Preview: Iowa at No. 4 Ohio State

By Kyle Rowland on October 18, 2013 at 9:15a
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Much has changed inside the Iowa football program since 1999. The first year of the Kirk Ferentz era was arguably the lowest point in the program’s history. The Hawkeyes finished 1-10 and did not win a single Big Ten game.

But the rebound began one season later. Baby steps at first – three wins in 2000 – before Iowa reasserted itself as one of the conference’s best. A seven-win campaign in 2001 surprised many, but the 2002 season shocked the entire nation.

The Hawkeyes went a perfect 8-0 in the Big Ten and entered the national championship conversation. If not for blowing a second-half lead against Iowa State, Iowa may have vaulted Ohio State for a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami.

Moderate to high success continued for almost a decade. The Hawkeyes won two Big Ten titles and Ferentz was named national coach of the year once and conference coach of the year three times. One of the bright spots was a 33-7 beating of the Buckeyes in 2004. But Ohio State got its revenge in a classic mid-November showdown versus the Hawkeyes in 2009. In a winner goes to the Rose Bowl game, Ohio State won in dramatic fashion in overtime.

“It was disappointing,” Ferentz said, recalling the game earlier this week. “It was a great football game where both teams competed at a very high level and a great environment.”

Iowa is just 25-21 since. The Hawkeyes are coming off a grotesque 4-8 record last year in which they lost their final six games. In that same time period, Ohio State has gone through an immeasurable scandal and is still dealing with scholarship reductions. Yet, the Buckeyes are atop the same lofty perch they occupied on that November night in 2009.

Call it the Curse of Ricky Stanzi. He was the likeable Iowa quarterback who was injured the week before that 2009 titanic clash in Columbus. The downward spiral has led to the second rebuild of Iowa football by Ferentz.

“That’s college football,” he said. “Name a program that hasn’t gone through that in the last 15 years. There are going to be ups and downs. Historically, there have been ups and downs here at Iowa. It’s a lot more fun when you’re going through the ups. We experienced that in ’09 until we got to Columbus.”

Urban Meyer and every other coach in the country preach how important staff continuity is. Well, Ferentz and the Hawkeyes had it for quite sometime. Now, he’s dealt with a revolving door of coordinators and other assistants.

Iowa has replaced both its offensive and defensive coordinators in the past two seasons – the former tenants held the job for 13 years. Four other assistants have been replaced in recent seasons.

“We didn’t surrender after the ’07 season, and we’re not planning on surrendering right now,” Ferentz said. “We’re just going to keep pushing forward.

Opponent Breakdown

Iowa’s offense starts with running back Mark Weisman. But that isn’t such a good thing at the moment. Weisman had been great all season until he ran into the Michigan State Spartans. An injury and nine total yards later, Weisman found himself watching the Hawkeyes get dismantled.

He’s still gaining more than 100 yards per game, making him one of the top backs in the Big Ten. Weisman declared himself 100 percent this week and is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead for he and his offensive teammates.

“Another good defense, another good test,” Weisman said. “We have to worry about us. That’s all we can worry about now.”

Weisman has carried the ball 126 times this season, seventh most in the country. Taking a high number of carries against Ohio State’s physical defense is a recipe for another injury. That’s where quarterback Jake Rudock enters the equation.

The Hawkeyes are big fans of the play-action pass. An effective run game gets defenses fat and happy defending the run, opening up the passing game. It’s a style the Buckeyes haven’t seen much of so far, and when they’ve keyed on stopping the run, it’s led to receivers getting open.

Rudock has thrown for more than 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns, but also six interceptions. Kevonte Martin-Manley (touchdown) and Damon Powell (two touchdowns) are the leading receivers, each with 225 yards. Eighteen different players have caught a pass. While tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz only has 98 receiving yards, he remains a dangerous weapon.

Ohio State has two blueprints to victory – the Northern Illinois and Michigan State games. It all begins with stopping the run.

