5 Questions: Ohio State vs. Toledo

When Ohio State and Toledo get together in Cleveland on Saturday, the Buckeyes will want to avoid a slow start, try to slow down the Rocket spread offense and get their running game in gear. Both quarterbacks will be in focus as well.

1. Can the Buckeyes avoid a slow start?

If Ohio State comes out sluggish against Toledo on Saturday, it won't be the first time Buckeye faithful have seen the show.

Dating all the way back to 2002, Jim Tressel's teams have seemed to be susceptible to early-game letdowns after big regular season contests, but the Buckeye seniors said they would make sure they do what they can to avoid history repeating.

"I think we have a great group of seniors who have taken it on, and the thing is, it's not just the captains job," said co-captain Doug Worthington. "They made sure to let the younger guys know that it's a long season. Our goals are not over and (director of athletics) Gene Smith actually came in and spoke with us. He told us we did a great job and it was a hard game and we have to keep pushing, so having that support makes it easier for a captain like me to go and talk to who needs it, but everybody is there and knows the goals we have."

2. How will Ohio State handle its first look at a spread offense this season?

Navy presented a unique challenge with its triple-option offense in week one, and USC visited the Horseshoe with a pro-style offense that shares many characteristics with Ohio State's own attack, but Toledo is a team that prefers spreading the field.

There was a time earlier in the decade when the spread seemed to regularly allow teams of lesser pedigree give the Buckeyes fits, but lately that has not been the case. Ohio State lost to three BCS conference spread teams in the previous three seasons - Florida, Illinois and Texas - but overall has a scoring defense average two points better against spread teams than against all opponents (11.6 points per game compared to 13.6).

"We have plenty of athletes on the team who can replicate the speed we're going to see, so it felt like we took a step today in the right direction," said linebacker Austin Spitler after the Buckeyes' practice Tuesday.

He and Worthington agreed having faced so many spread teams in recent years should help with a refresher course.

"Definitely playing against teams like Illinois and Texas and whatnot, we kind of got a little feel for it," Worthington said. "It's something you always have to prepare for, and as coach says, take off our pro-style hat and put on our spread hat for this week, that's something we did knowing that we have to fly around knowing we have to use our hands and knowing that the ball is going to come out quick and knock some balls down as tall defensive linemen. There are things we have to do, but we're prepared, and watching a lot of film of old games of ours and old games of theirs, we're just taking it one day at a time."

3. Can the veteran Rocket quarterback continue his hot start to the season?

Buckeye fans know all about dangerous players from Fremont (Ohio) Ross, even if Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt does not much resemble 1997 Heisman Trophy Winner Charles Woodson.

Opelt enters competition Saturday as the nation's leader in total offense as he averages 371 yards per game passing and another 66 on the ground. He put the ball in the air 67 times (with 41 completions) for 423 yards in a season-opening loss at Purdue then was a much more efficient 15-for-23 passing for 319 yards in a victory over Colorado last week. He threw three touchdown passes against the Boilermakers and added four more against the Buffaloes.

"If we let him sit back there and pick us apart, it's going to be a long day," said Spitler. "We've got to get pressure on him. That's the main goal. He's a good athlete. They spread everybody out and make running lanes for him and get him going."

4. Will the Ohio State running game show some improvement?

The Buckeyes' running game has looked far from prolific in the first two games of 2009. After a so-so 153-yard day against Navy, the sledding was tougher against a stacked front from USC, and an 88-yard day was a result.

Those involved in the scheme remain confident it can get untracked.

"We know that the first two games we didn't get it going like we wanted to but at the same time, it's early in the season," said Ohio State running back Dan Herron, who leads the Buckeyes with 118 yards rushing this season. "We're sure that we are working hard and we'll get it going."

He said a lack of execution has held back the attack so far.

"That's the big thing, just finishing plays off and making a way for us to put some points up on the board."

While Herron received the bulk of the carries against USC, Brandon Saine has shown himself a candidate for more touches and many fans are clamoring to see the debuts of freshmen Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall.

5. What's next for Terrelle Pryor?

This just might be a weekly question as the sophomore who was the No. 1 recruit in the nation two years ago, whose development as a complete player figures to mirror the success of the Buckeyes not just for the rest of this season but into 2010 and perhaps beyonds.

He has completed just 54.3 (25 for 46) of his passes so far, and his passing efficiency rating of 116.92 is 11th in the Big Ten after he led the conference in that statistic last season as a true freshman.

What's more, he has not been the dynamic runner many expected him to be. Pryor has been sacked only once but still has just 66 yards rushing on 16 attempts (including the sack).

"No one wants to be a part of great things more than he does," Tressel said. "But he's got to keep his focus on now and working on all the little things you have to do."

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