5 Answers: Ohio State at Michigan State

This week the Buckeyes were tasked with stopping Javon Ringer and the Spartan play-action passing game on one side of the ball while getting the offensive line together and growing the passing game on the other. We also examine how field position affected the final outcome, a 45-7 rout in favor of the Buckeyes.

1. Will the Buckeyes contain Javon Ringer?

Ringer ran for 40 yards on seven carries as Ohio State opened a 28-0 lead in the first half, largely limiting how much the Spartans could afford to hand it to him and wait for him to break off a long run in the second half.

The Dayton Chaminade-Julienne grad showed flashes of the ability that has allowed him to average 158.9 yards per game before Saturday, but the Buckeye defensive line for the most part did a good job of plugging holes up the middle, letting linebackers such as James Laurinaitis chase him down when he tried to bounce outside.

Laurinaitis was well acquainted with Ringer by the end of the day. He finished with a team-high 11 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, as the Buckeyes continued to make a living in the MSU backfield.

"When you can make any team one-dimensional you're at a huge advantage as a defense," Laurinaitis said. "Taking Javon out, an unbelievable kind of player, one of the best in the country, really let us do some things."

2. Can Michigan State have success with play action?

The Spartans' only touchdown of the game was a result of play action, but otherwise the inability to get Ringer untracked hindered the effectiveness of that aspect of the MSU attack.

In a couple of bits of irony, MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered an injury after making a play fake, and Ringer's longest run of the day came after a fake throw.

Laurinaitis rocked Hoyer on a rollout late in the second quarter, a hit that left the quarterback looking woozy.

One play later, he faked a throw before handing to Ringer on a statue-of-liberty play that fooled the defense and gained 16.

Despite the domination, Laurinaitis said the Buckeyes stayed on alert for attacks via both land an air until late in the contest.

"Even with the score at seven or 14, we knew they could still pound the ball if they wanted to," he said. "So we didn't really feel like we could make it one-dimensional until we really started to shut that down and get a few three-and-outs and a few big stops on them. Doing that is in a game like this, especially against one of the leading rushing teams in the nation. Stopping their biggest strength helps the defense out."

3. Which team will win the field position battle?

Overall, the numbers were about even, but Ohio State barely had to cover more than half the field for any of its first three touchdowns, while Michigan State's best starting field position of the day was its own 39.

Buckeye punter A.J. Trapasso did not have his best day – none of his five punts pinned the Spartans inside their own 20 and he hit a couple short out of bounds – but Ohio State did not really need him to. The OSU offense did not have a three-and-out until late in the fourth quarter, long after the game was decided.

Michigan State, meanwhile, could never get its offense going enough to tip the field in its favor. In the first half, the Spartans had three three-and-outs and two other drives that ended in turnovers.

Twice Ohio State had to start inside its own 10, but neither time proved to be detrimental because the Buckeye offense was able to get at least one first down for some breathing room.

Ultimately, Ohio State's average starting position was its own 33, while the Spartans began on their own 28 on average.

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

Steve Rehring started at right guard with Bryant Browning at right tackle while Ben Person, who started 20 straight games at right guard since the start of the 2007 season, came off the bench and played a couple of series.

"They've got a three-man rotation," left guard Jim Cordle said. "Steve has settled into guard instead of tackle, which I think is probably pretty good for him. We would've rotated in more, but we only had two possessions in the second half. It's good to see those guys competing. The right side will be good the rest of the season."

The Buckeyes finished with gaudy numbers – 251 yards on 52 rushes – but Cordle admitted there is still work to be done. At least a few times, Chris Wells tried the middle of the Spartan defense with no success, but when Wells or quarterback Terrelle Pryor could get to the edge, each had success taking advantage of his individual gifts to make big gains.

Cordle admitted that early in the game Ohio State was moving the ball in spite of the line's inability to get much movement.

"That would be accurate," he said. "If you look at the runs, we might have averaged good (an average of 4.2), but if you break it down I think we did have a fairly large number of 1-yard or 2-yard runs. I think that's something that we can't have next week. We've got to be consistent next week, get the four yards and then the half on second and so forth."

As far as pass protection, Pryor was sacked twice, but he did not drop back to throw often.

5. And how about that Ohio State passing game?

There was not much to dislike, nor much to like. Actually, there just wasn't much.

Pryor threw just 11 passes and when factoring in two sacks it is easy to conclude that Ohio State was not in the business of working on the passing game, not that it was too necessary after the Buckeyes jumped out to a 28-0 lead.

That was aided by Pryor's fast start both running and passing. He completed all five of his first-quarter passing attempts, including a 13-yarder that set up his 18-yard touchdown run and a 56-yarder to Brian Hartline that set up Wells' 1-yard charge over the goal line. Pryor also threw a touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie during the opening onslaught.

"The coaches opened it up," Pryor said. "They couldn't stop the run, so when we get a problem and we have to pass the ball, I'll be ready."

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