In the wake of Ohio State's Nittany Lion pride destroying 24-7 victory, all those with scarlet & gray blood pumping through their veins (of the non-hospital admitted variety) have basically been squealing like tweens at a Jonas Brothers concert for the better part of the last 3 days. With the basketball Bucks also opening their season in grandiose fashion, looking ahead to Saturday in many ways feels like an exercise futility at this moment in time.
As if that wasn't enough, Iowa didn't exactly live up to their part of the bargain last weekend - no thanks to Ricky Stanzi's ankle ligament. In a span of 72 hours, we've gone from talking about Iowa as potentially the 4th horse in the national title race, to taking Stanzi back behind the stables to see him off to the big track in the sky (and don't think for a moment it isn't getting awfully crowded in horsey heaven).
Rest assured, Saturday's contest is still very much a de facto Big Ten Championship Game with an accompanying Rose Bowl bid up for grabs. And while certainly The Vest has never lost to a Kirk Ferentz coached team in the Shoe, there couldn't be a worse time to take a visiting opponent for granted. The Buckeyes' have yet to smell the sweetness that is the Rose Bowl in the Tressel era, and handing Iowa their second loss in as many weeks would make this a reality. Without further adieu, shifting Iowa week from 2nd gear on up to 3rd, we eyeball and discuss Ohio State's projected starters for the contest.
In week's past when joking about the relative uniformity of the purported depth charts to those from previous week's, no matter what, there'd always be at least a single change or two of consequence/note. The Iowa depth chart wins the season award, depending on how you look at it, as either Jim Tressel's most tactful, or his laziest of the '09 season. There's not a SINGLE change in the November 9th depth chart from that of November 2nd. Not one. Given the way performance in Happy Valley, I'm not entirely complaining, but… Given the lack of material to work with, let's at the very least put forth a little educated guess work towards what to expect from each of the units.
Against the Nittany Lions, the Monday depth chart would have us to expect Jim Cordle manning the left tackle, though after J.B. Shugarts went down, we saw an awful lot of Cordle on the right side with Andrew Miller back in at left tackle. None the less, given the depth chart, it's expected Cordle will remain the guy as against the Hawkeyes. Even with Shugarts' listing as starter seeming to ease some reservations about the health of his ankle, seeing some Miller and Marcus Hall in the mix too isn't out of the question at all. The Ohio State o-line had arguably their best, most consistent performance of the season against PSU, even as the aforementioned injuries necessitated some on the fly shifting. Should the Bucks get 50% of the effort and execution they did from this group Saturday, Terrelle Pryor should have plenty of times to arm punt his way into DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher's waiting arms repeatedly. And certainly one notable offensive lineman seems to have his head in the right place going into this one.
Behind that steadfast line, the Ohio State running game quietly shredded a previously held in high regards defense to tune of 4.7 yards a carry (admittedly with a half dozen Pryor scrambles and wide out end arounds in the mix). Boom and Zoom were both solid but unspectacular, while Jordan Hall made his case on limited carries. The one really enjoyable stat from Saturday to keep in mind going into this weekend: every Buckeye that received the ball on a hand off or lateral had a minimum longest gain on the afternoon of 12 yards or longer, sans Dane Sanzenbacher. With Saine, Herron, and Hall all having the full confidence of the staff, expect them to get their fair share of touches against Iowa. Though it probably bears keeping a close eye on things given the sudden unpredictability of the offensive staff towards getting others in the mix, Ray Small or Flash Thomas seeing their names called on end arounds is probably well within the realm of possibilities as well.
With no Jewel Hampton and no reliable signal caller under center, Ohio State's vaunted defensive line has to be licking their chops, even with a worthy advisory just on the horizon. Iowa's offensive line of Bryan Bulaga, Riley Reiff, Rafael Eubanks, Julian Vandervelde, and Kyle Calloway will be the best the Bucks have encountered since the SC game. Though on the flip side, it's equally likely that this will be the most talented (and deepest) d-line that unit will have run into all season. After playing but a flew fleeting snaps as he continued recovering from injury against the Nittany Lions (and not being listed on last week's depth chart either), it seems probable that Dexter Larimore will continue to be ushered along slowly with a potential target on the Michigan game for a full return to action.
On the subject of returns, despite dropping two from memory probable INTs, Anderson Russell put together a praiseworthy afternoon of football, while Jermale Hines continued to see plenty of action anyways back in the "Star" linebacker/d-back combination position he'd operated in primarily prior to jumping Anderson in the pecking chart. Having both playing good football this time of the year is about as much as one could act for his team's free safeties. Extra credit goes to Chimdi Chekwa as well, for a gritty, physical performance against the Lions all afternoon. It felt like Chekwa was all over on both sides of the field all day, and even in instances where his man got the better of him, #5 managed to show great off the ball recovery speed and often found himself in on the tackle or in the mix for a potential hit.
Last but not least, Devin Barclay managed to fill the Aaron Pettrey gap in the best humanly way possible: by making us all not even particularly notice the difference at all. Barclay was true from 37 on his only field goal attempt of the afternoon, and also netted 3 extra points and several respectable kickoffs during the course of the game. Jon Thoma was steady, though far from stellar yet again. I can't say I've felt as though Ohio State's significantly suffered from Thoma's work all season, though a sub-38 yard per kick average is definitely not what we'd become accustomed to with A.J. Trapasso and Kyle Turano prior. Thoma has two more regular season games as a Buckeye; here's hoping he makes them count.