No. 4 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) returns to action after their bye week to take on Iowa (4-2, 1-1), who also come into this game after a week off.
The last time out, the Buckeyes came from behind to beat Northwestern 40-30 in Evanston. The Hawkeyes fell 26-14 at home to Michigan State two weeks ago.
This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2010 , a 20-17 Ohio State win, and the first in Columbus since 2009 when the Buckeyes clinched the Big Ten title with a 27-24 overtime win.
Iowa last won in the series in 2004, a 33-7 win in Iowa City.
When Iowa Has The Ball
Not much has changed about Iowa’s offense since these two teams last faced each other. The one notable difference is that the Hawkeyes will go up-tempo at times.
The team is led by sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock who has thrown for 1,202 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions on the year.
Rudock ranks tenth in the Big Ten in efficiency and is completing just over 60% of his passes. They successfully use quick passes, which has caused OSU issues in the past.
Rudock can run when necessary – averaging over 4.5 yards per carry and five touchdowns – but he is in no way a running quarterback.
The sophomore has an experienced offensive line in front of him with a combined 65 starts. They have allowed just five sacks all season, though they have not seen a defensive line like Ohio State’s.
The Buckeyes’ defensive line should be healthy for the first time all season with the return of Tommy Schutt. Noah Spence, Joey Bosa, and Michael Bennett will challenge this stout Iowa offensive line.
The top two receivers for the Hawkeyes have done things very differently.
Both Damond Powell and Kevonte Martin-Manley have 225 yards receiving this season, but Powell has done it in six receptions, while it has taken Martin-Manley 26.
Martin-Manley is Rudock’s favorite target, but Powell gives Iowa a big play option, averaging 37.5 yards per catch and scoring on a 74-yard play already this season. Rudock will spread the ball around, as he has already connected with 17 different Hawkeye receivers.
The Ohio State secondary was scrutinized after giving up an average of 319 passing over the two games.
Iowa is not a prolific passing team – ranking 85th nationally – but the Buckeye defense must be careful not to let them get going. They will look to use the play action pass as effectively as Wisconsin did, but Ohio State will not have to focus on the run as much as they did against the Badgers.
With that said, Iowa can run the ball.
The Hawkeyes are averaging 207.5 rushing yards per game and their main rusher is Mark Weisman.
The junior leads the Big Ten in carries with 126 for a little over 100 yards per game.
It takes Weisman a bit to get going so OSU would do well to get to him early. The defensive line will look to stop him and this is where having Schutt – a talented run stopper – back will help.
Ohio State is second in the Big Ten in rush defense, so it will be a battle of strength vs. strength.
The linebackers will be vital to stop the run game, especially if they are not going to leave the corners on an island as they did against Wisconsin.
If the Buckeyes are successful, fans should hear the names of Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant announced frequently as tacklers.
Mike Meyer – who has been at Iowa longer than anyone can remember – is 8-of-11 on field goals this year, but he is 21-of-21 on extra points.
Connor Kornbrath is averaging 39.8 yards per punt and has placed 14 punts inside the 20. Corey Brown is second in the Big Ten with a 16.1 punt return average.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
The Buckeyes will want to build off their rushing success from the Northwestern game. Carlos Hyde is now officially listed as the starter for the Buckeyes and they will continue to ride the hot horse.
Braxton Miller was not effective running against the Wildcats. He finished the game with only 68 yards on 17 carries and had two fumbles. OSU hopes their quarterback’s knee is 100% so he can return to normalcy.
The Hawkeyes are eighth best in the nation in rush defense, only allowing 88.5 yards per game. They have held all of their opponents under their rushing average this season. In order to do that, they will have to hold the Scarlet and Gray under 281 rushing yards.
Iowa has also not allowed a rushing touchdown this season, something that is not loss on the Ohio State offense.
OSU would like to finally get their passing game going in conference play. They are averaging 200.5 yards through the air per game, which is eighth in the Big Ten.
After a bye week to work on it, Braxton Miller will be eager to get the ball to Philly Brown, Devin Smith, and the other receivers.
Iowa is allowing opponents to average 200 yards per game and there have been signs this year that the Buckeyes’ offense could get the pass going.
The tight ends were talked up in the preseason, but Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett have combined for only 14 receptions this year. More production from them would add another dimension to this offense.
Like any Big Ten game, this will be a battle in the trenches.
Ohio State’s offensive line has been good since week one. The Hawkeyes’ defensive line has gotten pressure this year, but has managed only six sacks thus far.
The Buckeyes want to get the same type of push they got against Northwestern to allow the running game to be successful, while also giving Miller time to find his receivers down field.
Brown and Smith will likely be matched up with B.J. Lowery and freshman Desmond King. OSU will want to take advantage of whoever King covers to be most effective.
Iowa is currently fourth in the country in punt return average, with Martin-Manley averaging 25.8 yards per return. The Buckeyes have only had one punt returned this year for three yards, so something will have to give in this department.
How It Will End Up
This potentially could be a tougher test for Ohio State than many expect.
The Hawkeyes play good defense and don’t make many mistakes. They have nine interceptions on the season and would like to add to that against Miller.
Both teams had two weeks to prepare, so there is no advantage there. It may come down to which coach was able to add something different to their offense.
There is a chance of rain on Saturday, which would help Iowa keep it close. If they are able to get their running game going – rain or shine – they will be able to stay in the game much longer.
Iowa is 4-0 this season when they win the turnover battle. Ohio State is 6-0 this season.
Ohio State 38 – Iowa 17
Side by Side Comparison of OSU and Iowa