up 49 points and nearly 500 yards last week to Indiana and 38 points the week before the Nebraska – spread offenses have exposed some holes in the Ohio State defense.

Of primary concern is the play at linebacker, where fullback Zach Boren made his first appearance last week and ended up leading the team in tackles, as well as the secondary, where tackling and pursuit angles have been spotty for much of the season.

Purdue has had issues on offense this season, but the Boilermakers' quick passing game has traditionally given Ohio State fits. They bring a lot of potential damage-doers into the contest at receiver and running back. Nine different players caught a pass in the game against the Buckeyes last season, and seven are back this year.

4. Can Ohio State limit big plays?

Meyer said he counted 14 big plays by the Hoosiers last season, a striking number to be sure.

There is no secret to stopping those other than simply working to maintain better leverage on the ball and making sure players who get the first hit bring their man down more often. That story has already been written this season, but the Buckeyes continue to work on those fundamentals in practice.

Saturday is their next chance to show some progress, and explosive gains could be Purdue's only shot at making a game of it. The Boilermakers had plays of 81, 52, 26 and 15 yards last week. That accounted for 69 percent of their 252 total yards against the Badgers.

5. Will Kawann Short or Johnathan Hankins shine brighter?

This game will feature two of the premier defensive tackles in not just the Big Ten but perhaps the nation.

Short enters the game leading the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 1.5 per game (nine total). He is third in the league with four sacks, and the senior presents a player to game plan around.

Hankins has only three tackles for loss and one sack, but the junior is tied for fourth on the OSU squad with 33 stops. Teams have already shown a tendency to try to avoid him when possible.

Both are athletic and able to make plays outside their area, so it will be interesting to see if either can change the game.

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