Five Questions: Ohio State-Kent State

This break in the conference schedule comes at a time Ohio State is still working out some kinks on offense and to see if the defense really can play a perfect game at some point. Trying to prevent the latter this weekend will be a pair of talented Golden Flashes. We investigate all that and more in this week's Five Questions.

1. Will the OSU offense continue to progress?

Though the Buckeye offense got off to a flying start against Purdue, there was room for improvement.

The Buckeyes were forced to settle for field goals on three separate occasions after opening the game with two touchdowns.

"We just need to stay consistent," wide receiver Brian Hartline said. "I don't like how we're giving up so many opportunities in the red zone or close to the red zone with field goals. That shouldn't be happening. When we start playing these other (better) teams that we're talking about, we've got to be putting touchdowns up there instead of field goals because they're going to start closing that scoreboard up on us. So we've got some things to do."

Against Purdue, Ohio State was 2-2 in the red zone (inside the opponents' 20-yard line) but scored just two touchdowns in six trips inside the Boilermaker 30-yard line.

Todd Boeckman's three interceptions were not as bad as they may first have seemed, but every game is valuable for his development as a first-year starter.

In fact, Jim Tressel said only one of his quarterbacks throws to the other team bothered him, and while the execution of the offense was not perfect, Tressel came away from the game feeling as if his quarterback had taken a step forward mentally.

"There were a couple times where, in fact, the one time I remember where he got hit late down in the red zone, we had to kick the field goal and when he came off, he mentioned we should have adjusted our route to such and such and that's what (he) was waiting for and that was too late because they were bringing a full blitz. And you know what? When you watch the film, he was exactly right. And as you watch the film, his understanding seems to continue to grow."

As for the opponent, Kent State's defense boasts some nice-looking statistics but made a pedestrian Miami (Ohio) team look pretty good one week ago. Two RedHawk quarterbacks combined to complete 16 of 22 passes for 310 yards, and Miami was able to run the ball on the Golden Flashes late while protecting a lead.

2. Can the Buckeyes clean up those turnovers?

Asked Tuesday what common denominator connects college football upsets, Tressel firmly answered, "Turnovers."

He then deferred to his former boss and former Buckeye head man Earle Bruce, who from his seat in the among the reporters in attendance gave affirmation, thought a moment, then added, "And coaching," a remark that drew booming laughter from throughout the room.

Since most would agree Ohio State is in good shape in terms of the latter, turnovers would seem to be the issue worth considering.

Twice this season the Buckeyes have seen games kept closer than they needed to be because of a turnover deficit: at home against Akron Sept. 8 and at Purdue last week.

Meanwhile, the Golden Flashes have had major troubles in the turnover department this season, a problem amplified in their three losses when they are a combined minus-6.

3. Can Kent State's quarterback-running back duo do any damage?

Both KSU quarterback Julian Edelman and running back Eugene Jarvis pack dynamic talent into small packages. Though Edelman is just 6-0, 198, and Jarvis is 5-5, 170, both can make things happen in the open field.

Jarvis has drawn comparisons to Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe, a 5-7 dynamo who gashed Ohio State for 285 all-purpose yards last season, while Edelman can make defenders miss when he gets moving around in the pocket.

Edelman is adept at keeping his eyes down field when the pocket begins to break down, making him all the more dangerous.

While many teams give up on the run early against Ohio State, KSU head coach Doug Martin said his team will not.

"We have to shorten this game, we can't leave our defense on the field and it be a 40 minute possession advantage for Ohio State," Martin said. "That is what is happening for all those three-and-outs their defense is getting. We have to manufacture some first downs and we need to shorten the game with the clock. We have to be effective enough running the ball to keep the clock running, much like we did against Virginia Tech last year, and we stayed in that game for a long time because of that."

4. Will the Buckeyes come out sharp?

The Buckeyes probably won't overlook the Golden Flashes – that doesn't seem to have been a problem for teams coached by Tressel, in particular this group of players – but there are a few extenuating circumstances this week.

Ohio State is coming off consecutive night road games, something the program has never had to do, so the potential for a week-after hangover is doubled.

On top of that, noon starts have not always been kind to the Buckeyes. Players admit they are not as fond of getting up that early and sometimes that has some carryover as well. Recent examples include the Akron game this year and the 2006 contest with Cincinnati. The latter game also came on the heels of a highly hyped night victory at Texas.

Finally, with the fourth week of the quarter having arrived, Tressel said Tuesday many Buckeyes would find themselves missing practice time because of fall quarter's first round of midterms, including evening math exams for a number of the freshmen Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We're going to be missing a number of our guys here in the next two days, but we've got to make sure that we make up that preparation time and we continue to take the steps that we've been taking," Tressel said.

5. Could a broken play or two aid the underdogs?

Since no one has been able to march down the field on a consistent basis this season, a busted play or two figures to be the Golden Flashes' best chance to do some damage.

Edelman very nearly led his team to a tying score against Miami thanks to a 35-yard scramble on his team's final drive. Under a heavy rush, Edelman did his best Jake Plummer-in-the-Rose-Bowl impersonation, giving a multitude of RedHawk defenders the slip before escaping down the sideline.

It was merely the best of a number of scrambles by Edelman, who ran 22 times for 93 yards.

"You'll love watching their quarterback, you'll love watching that little running back, he's special," Tressel said.

The Golden Flashes also give themselves the potential for big plays with a traditional speed option look Ohio State has not really seen much of this season.

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