Saturday in Iowa City, #9 Ohio State (9-1) and #20 Iowa (7-3) will meet for the 63rd time in their respective histories. The Buckeyes own the all-time series with a 45-14-3 mark. In Iowa City their record is 17-6-2.
Iowa is 49-10 at home since 2002, which is the second-best home record in the Big Ten in that span next to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have won eleven of twelve in this series.
The Hawkeyes are 19-25 against ranked teams under Kirk Ferentz.
Ohio State is 38-14 against ranked teams under Jim Tressel, and 13-7 on the road.
In Ferentz's career, his teams are 13-46 when trailing at the half, and just 37-44 in games decided by seven points or less. His overall record at Iowa is 88-58.
Jim Tressel is 103-22 at Ohio State and 27-4 in November.
Kirk Ferentz has won three Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards.
Jim Tressel has never won the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award.
The last Buckeye coach to win the award was Earle Bruce in 1979. An Iowa coach has won the award six times since then.
When Iowa Has The Ball
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi leads the conference in passing efficiency (167.2) and has cut his interceptions down from 15 last year to just four this season. He has, however, thrown an interception in each of Iowa's last two games.
Despite leading the conference in passing efficiency, too much passing for the Hawkeyes would seem to indicate a bad thing. Iowa is just 1-3 in the four games in which Stanzi has thrown at least 30 passes this season. The lone win came against Indiana and required a dropped touchdown by the Hoosiers in the final moments.
There is no doubting that Stanzi is a different quarterback this season compared to last season. He is more accurate and a better decision maker. He is perfectly fine with throwing the ball out of bounds, but he has also excelled at finding his check downs.
Stanzi has thrown 22 touchdown passes this season, which ties Terrelle Pryor for the most in the Big Ten. He has five main targets that he looks for, but his big two are receivers Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. They each have 41 receptions and both have over 600 yards receiving.
They are big, strong and athletic targets. McNutt may have the strongest hands of any receiver in the conference, and Johnson-Koulianos will be the most dangerous receiver on the field.
Tight end Allen Reisner has caught 35 passes this season for 370 yards and is a crucial chain mover in this offense. The OSU defense will have their hands full with Reisner in the play-action game and the Buckeyes can't afford to lose him in the wash.
Cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and especially Devon Torrence had some troubles last week, but ultimately turned it around and made the plays necessary to get the win. Torrence can't afford to start as slowly this week as he did against Penn State because touchdowns are going to be much more important against Iowa than they were against the lowly Nittany Lions.
A pass rush would do wonders for the off-and-on Buckeye pass defense, but it will likely take some blitzing to make it happen. Last week, those blitzes weren't getting home and Penn State's Matt McGloin had some success in the first half. Stanzi is a veteran and he will be prepared for a multitude of different looks. The Buckeyes will have saved something special for him though.
Iowa is only averaging 3.9 yards per rush in Big Ten play, and just 132 yards rushing per game overall. Against an Ohio State run defense that is only allowing 86.9 yards rushing per game, this is not a favorable matchup for the Hawkeyes.
Running back Adam Robinson is fourth in the conference in rushing, averaging 101.6 yards on the ground per game, but his 4.7 yard per carry average is the worst of any running back in the top ten. He is averaging 21.6 carries per game, which is far and away the most of anybody in the Big Ten. He will be called on early and often, and how the Buckeyes defend him will go a long way in deciding this game.
The Hawkeyes have tremendous special teams units. Punter Ryan Donahue is averaging 44.7 yards per punt, and has a long of 73 yards this season. He has put 18 of his 43 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Place-kicker Mike Meyer has made 10 of his 12 field goal attempts this season.
Last season, Johnson-Koulianos returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Buckeyes when it seemed as though Ohio State had sealed up the game. This season he is averaging 27.5 yards per return and is still looking for his first score.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
Terrelle Pryor has said that he loves the gameplan prepared for him this week. That doesn't seem to indicate a heavy I-formation, hand-the-ball-off attack for the Buckeyes, and maybe that's a good thing. After all, the Hawkeyes come into this game leading the conference in rush defense, allowing just 86.8 yards on the ground per game.
