5 Questions: Ohio State at Michigan State

Everyone knows the Buckeyes need to keep Javon Ringer from running wild Saturday in East Lansing, but field position and guarding against the big play via play action will be important as well. Then there are the ongoing issues with the offense. All are touched upon in this week's edition of Five Questions.

1. Will the Buckeyes contain Javon Ringer?

Ohio State safety Anderson Russell said Michigan State's star senior running back figures to be the toughest the Buckeyes face this season.

"He's not the fastest guy in the world but he runs really hard," Russell said.

The 5-9, 202-pound dynamo from Dayton is a patient, durable runner who enters the contest second in the nation with 158.9 yards per game.

Michigan State is rarely fancy in how it attacks a defense, as OSU defensive tackle Nader Abdallah can attest.

"This is traditional, smash-mouth football," Abdallah said. "The offensive line is very big, and we're going to have to get after them. They like to run the ball right up the chute, north and south, and right between the tight ends. We have to be physical and get off blocks. We have to win in the trenches."


2. Can Michigan State have success with play action?

If the Buckeyes become too preoccupied with Ringer, they risk giving up a big play to another Ohio native.

Brian Hoyer, Michigan State's senior quarterback from North Olmstead, does not have fancy numbers, but he has received strong reviews for his performance this season.

"I think he's playing a lot better," Russell said. "It seems to me he's a lot more comfortable this year than he was last year in the pocket even under pressure, and I think a lot of that has to do with how well their running game has been clicking for them. The success they've been having with that I would definitely say takes pressure off the quarterback."

Overall, Hoyer is completing just better than 50 percent of his passes but he has picked up his play since the start of Big Ten play, when he has thrown five of his six touchdown passes and one of his three interceptions.

Ohio State looked susceptible to play action against USC.

"We've just got to be patient," Russell said. "If we have deep responsibilities we've got to be smart with that and not get too anxious to come up and stop the run."


3. Which team will win the field position battle?

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel spoke at length this week of how impressed he is Michigan State punter Aaron Bates for his ability to pin teams inside the 20-yard line.

"A year ago, their punter dropped 17 punts inside the 10," Tressel said. "Three of them, you remember, were against us, and we were starting back behind our own goal post the whole day. He's done the same thing this year. He dropped one down on the 2 against Northwestern. He's probably had, from the ones I have seen, half dozen or so in the recent games that he's popped down in there, so he's been a great threat from that field position standpoint."

Indeed, in the Spartans' win over previously unbeaten Northwestern last week, Michigan State's average starting field position was its own 49-yard line. One of the Spartans' seven scoring drives covered more than 42 yards.

The Wildcats on average began at their own 18.

Back in Columbus, Tressel said just about the only good thing his offense did was make sure Purdue never started a drive in Ohio State territory.


4. What will the OSU offensive line look like and how will it play?

The Ohio State offensive line has been in flux most of the year. Two of the four returning starters – guards Steve Rehring and Ben Person – missed all of spring practice after having surgeries and when Rehring went down in the third game of the season, multiple moves had to be made to replace him.

Now that Rehring is back and working into the lineup, the search for a cohesive unit seems to have been a difficult one. Ohio State offensive coordinator and line coach Jim Bollman said Rehring can expect to play more this week, mostly at guard. He made it sound as if the main unit could consist of Alex Boone at left tackle, Jim Cordle at left guard, Michael Brewster manning center, Rehring at right guard and Bryant Browning to his right at tackle.

"It was nice to get Steve back in there last week some and I think he'll get a little bit more action, which is a good thing," Bollman said. "When he comes back and gets back in the act you really appreciate his experience and expertise at a lot of different things."

As for the rotation, "We'll see how it evolves," Bollman said. Whatever the combination is, the Buckeyes will look to open more holes they did last week against Purdue, when the final tally showed them with 125 yards rushing after averaging more than 210 yards per outing the previous three weeks.


5. And how about that Ohio State passing game?

Ohio State has won four games in a row despite not consistently showing a dangerous passing attack.

But while explosive plays from the passing game have been lacking, so too have turnovers. Since taking over as the starting quarterback at the start of the four-game wining streak, Pryor has thrown two interceptions, one of which was on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half against Minnesota. He's rarely done anything dangerous with the ball.

The latter fact seems to suit his coach more than he is concerned about the lack of long ones down the field, but the Buckeyes still figure to want to stretch the field as the season wears on.

"In this day and age, I suppose you're going to get 65 plays to 70 on a normal game and I would like to throw it 30 times," Tressel said. "That'd be great: run it 35, throw it 30, but let's make sure that a good bunch of them are completions and a couple of them are touchdowns and none of them interceptions."


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