5 Questions: Ohio State at Michigan

This week we will watch how Ohio State deals with Michigan's best defensive player and the Wolverines' spread offense. Turnovers figure to be key, as always, along with special teams, but who will supply big plays for the Buckeyes?

1. Can Ohio State contain Brandon Graham?

The Michigan senior defensive end leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss during conference play with 16 and is second in sacks with 6.5. Strong and quick with a good motor, he is the total package on a defense lacking playmakers elsewhere.

Ohio State previously struggled mightily with edge rushers Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue and O'Brien Schofield of Wisconsin, but the Buckeye tackles have improved of late.

This will be their stiffest test of the season.

2. Who will make plays for the Buckeye offense?

Ohio State has feasted more on big plays than sustained scoring drives against Michigan in recent seasons, but Chris "Beanie" Wells, Wolverine killer extraordinaire, is collecting paychecks from the Arizona Cardinals these days, meaning someone new will have to step up to carry the Buckeye offense against the Wolverines.

Terrelle Pryor is certainly a candidate. He got off to a rough start against Michigan last year by throwing an early interception but rallied to throw two touchdown passes.

Dan Herron and Brandon Saine have run the ball well the past couple of weeks, and Herron has big-play experience against the Wolverines: He broke loose for a 49-yard touchdown against them last season.

In three games against Michigan, Wells totaled 412 yards and four touchdowns. Three of his scoring runs covered 52 yards or more.

3. Who will win the special teams battle?

Breakdowns in special teams hurt the Buckeyes against Iowa, although they won the game with a field goal.

Tressel emphasizes special teams every week, but never more so than on the road, and the Wolverines appear to have the edge heading into this matchup.

Michigan has one of the nation's best punters in Zoltan Mesko, a Twinsburg, Ohio, native, and the Wolverines are dangerous on kickoff returns, an area Ohio State might be vulnerable.

A kickoff return for a touchdown was key in Michigan's week two upset of Notre Dame, and the Buckeyes have seen their coverage struggle a few times this season, including last week when the Hawkeyes returned a kick for a touchdown to jumpstart their fourth-quarter comeback.

Ohio State punter Jon Thoma averaged a net of 35.8 yards per punt last week and landed none inside the 20.

"We'd like to win the special teams," Tressel said. "We call them the special units and each of the special teams make up the special units and we couldn't say that after that game. We didn't win the punt game. We didn't win the kickoff cover game. Now, we can't diminish the one we did win with and that was extraordinary, that was great, but again, we need to be at our best in all of those. You can't go on the road and lose the special teams and win the game."

Last season, special teams contributed to Michigan's demise. The Wolverines missed a field goal, muffed a punt and allowed an 80-yard punt return that set up a short Ohio State touchdown drive.

4. Can Michigan gets its spread offense into gear?

Head coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense was a dynamic force when he was leading the program at West Virginia, but it has been more hit-and-miss in Ann Arbor.

Aside from one 14-play drive that resulted in a touchdown, the Wolverines never really got into gear last season, but this year they are much better, a fact of which the Buckeyes are well aware.

"The quarterback situation is really improved for them a lot and having a whole year under the coaching system with his recruits and everything and he's kind of getting things settled in," Ohio State safety Anderson Russell said. "In all the games I've seen they've been scoring over 30 points except the Penn State game. They've got a high-powered offense so this game is going to come down to how our defense plays."

5. Will turnovers affect the outcome?

Ohio State committed five turnovers against Purdue, the most ever for a Buckeye team against a Big Ten team under Tressel, but have given the ball away just twice in the four games since. That includes no turnovers the past two weeks in wins over ranked foes.

Michigan scored 10 points of Wisconsin turnovers deep in Badger territory last week, but the Wolverines are 102nd in the nation in turnover margin (minus-8) for the season.

Ohio State, meanwhile, is No. 1 in the Big Ten and seventh in the nation at plus-12.

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