Northwestern and Indiana have had recent success with quick passes against the Hawkeyes, and truth be told, most teams in the Big Ten have had success throwing the ball against Iowa. In conference play, the Hawkeyes are allowing 259 yards passing per game.
Pryor has had issues with the short-passing attack in the past, so it remains to be seen what the Buckeyes have in store for Iowa. The two areas for Pryor to avoid will be anywhere occupied by safeties Tyler Sash and Brent Greenwood. In the past, Greenwood would have been a welcome target, but those days are gone.
Receivers Dane Sanzenbacher and Devier Posey have each posted 43 receptions on the season, and the two have split 14 touchdown receptions.
Iowa has decent cornerbacks, but if Pryor has time to throw the ball, and he doesn't get too excited, he should be able to complete some intermediate passes in front of the deep safeties.
Running back Brandon Saine has five touchdown receptions this season, and we could see him run a wheel route when matched up against one of Iowa's inexperienced linebackers.
The Hawkeyes will be starting freshman James Morris in the middle, and while he has played well this season, this will be his biggest test of the year.
Fortunately for Morris, the Hawkeyes have the strongest defensive front in the Big Ten. Defensive tackle Karl Klug is the anchor. He is second on the team in sacks (3.5) and tackles for loss (8.5). Alongside him in the interior is one of the real surprises in the conference this season, Mike Daniels.
On a defensive line with All-American defensive end Adrian Clayborn, it is Daniels who leads the team in tackles for loss (11.0) and sacks (4.0).
Ultimately, how the Ohio State interior line—especially center Mike Brewster—handles these two defensive tackles will determine how well this Buckeye offense does. If Klug and Daniels win their battles, nothing will be happening for the Buckeye offense.
Regardless of any intended gameplans on Saturday, the Buckeyes are going to have to run the ball with Boom Herron, and they're going to have to do it well. Herron is averaging 107.2 yards rushing per game in conference play and has topped the century mark the last two weeks. If the Buckeyes make it three in a row they will win.
Herron is playing the best football of his career, and if he can continue his hot ways against a defense like Iowa, he may have All-Conference accolades coming his way.
The Buckeye special teams have gotten a tremendous boost in the coverage game with the return of linebacker Dorian Bell. He will need to make himself acquainted with Johnson-Koulianos early and often on Saturday.
Punter Ben Buchanan has put one-third of his punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, which helps Jim Tressel keep the field position battle in his favor. Last year, place-kicker Devin Barclay kicked a Rose Bowl-clinching field goal against the Hawkeyes in overtime. So if it comes down to that again this time, at least he's been there before.
The Hawkeyes have given up a kickoff return touchdown, so keep an eye on that. Running back Jaamal Berry's kick return average is dropping by the week, so a long one would do him and his team wonders.
How It Will End Up
Whoever wins the toss will take the ball with the express purpose of setting the tone of the game early.
It would almost behoove the Buckeyes to hope the Hawkeyes win it.
As much as we talk about the offenses, and Stanzi versus Pryor, the real tone will be set by these two defenses. Ohio State's defense sets more tones than just about anybody else in the country.
Penn State had success running the ball early on last week against the Buckeyes, and Iowa will probably try the same thing. But Adam Robinson's style is a good fit for this Ohio State defense, and they should be able to contain him.
Stanzi will attack the Buckeyes downfield, and why wouldn't he? There will be successes, but as noted above, too much throwing is a bad thing for this Hawkeye offense.
Pryor will run the ball more this week than in weeks past, as that is usually the plan against good teams. However, the called runs are never as effective as the scrambles or zone reads, so the level of success may be lower than anticipated. But if Pryor takes off after looking for his first or second read, he will rush for 100 yards.
And as long as he stays upright, the Buckeyes will leave Iowa City with the win.
Ohio State 27 – Iowa 16
Follow Tony Gerdeman on Twitter at twitter.com/TonyGerdeman
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