5 Questions: Purdue at Ohio State

Jim Tressel called this a pivotal week with his team coming off an emotional win. His team will look to continue to gain strength in all aspects of the offense while remembering quickly how to defend a spread offense and stop a talented running back. And what about all those fumbles last week?

1. Could the Ohio State running game take off?

Purdue wobbles into Ohio Stadium with the worst defense in the Big Ten statistically. Though holding Penn State to just 20 points last week, the Boilermakers got pushed all over the field while allowing 202 yards on the ground, or six more than they allow per game on average.

That total ranks 104th in the nation, and could represent an opportunity for the Buckeyes to really lower the boom.

The trouble is "Boom" – backup tailback Daniel Herron – is not going to play, and starter Chris Wells said Tuesday his injured foot is awfully sore this week.

Could that mean more time for Brandon Saine or Maurice Wells to finally get untracked?

One way or another, Purdue should represent low-hanging fruit for a maligned offensive line that might be coming together with the dawning of conference play.

"When you're playing a Big Ten team, you feel more at home, you feel more like it's the right thing," OSU left tackle Alex Boone said. "I felt like against Minnesota I played real well and last week I played real well. (Games are) more physical and I like that. It kind of brings me up."

Running all over the Boilermakers – no matter who is in the backfield – could be a good way to build momentum with a pair of physical, talented teams (Michigan State and Penn State) on the horizon.

2. Will the passing game progress?

Of course, Jim Tressel wants a multifaceted offense, and near-perfect weather is being forecasted.

While the option/veer running game has developed nicely with the ascension of Terrelle Pryor to starting quarterback, the passing game has been just average.

Pryor has completed a high percentage of his passes (42 of 65, or 64.6 percent) but is yet to total as many as 150 yards in a game.

The passing game is a reasonable changeup but might need to be more of a weapon as the weeks drag on and teams start to get a book on the retooled Ohio State running game.

"The addition of the option to the offense has taken quite a few snaps," Ohio State quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels said. "I don't know that necessarily we would like to throw the ball more, but I would like to get more yardage out of it."

With Purdue having struggled to stop the pass and some of the running backs ailing, maybe this is the week to let the youngster fling the ball around 25 times.

3. What about the return of the dreaded spread?

After going through a time warp to Madison to take on the traditional power offense of Wisconsin, Ohio State's defense returns home to face its fifth spread-based attack of the season.

Boilermaker head coach Joe Tiller is, of course, one of the granddaddy's of the spread and was the first to bring the formation to the Big Ten in its modern form. He has a senior quarterback in Curtis Painter who was billed before the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Painter has struggled at times and was actually benched last week, but he has nearly 10,000 passing yards in his career and has the ability to get hot and burn a defense if he gets in a groove.

"He always has it in him to have a breakout game," Ohio State safeties coach Paul Haynes said.

4. Can Kory Sheets be a difference maker?

The Purdue passing game has piled up yards like usual (a Big Ten-best 256.7 yards per game so far this season) but not clicked like it normally does (The pass-efficiency rating is 115.5, ninth in the Big Ten and 83rd in the nation), but there is at least one dangerous piece of the attack: running back Kory Sheets.

"He's a good one, and so we have to shift gears, get ready for a different attack, get ready for a different mode," Tressel said.

The shifty senior will enter Ohio Stadium averaging 99.6 yards per game, and he can exploit open gaps if the Buckeyes allow him to. He is a good open-field runner who can make tacklers miss, meaning this should be a good test to see how that aspect of the OSU defense has come along.

5. Have the Buckeyes solved their fumbling problem?

Ohio State has lost at a fumble in five of its six games this season, including last week in Madison when Ohio State players collectively coughed the ball up four times. Only one was lost, but two came on consecutive plays on the final drive.

Tressel said the fumbles were all different situations.

"I think the only common thread you could say is if I have the privilege of touching this ball, no one is going to get this ball other than the official when the play ends and when that doesn't happen, that means you didn't have that thought process," Tressel said. "So that's the common thread is whoever had their hands on the ball, that wasn't the most important possession in the world at that moment and that's the way we look at it."

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