“It’s one of those deals,” Ferentz said. “It’s not fun when you can’t be balanced.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Iowa has three linebackers who are three-year starters – James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey. They’re the top three tacklers on the team, combining for 144 stops. Morris leads the Hawkeyes with three interceptions. He’s also the second-leading tackler with 43 tackles, including four tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

The Hawkeyes also have a stout defensive line, which has yet to line up in their goal line defense or allow a rushing touchdown. Iowa has a top-10 total defense and rush defense.

Cornerback B.J. Lowery is the biggest threat in the secondary. He’s also snared three interceptions and has a team-high eight pass breakups.

“We’re just a better defensive team than we were a year ago,” Ferentz said. “I’d say the same thing about our offense. Everything is more cohesive today than it was a year ago.”

Buckeye Breakdown

Back to toying with defenses?

With an off week after the Northwestern game, Ohio State’s secondary did not have a chance to redeem itself. So for two weeks, they’ve heard all the criticism. But a higher profile player also struggled in Evanston. And he happens to be the starting quarterback.

Miller fumbled twice, threw an interception and missed a receiver wide open in the end zone. It was those turnovers, mostly the fumbling, that caused eyebrows to rise in Columbus. He said it was a combination of holding the ball incorrectly and playing tentative on his knee with the wet grass that led to poor play.

With two weeks of practice, Miller said the hesitancy seen in his steps since he returned is all gone.

“Sometimes it will ache a little bit in the back [of the knee/leg],” Miller said. “But other than that, it’s pretty good.”

Miller sat down to watch film of the Northwestern game and something jumped off the screen at him. As he was weaving in and out of the Wildcat defense, Miller didn’t have a tight grip on the ball and it was in the wrong spots. 

“It’s an easy fix,” he said.

Throughout the week in practice, coaches made sure it would be easy. They kept a ball in Miller’s hands and even had him grip it during stretching drills.

“Just hold it tight,” the quarterback said.

Asked how he thought Miller would perform Saturday, Meyer said he expects him to play like Braxton Miller – with better ball security. After hearing Miller refer to Iowa’s defense as the best the Buckeyes have faced this season, he could be in store for another long night.

So does Carlos Hyde come to the rescue again? The Hawkeyes are allowing less than 90 yards rushing per game and have yet to surrender a rushing touchdown. But on the other side is Ohio State, a team averaging 281 yards on the ground and owners of 17 rushing touchdowns.

Iowa defensive back John Lowdermilk called Hyde a “beast.” Ohio State center Corey Linsley described Hyde’s performance against Northwestern as “beast mode.” Clearly, Hyde is doing something right.

“Guys were just bouncing off him,” Linsley said, detailing Hyde’s 206-yard output in a 40-30 win at Northwestern. “One of the guys on Northwestern couldn’t tackle him. He just kept bouncing off of them. It was kind of funny. I thought it was a testament to Carlos that he’s running the football like he knows how to run the football.”

It’s been a difficult year for Hyde. He’s dealt with off-field issues and being pushed to the background on the team. But redemption came quickly. Three games into his senior season, Hyde says he’s back to normal.

“It’s a relief off my shoulders,” he said. “I definitely feel like I’m back. I’m happy to be back, and I’m enjoying it.”

A perk of performing at a high level is compliments, which is what Lowdermilk sent Hyde’s direction. Told about an opponent’s comments, Hyde smiled and simply said, “Thank you.”

Said Meyer: “It’s pretty cool, I guess.”

How it Plays Out

There’s been plenty of focus on Iowa’s run defense this week. But glance at the backend and you’ll notice similar problems that Ohio State is dealing with. The Hawkeyes’ secondary is ripe for the picking.

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Michigan State freshman quarterback Connor Cook built his confidence against Iowa two weeks ago. Look for Braxton Miller to do the same after struggling at Northwestern. Philly Brown, Devin Smith and the rest of the wide receivers should be on the lookout for footballs falling from the sky. And don’t discount arguably the best offensive line in the Big Ten that blocks for an equally good running back in Carlos Hyde.

