Game Eleven: Iowa Hawkeyes
Location: Kinnick Stadium (Iowa City, IA) 3:30pm EST, ABC
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz
Iowa Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: LB Jeremiha Hunter, LB Jim Poggi, and TE C.J. Fiedorowicz. Even though Iowa has several players from Ohio on its roster, such as QB Ricky Stanzi, LB LeBron Daniels, or LB Bruce Davis, these players were not offered scholarships by Ohio State. One Ohio player who wanted to come to Ohio State years ago but was not offered a scholarship due to academics is Iowa WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.
Iowa's Offense versus Ohio State's Defense: Kirk Ferentz has developed a strong reputation for quality offensive lines during his tenure at Iowa, leading to traditionally balanced play through both the run and the pass. Iowa RB Adam Robinson averages slightly over 100 yards per game, while QB Ricky Stanzi is leading the conference in pass efficiency. With strong wideouts in both Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt, Ohio State will need to play its best game defensively this season.
If Iowa is able to establish its running game, Ohio State is in big trouble, as Iowa will be able to effectively control the clock, as well as leave the Ohio State secondary susceptible to play-action passing. Ohio State's rush defense ranks right behind Iowa statistically (see below). Put it another way—if Ohio State comes out flat and uninspired, as they did last week versus Penn State, they will lose this game easily.
Ohio State's Offense versus Iowa's Defense: This is going to be the battle to watch, as Ohio State ranks second in total offense in the conference at slightly over 450 yards per game, while Iowa ranks second in total defense, allowing 307 yards per game.
Ohio State's offense has been boosted over its last few games with the emergence of RB Daniel "Boom" Herron. Herron exploded for nearly 200 yards last week against Penn State, and will be needed for Ohio State to establish a strong running game against the Hawkeyes. Iowa's rush defense ranks fourth in the country, allowing only a little over 86 yards a game.
Similar to the Ohio State defense, QB Terrelle Pryor is coming off a mediocre performance against Penn State. Iowa's defense has intercepted 15 passes this season, so Pryor cannot afford to be careless with his passes. On the other hand, Iowa has allowed three opponents to pass for over 300 yards this season. I would look for Pryor to be used more on designed rollouts, allowing him to scramble for additional yards while minimizing his throwing options. Keep an eye on Iowa defensive stalwart Adrian Clayborn, and how effective Clayborn is at pressuring Pryor.
Edge: Even. Pryor's athleticism will help to minimize or negate Iowa's strong defense, and should keep Ohio State in the game.
Intangibles: Where do I start? Iowa is coming off a demoralizing loss to Northwestern last week, which essentially eliminated them from winning the Big Ten. This is Iowa's last home game, so there is an emotional boost for the seniors. And Ohio State is coming to town, the team that knocked Iowa out of a Rose Bowl berth last year with a dramatic overtime win.
On the other hand...Ohio State is 14-2-1 in its last seventeen trips to Iowa, and it seems as though every time Iowa is up for a big game against Ohio State, Iowa disappoints. Or am I the only Ohio State fan who remembers this play against Iowa during Ohio State's last visit?
Ohio State, after a well-deserved tongue lashing from Jim Tressel at halftime of the Penn State game, knows they cannot sleepwalk against Iowa and win. Win, and Ohio State is still in line for a share of the conference title. Lose, and any shot at a BCS bowl berth is gone.
Prediction: Months ago, I wrote this game would be Ohio State's second toughest game, and nothing, even Iowa's defeat last week, has dissuaded me from that opinion. I am inclined to pick Iowa on the strength of its passing game against Ohio State's weakened secondary, but I believe Jim Tressel has lit a fire under his players and the Buckeyes will pull a close one out. I am saying Ohio State 24, Iowa 21.
(This post also appears on From The Mind Of Minnich)