5 Questions: Minnesota at Ohio State

Minnesota comes to town with a premier receiver and a veteran quarterback. Can the Golden Gophers attack the Buckeyes as Purdue did? We ponder that along with turnovers, penalties, rushing the passer and more in the latest edition of Five Questions.

1. Can Ohio State contain Eric Decker?

Most consider the Golden Gopher receiver the top receiver in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country.

The 6-3, 220-pound senior is by far the most dangerous weapon in head coach Tim Brewster's arsenal. He enters the game at the Horseshoe with 47 catches for 731 yards, and no other Gopher has more than 16 receptions or even 300 yards.

Ohio State did a good job of containing him last year as he caught five passes for 52 yards in a 34-21 Buckeye win.

He is coming off back-to-back subpar games, however, including a one-catch performance last week at Penn State.

"We didn't take advantage of all the opportunities that we had," Brewster said. "We'll go into every game with a plan of how we want to try to get Eric the ball, by formation, motion and shift, try to create space for him, try to create opportunities for him."

2. Will Minnesota try to copy anything from the Buckeyes' Purdue film?

The Golden Gophers might be better off trying to spread the wealth this week after Ohio State allowed a season-high 281 yards passing to Purdue last week. The Boilermakers were able to neutralize the Buckeye pass rush with quick passes and keep Ohio State off balance by spreading the field for much of the day. Eight different Boilermakers caught passes.

Asked if the Golden Gophers can replicate that, Ohio State safeties coach Paul Haynes said, "There is no doubt. I'm sure anyone can do that. Minnesota has a lot of receivers, too. They can spread you out and give you different formations, kind of like Indiana did, too. The thing about it was, it wasn't a lot of different stuff, we just didn't make the plays that we usually make."

Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber is not having a good year statistically, but he should be familiar with the Ohio State defense. This will be his third start against the Buckeyes.

3. Will there be any hangovers after disappointing losses?

Ohio State comes off a deflating 26-18 loss to Purdue, but Haynes said practice has been more crisp this week.

"I think it always happens," Haynes said. "It was the same way kinda after USC. Unfortunately, sometimes losses make you refocus. Not that they weren't concentrating on the little things before, but every time you have a setback you start focusing on the little things. In any breakdown of defense, it still goes back to the things that you've learned since little league."

Meanwhile, the Gophers enter Ohio Stadium after falling 20-0 at Penn State and missing out on a chance for a statement win.

"The guys kind of got frustrated with the way the game went and their production and the team's production," Decker told reporters this week. "I think that going through camp and the offseason that everyone knows each other well enough to know that we have to stick together."

Will improved focus lead to more efficient play, or might the task of being emotionally ready to play be more difficult when game time comes?

4. Which team will better pressure the passer?

Ohio State took the worst end of the pressure game on both sides of the ball last week.

The Buckeye defense was not able to bother Purdue's Joey Elliott as much as it had previous opponents, and the Boilermaker ends were in the Ohio State backfield often enough they should have been charged rent.

Turning around both those situations would go a long way towards another ‘W' for the Buckeyes, who still rank tied for third in the conference with 19 sacks so far.

They are seventh in sacks allowed (13).

Minnesota is just ninth in both sacks (12) and sacks allowed (16).

5. Can Ohio State cut down on penalties and get the turnover margin back in its favor?

The problems on offense don't figure to work themselves out immediately, but they showed last week penalties and turnovers make them even more vulnerable.

The Buckeyes remain third in the Big Ten in turnover margin (plus-4) despite enduring the third five-turnover game of the Tressel era last week.

Minnesota enters with 13 takeaways and 14 giveaways.

"I've always believed that turnovers are a thing you can control," Tressel said. "If you really believe that that is a game difference maker, then you have a chance of minimizing them."

Meanwhile, several times last week the Buckeyes put themselves behind the count in down and distance because of pre-snap penalties.

"Same thing with those penalties that you can control," Tressel said. "Above all else, I know what the snap count is, where's the ball heading and what's my job, it's not that difficult."


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