On Saturday, Nov. 14 at 3:30 pm ET, the No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-1, 5-1) will be in Columbus, Ohio to take on the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2, 5-1).
The winner of this game clinches the Big Ten Title and a trip to the Rose Bowl, while the loser will pretty much have all its BCS bowl hopes smashed.
Iowa comes into this game after its first loss of the season, last week to Northwestern, 17-10.
The Hawkeyes didn't just lose the game, they lost their starting quarterback as well, when Ricky Stanzi went down with a high ankle sprain. Although Stanzi has been inconsistent throughout the season, he has been extremely clutch and has led Iowa to victory countless times.
Without him, Iowa wouldn't have had a 9-0 start.
Ohio State comes in after dominating Penn State 24-7, barely allowing over 200 yards of offense.
They are led by sophomore QB Terrelle Pryor, who started off a little slow but has vastly improved ever since Ohio State's stunning loss to Purdue.
Ohio State is currently favored by 16.5 points in the matchup.
Offensive Backfield: Ohio State
Terrelle Pryor has improved a lot since that Purdue game, while Iowa's backfield has been plagued by injuries. The Buckeyes come into this game with an all-freshman backfield that is talented, but just not there yet (especially when they're at the 'Shoe).
Wide Receivers: Iowa
This is very close, but I'm giving the edge to Iowa. DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher have been studs for Ohio State, combining for 1154 yards and 13 TDs, but unlike Iowa, the Buckeyes don't have much else. Derrell Johnson-Koulianous, Marvin McNutt, Trey Stross and Tony Moeaki have combined for 1742 yards and 12 TDs, giving Iowa more depth at that position.
Offensive Line: Ohio State
You could argue that Iowa should win here, but Iowa's line hasn't been healthy this season and has underperformed. Ohio State is 23rd nationally in rushing offense and 44th in sacks allowed, while Iowa is 94th in rushing and 52nd in sacks.
Defensive Line: Ohio State
Adrian Clayborn has been a monster on Iowa's defensive line, but overall I have to give this to Ohio State. They rank 23rd nationally in sacks, 50th in tackles for loss, and 3rd in rushing defense, while Iowa ranks 52nd, 76th and 38th in those categories, respectively.
It's not that Ohio State's linebackers aren't good—they're stacked like the rest of their defense—but Iowa's backers have been one of its best units this year. Pat Angerer is fourth in the nation in total tackles and A.J. Edds has three interceptions, but Ohio State isn't far behind here. Another very close category.
This is too close to call. Iowa is fourth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, while Ohio State is 6th in that category. Ohio State is 11th in the nation in pass defense, while Iowa is 16th. Iowa is tied for first in the nation in interceptions, while Ohio State is 3rd. Both units are just outstanding.
There's not a lot to look at in this category. Iowa is 19th in the nation in net punting, while Ohio State is 37th. That's really all there is to look at.
There's more to look at in this category. Iowa leads Ohio State in percentage of FGs made, percentage of PATs made and kickoff return defense.
Returning: Ohio State
Once again there isn't a lot to look at here. Iowa is 79th nationally in punt returns and 84th in kick returns, while Ohio State is 67th nationally in punt returns and 26th in kick returns.
Offensive Coach: Ohio State
I don't know too much about this category, but Iowa's Ken O'Keefe has not been so great this year. He has had many questionable playcalls and one playcall could have lost Iowa its starting QB for the rest of this season. I don't even know who Ohio State's offensive coordinator is.
Defensive Coach: Iowa
This is a very close one, as Iowa's Norm Parker and Ohio State's Jim Heacock are both probably top 10 coaches. Both have consistently coached excellent defenses, but I have to give this to Iowa because they have done just as much (or almost as much) with less talent.
Head Coach: Even
This one is too close to call as well. Ohio State's Jim Tressel has undoubtedly had more success, but he also has much more talent to work with. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has had a couple of down seasons, but has mostly been good since 2001 and hasn't had as much talent.
Overall Unit Advantage: Tied; Ohio State 6, Iowa 6
When Iowa runs the ball, Ohio State has the advantage.
Iowa is 94th in the nation in rushing offense, on their fourth string RB (a true freshman), going into the 'Shoe, and going against the third ranked rushing defense.
When Iowa passes the ball, Ohio State has the advantage.
If Ricky Stanzi didn't get hurt, I would have to put Ohio State for the first three quarters, then Iowa in the fourth. That's not the case with redshirt freshman James Vandenburg replacing the injured Stanzi. That's right- a freshman will be making his first career start in an extremely hostile environment versus the 11th ranked pass defense.
When Ohio State runs the ball, either team could have the advantage.
Ohio State is ranked 23rd in the nation in rushing offense while Iowa is ranked 38th in the nation against the run. Iowa has a very good front seven, but Ohio State has a good offensive line and plenty of good runners. This could go either way on Saturday.
When Ohio State passes the ball, Iowa has the advantage.
Terrelle Pryor has thrown a lot of interceptions this season, and he's going against the 16th-ranked pass defense in the nation that just so happens to lead the nation in interceptions as well. But Pryor has been playing better lately, and he's playing at home.
Overall Situation Advantages: Ohio State 2.5, Iowa 1.5
X-FACTORS (KEYS TO THE GAME)
Iowa's Rush Offense
If Iowa can get their rushing offense going, they'll be able to get some points off of that, and they'll also open up the passing attack and take some pressure off of James Vandenburg.
Terrelle Pryor is huge for the Buckeyes in this game. If he keeps improving like he has been lately, he could lead Ohio State to a blowout victory. But if he is also going against a defense that likes to pick QBs off a lot, and Pryor has thrown a lot of interceptions—if he makes a lot of mistakes, he could help a beaten up Iowa offense score more points that they normally would.
Iowa's Rush Defense
An interesting thing to watch this Saturday will be how well Ohio State will run the ball. If they can run the ball well and open up the passing attack, they should win easily. But if Iowa can slow down their rush offense, Ohio State could be forced to throw the ball more, which could result in more interceptions for a pick-happy defense.
This game will be a defensive battle. Both teams have top 10 defenses but not so great offenses. Ohio State will get a couple TDs both on the air and on the ground, and might get another from a likely Iowa turnover, but the Buckeyes will probably turn the ball over as well and get Iowa some extra points. Iowa could get dominated offensively, so their offense has to at least do decent so the defense doesn't get tired. However, the advantages clearly go to Ohio State.
Prediction: Ohio State 24, Iowa 10