Still, this game has all the makings of a trap game. Iowa is a decent team coming off a bye. It will give Ohio State its best shot. The Buckeyes are also coming off a bye, but when you’re the better team by a long shot, it can make you lazy and lethargic. A close first half would come as no surprise.

At some point, the Buckeyes’ fast starts have to come to an end. On Saturday, though, they’ll just be saving it for the second half. Meyer loves finding ways to motivate his team, and there’s no better way to fend off an overly optimistic team than bringing them back to life after an untidy first half of play.

Ohio State’s offensive averages should be met and a defense that’s been punishing on third down could very well see those statistics soar against a stagnant Iowa offense.

A dominating second half could mean a positive impact on voters, especially if the margin of victory is wider than expected.



Comments Show All Comments

BuckAlum35's picture

I have a hard time believing a defense that gave up 26 points to Michigan State and The Fighting Bollmans is the best defense that OSU has faced. I believe that distinction far and away goes to Wisconsin and I believe this will be the weekend Dontre Wilson breaks a long end around or screen for a TD.

nfischer's picture

I've heard the Dontre prediction the last four games.  Eventually, one of you is going to be right. For the record, I'm hoping you're right.

Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed DW will need enough touches to showcase his talents

Nutinpa's picture

Yeah, the "This will be Dontre's breakout game" remind me of the same comments made about Stoneburner for the past 3 seasons.   That said, I do think that Wilson will become a special player.  Hey, it took Teddy Ginn a half of a season before Tress set him loose.

Seattle Linga's picture

True True Nutinpa - I think Stony got in the way of Stony - so much talent and only used a fraction. Urban got more out of him in one year than the three previous years combined. DW has some serious acceleration and I know we will see it real soon.

CC's picture

Teams like Iowa are what made the Big 10 great for so long.  All of the big conference have at least 1 OSU/Michigan/PSU/Nebraska type school at the top, but when the B10 was really clicking teams like Iowa and Michigan State were rolling.  I hope they get back to their past glory but I hope it doesn't start this week.

BuckeyeSouth's picture

Phil Steele is on Bill King's show on Fridays and today he predicted the Buckeyes by 3 TD's.  I'm good with that.

Champions.  Undisputed.  

jdagrava.1's picture

This is the game that NCAA 14 predicted the Buckeyes to lose...
...unfortunately for EA Sports, the prediction will soon be busted.
Buckeyes RUN into the endzone not only once, but 4 times.  Braxton starts off the second half of the season with a bang.
Ohio State: 45
Iowa: 13

"It takes a little something special to be a great player.  What you got in you, we're going to find out.  And if there's a touch of greatness in there, how cool would that be?"

-Urban F. Meyer

CC's picture

If we hold them to 13 I would be happy.  I'm almost at the point where I have no concern about our offense scoring.  It's just a matter of how much will they score.

whobdis's picture

If there is a concern it may be the weather...good chance of rain and that can act as an equalizer if it get's really soaked. It also tends to take the crowd out of the game. Carlos is kind of built for this kind of game but THAT kind of game doesn't usually put up lots of it could be closer than some hope for. How Braxton handles a wet ball may be a key..he had a few issues early with a wet ball against NW.

DarkBeer's picture

I wish the forecast would improve.  Debating a trip over there from Indianapolis, but sitting in 50 degrees and rainy isn't very appealing.  Those conditions make watching from the couch more practical. 

RBuck's picture

Rain's suppose to be outa here by 3:00. It always ends earlier for The Buckeyes.

Long live the southend.

BeijingBucks's picture

Nah.  The Buckeyes gonna make it rain up in there!

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

steveoz49's picture

I'm excited for this game for a couple reasons
1) Carlos vs Iowa Run D
2) Boundary speed vs Iowa secondary & LB's
I think that Ohio St just has too much of everything for Iowa to overcome.

