The Big Ten will hold its annual conference championship game this weekend as the No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes (9-1, 5-1) visit Columbus to take on the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2, 5-1).
Unlike the SEC, Big East, Big 12, and ACC, the Big Ten regular season means something. The best team during the season wins the title, period.
Critics of a playoff system for college football say it will decrease the importance of the regular season. Conference championship games held after the season already do that, and they are only held for one reason—money. It's like playing a bowl game, before your bowl game...
I like my football Big Ten style, and conference titles should be won—or lost—on the field during the season.
Now, on to the preview and history lesson.
Iowa—By The Numbers
Starting Quarterback Out: Check.
Starting Runningback Out: Check.
Backup Runningback Out: Check.
Iowa's magical season and BCS hopes came crashing down last week as the Northwestern Wildcats handed the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season.
Adding injury to insult, starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi injured his ankle and had to have surgery. He will miss the final two games of the season.
The numbers aren't going to look very pretty, but nevertheless, here they are.
Stanzi will be replaced by freshman James Vandenberg. Prior to last weekend, he had attempted just three passes. For the season, he is 11/30 passing for 120 yards with no touchdowns, one interception, a 36.7 completion percentage, and a quarterback Rating of 63.6.
As mentioned, Jewel Hampton was supposed to take over for NFL-departed Shonn Greene at running back, but has been out the entire season. His replacement, Adam Robinson, was having a solid season until he was injured and now will miss the rest of the year as well. That means Brandon Wegher will take over as the starter the rest of the way.
Wegher had shared carries with Robinson so there shouldn't be much of a drop off. On the year, he has 502 rushing yards and six touchdowns, and has caught 13 balls for 112 yards.
The leading receivers for Iowa are Darrell Johnson-Koulianos (31 receptions, 553 yards, two touchdowns), Marvin McNutt (21 receptions, 547 yards, five touchdowns), Trey Stross (25 receptions, 368 yards, one touchdown), and Tony Moeaki (23 receptions, 274 yards, four touchdowns).
Iowa also boasts one of the best defensive units in the Big Ten and the nation. They've built that reputation against some solid teams, such as Arizona and Penn State. The Buckeyes o-line will have their hands full on Saturday.
Ohio State—By The Numbers
Terrelle Pryor has 1668 passing yards, 604 rushing yards, with seven rushing touchdowns, 15 passing touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 130.6.
Pryor, Brandon Saine, Boom Herron, Jordan Hall, and Jermil Martin have combined for 1808 yards on the ground and 22 rushing touchdowns. That's nearly 180 yards and 2.2 touchdowns rushing per game.
Ohio State's top receivers are DeVier Posey (45 receptions, 672 yards, seven touchdowns plus one passing touchdown), Dane Sanzenbacher (24 receptions, 482 yards, six touchdowns), Duron Carter (12 receptions, 164 yards, one touchdown), and Ray Small (12 receptions, 153 yards). Small is also a huge contributor as a punt returner.
The Buckeye defense held Penn State to a season low seven points and only 201 total yards in Beaver Stadium last Saturday. Daryll Clark had one of the worst games of his career, while Pryor played mistake free as the Buckeyes rolled to a 24-7 win.
11/7/2009—Game 11—3:30PM Kickoff
Ohio State—Iowa History and Tidbits
• This will be the 62nd meeting between Ohio State and Iowa.
• Ohio State leads the all-time series, 44-14-3.
• Ohio State is 15-4-1 in the last 20 meetings vs. Iowa (dating back to 1983).
• Ohio State is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings vs. Iowa in Columbus.
• Ohio State's last loss at home to Iowa was in 1991 by a score of 16-9 (that year, OSU was 8-4, Iowa was 10-1-1).
• Ohio State's last home win vs. Iowa was a 31-6 victory in 2005.
• Because of the Big Ten rotating schedule, this is the first meeting since 2006.
• Jim Tressel is 3-1 overall (2-0 at home, 1-1 on the road) vs. Iowa.
• The Ohio State football program began in 1890 and all-time, they have an overall record of 816-308-53.
• This is Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz's 11th season at Iowa (79-53).
• Iowa is 1-5 vs. Ohio State under Ferentz, whose only win was a 33-7 blowout over the Buckeyes in Iowa City in 2004.
• Iowa has won or shared 11 Big Ten titles, their last being a co-championship in 2004.
• The last time Iowa finished ranked ahead of Ohio State in the final AP poll was 2004 (Iowa #8, OSU #20).
• The Iowa football program began play in 1889 and all-time, they have an overall record of 577-509-39.
Even though both teams are ranked, the season appears to be slipping away from Iowa, while Ohio State seems to be peaking at the right time.
This game could still be a fairly low scoring game, as both teams are solid on defense, but without all those experienced weapons, I just can't convince myself that Iowa can score more than once or twice.
If the Buckeyes, and specifically Terrelle Pryor, can play like they did against the Nittany Lions, they may win in a bigger rout than I am predicting.
Final score prediction
Ohio State 30, Iowa 6