5 Questions: Iowa at Ohio State

This week we focus on Iowa's use of a new quarterback, protecting Ohio State's quarterback, running the ball, big plays in the passing game and takeaways by both teams in the latest edition of Five Questions.

1. How will Iowa's backup quarterback perform?

James Vandenberg is pressed into duty after regular starter Ricky Stanzi suffered a severe ankle sprain last week during the Hawkeyes' 17-10 loss to Northwestern.

Vandenberg is a redshirt freshman from Keokuk, Iowa, who was rated the No. 50 quarterback in the country during his senior year. He had an ugly passing line of 9 for 27 for 82 yards with an interceptions last week, but Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel believes a full week of preparation as the starter will serve him well.

"It's a lot harder in the middle of the road when you lose someone like that, it has to be an unusual situation for you to just shake that off," Tressel said. "I think when you have some time to prepare and get a mindset and so forth and say, hey, here's the hand we've got, sometimes in the middle of a game that's harder."

"We really like everything about him," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters in Iowa City this week. "I think he'll respond well this week and next."

2. Will the Buckeyes be able to protect Terrelle Pryor?

Ohio State's offensive line did not allow a sack at Penn State last week, but the new week brings a stiffer challenge as Iowa has a pair of talented ends in Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns. Clayborn has 7.5 sacks, while Binns has 4.5, and the pair will prove a significant challenge for Ohio State's offensive tackles, a group that has struggles collectively at times this season.

"The tackles are going to get most of the battle because they're going to line up over him every play," Tressel said when asked about stopping Clayborn. "There are going to be times when there's a tight end next to him. There are going to be times there are two tight ends next to him, there's going to be times where the fullback gets involved, there's going to be times where the tailback gets involved in blocking, but you can't overdo trying to help out on one guy because they've got 10 other guys that are going to be in the right place who are going to be able to make plays."

3. Which team will take the ball away more?

Iowa enters Ohio Stadium on Saturday with 26 takeaways, one less than national leader Ohio and one more than Ohio State.

With both teams boasting their share of ballhawks, turnovers figure to have an effect on the outcome.

"If we don't turn it over, we play good defense, we take what they give us, we just try and punt the football when we can, we'll be OK," Ohio State quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said. "It's when we start turning the ball over that we have problems. If you think back the last couple years, the times we've turned the ball over are the ones we've dropped."

4. Can the Hawkeyes make big plays down the field?

Ferentz's team has been fond of going downfield this season. The Hawkeyes have 37 passing plays of 20 yards or more, including 19 of more than 30 yards.

Meanwhile, the Ohio State defense has allowed only 13 passing plays of 20 yards or more, so something seemingly has to give.

"They're very athletic and they got up and get the ball," Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman said. "Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is an Ohio boy so I know this game is going to be big for him and Marvin McNutt was a QB and he's tall, athletic and pretty fast. I think they allow their receivers to go up and get the ball. They throw deep and allow them to make plays."

5. Can the Buckeyes keep the running game going?

After bottoming out with 66 rushing yards in the loss to Purdue on Oct. 17, the Ohio State running game has found new life.

The Buckeyes averaged almost 270 yards per game during the past three weeks.

Last week at Penn State, they racked up 228 yards on the ground using a multitude of different running plays and despite Pryor's being slowed by a sore ankle.

The coaching staff devised ways to run the ball without leaning on Pryor, the leading rusher on the season, and continuing to do that figures to be an important task this week.

"The run game is the quarterback's best friend because once the running game gets going, the play-action stuff opens up," Siciliano said. "Now you've got guys coming up to the box. The linebackers are getting closer on run fakes, and when they're up in the box, the field looks entirely bigger than it does when everybody's spread out and you're not running the ball better."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories