It's November, and it's the month championships are won, according to Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
Under Tressel, the Buckeyes are 27-4 in the month of November, and 15-1 in the month since Oct. 2005. Last season, Ohio State entered November with a daunting task in front of it; facing Penn State, Iowa and Michigan to close out the season and with three wins the Buckeyes would clinch a spot in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State prevailed, and went on to defeat Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
This season is eerily similar. The Buckeyes entered November having to beat Penn State, Iowa and Michigan to have a chance at playing in Pasadena. Taking care of the Nittany Lions last week, Ohio State travels to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes this week. A win brings the Buckeyes one step closer to another undefeated November.
There are eight keys to the game Ohio State must focus on:
1. Control the clock
In the last two seasons, the Buckeyes are 18-1 when winning the time of possession battle. Their only loss was this season against Wisconsin, but Ohio State had the ball only six seconds more than the Badgers did. It's not as if the Buckeyes controlled the clock.
However, Iowa has lost the time of possession battle four times this season, to Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Northwestern. The Hawkeyes only win in those four games came against the Wolverines.
In fact, in Iowa's last five losses, dating back to last season, the Hawkeyes have lost the time of possession battle in all five games.
2. Hold Hawkeyes under 120 rushing yards
This season, in Iowa's seven wins, the Hawkeyes are averaging 183.4 yards rushing. In their three losses, they're averaging only 82.7 yards on the ground.
In all three losses, Iowa has been held under 120 yards rushing—29 against Arizona, 118 against Wisconsin and 101 against Northwestern.
The Buckeyes have given up more than 120 rushing yards in a game only once this season, against Wisconsin, in a loss, when they gave up 184.
3. Terrelle Pryor needs to take care of the ball
So far, Pryor has thrown 23 interceptions in his three-year career at Ohio State. He's not the most accurate passer or best decision-maker by any stretch of the imagination, but he has had 13 games as a starter where he was able to finish "pick" free.
In those 13 games, the Buckeyes are 13-0.
4. Win the turnover battle
Jim Tressel constantly talks about turnovers and field position as being two of the most important things that determine the outcome of a football game, and in terms of turnovers, the numbers don't lie.
In 10 seasons with "The Vest" roaming the sidelines, Ohio State has lost only three times when winning the turnover margin. Two of the three were against Texas (maybe Mack Brown has found "Tressel-ball's" kryptonite), and the other was against Penn State, back in Tressel's first year.
In the other 19 losses the Buckeyes have had under Tressel, they've either lost or tied in the turnover margin.
5. Hold Iowa to fewer than 24 points
Ohio State is 8-0 when holding an opponent under 24 points this season. Over the past three seasons, the Buckeyes boast a 28-2 record when holding the opposition under 24.
During Tressel's tenure, Ohio State is a staggering 94-6 when it has allowed fewer than 24 points.
6. Score 25 points
The ideal score for a Scarlet and Gray fan would be 25-23, Ohio State, in Saturday's game. The last time the Buckeyes scored 25 points or more and lost, was in 2004 against Northwestern, 33-27 in overtime.
What's the most important key to the game for Ohio State?
If Pryor and company can't muster up 25, scoring 20 points may be as efficient.
Over the past three seasons, Ohio State is 29-1 when scoring at least 20 points. During that same time, Iowa is 5-7 when allowing at least 20 points, and the Hawkeyes are 1-3 this season when giving up 20.
Conversely, when Iowa has held its opponent under 20 over the last three years, it's 22-1.
7. Solid Day for Terrelle Pryor
Now, Pryor doesn't have to go insane and play like his britches are engulfed in flames, but when he has a decent game the Buckeyes tend to win.
In games where Pryor has rushed for at least 50 yards, Ohio State is 17-2. When Pryor runs for a touchdown, the Buckeyes are 15-1. And when he throws a touchdown pass, Ohio State is 25-1.
It's far more important for Pryor to take care of the football, so if he only rushes for 30 some yards and doesn't account for any scores, but he has zero turnovers, while efficiently driving his team down the field, I'll take it.
8. Boom and Zoom
Tressel loves to run the football in November. It's no secret. Just look at Dan Herron's 190-yard performance last week against Penn State.
With that said, Herron and possibly even Brandon Saine NEED to have good games against Iowa.
Since 2001, when Tressel took over for John Cooper, the Buckeyes are 93-7 in games where they ran for at least 125 yards. In games they haven't during that span, they're a mere 10-15. Running the ball effectively will help other keys for the game, such as controlling the clock, Pryor taking care of the ball, and Iowa can't score 24 if its offense isn't out on the field.
Furthermore, to how important the running backs are to Ohio State's success against Iowa, the Buckeyes are 17-2 when "Boom" Herron rushes for at least 50 yards and when Saine finds the end zone Ohio State is a perfect 14-0.
If the Buckeyes do these eight things, they'll be leaving Kinnick Stadium victorious.