Buckeye419er's picture

Of course Braxton and Coach Meyer are going to build up Iowa's team to the media and to themselves internally. It's the smartest thing they can do for multiple reasons.
1. It gets the voters thinking. If they start looking at stats etc and what Iowa has done thus far against the run, then we tear those stats down, it makes us look much better. 

2. Motivational coaching. You want your team to play their best and they will only be motivated to play their best if they truly believe they are playing against the best. It's a weekly ritual, we should be used to this. It's all psychological. 

3. It gives Iowa the false sense of safety. If they think we are afraid to run against them, they won't prepare for a run heavy game plan. But after the way Carlos dominated the game against the nerds there's no way we won't try to do it again. 

If there's one thing we should know about Urbs, it's that he plays two games every week. One game on the field, and one game OFF the field. This is what makes him great. Can't wait to see how this one plays out. Go Bucks!!

There can be only one

Buckeye419er's picture

Hail Defiance, Hail Defiance...

There can be only one

Defiance J's picture

Awesome. Go Dogs!

AngryWoody's picture

lol at your avatar

Our Honor Defend!

Buckeye419er's picture

I just try to fall in line.. lol

There can be only one

buck-I.8's picture

Thank you for talking about Urban's ability to manipulate people without mentioning that he got a useless psych degree in college. Those things are unrelated. 

Buckeye419er's picture

Psych degree.. yea, never would come in handy now would it?

There can be only one

zachofaltrades's picture

Psych degrees in and of themselves can be overrated.  But getting that degree can represent a passion for understanding human psychology that is most certainly NOT overrated.  I'm sure Urban Meyer has increased his understanding of human psychology 10 fold since graduating, but he had a solid base with the degree.

ChazBuckeye's picture

This may come across in a negative manner, but I SURE like the psychological aspects Urban Meyer uses as opposed to the wishy washy way Tressel used to just say everything was great and some things need worked on during pressers.  I personally love how Urban called the offense "a clown show" last year.  Do you kind of think it's paying off...????  Just kind of!  
As a simple Psyche degree is a waste with a bachelors.  However, psychologists with doctorates make pretty good $$$.  And I'd say Urban's masters is working out well too;-)

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

buck-I.8's picture

Sure. And so did my psych and sociology GECs. That's why we take breadth courses. There are few fields where a psych undergrad is useful and whenever I see people crediting his degree with making him good at manipulation and the like, it bothers me. Some people are just good with other people, that's all there is to it. 

hodge's picture

This is absolutely correct, Buck-I.8.  But I'll say this: as a Communication major (a decision I made solely out of my passion; knowing it wasn't a wise career move), I learned a heckuva a lot more about manipulation through language and message design.  I've always been a pretty persuasive person with a knack for manipulation, but my degree enhanced those abilities tenfold.
I'm sure that Urban's got a knack for motivation -- something that can't merely be taught through a psych degree -- but I'm also willing to bet that his degree does influence a significant amount of his motivational tactics.  

sivaDavis's picture

Quick thing.. Didn't their "fast starts" come to an end against NW? 
Anyway, I hope for decent weather conditions and I want Dontre fed. Carlos and Rod are going to bruise the middle and I feel like Dontre and Hall could beat then outside. Braxton doesn't need to run the ball once this game. I know he will but I feel like he doesn't need to. The defense needs to continue to stuff the run and I want to see the secondary step up. I feel like this could be a good game to get Vonn Bell some PT. The DB's, especially Roby, will be put on an island more than once tomorrow. He needs to show the old Roby. Can't wait to watch tomorrow. O-H! 

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

Hovenaut's picture


Encouraged to hear Brax say he's fully 100%, and eager to see if the pass game can step things up a notch.

Most hopeful for the defense, especially the pass coverage, raise their level of play. Time to get it in gear heading down the stretch.

Overall I'm ready to see a complete game from start to finish, glad the boys are back in town this weekend.

BeijingBucks's picture

And also in the news... Oregon is gonna wear Pepto Bismol helmets the next game?
and people had issue with Urbz' lavendar jerseys....

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton