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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Preview - Ohio State at Iowa
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar





Iowa_OSU5- November 20, 2010

- Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa

- Ohio State at Iowa

- 3:30 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ABC -

It's a date that has been circled on the calendar for months now, as the rematch of the game that decided the Big Ten title a year ago. The Buckeyes travel to Iowa City Saturday to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in a game that's still meaningful for both teams, but perhaps not as the dramatic spectacle many of the experts predicted at the start of the season. Both teams were ranked in the top ten in August, and November 20 loomed as the potential showdown between the two Big Ten favorites. Best laid plans, and all that...

Not only did someone forget to send the memo to the Wisconsin Badgers and the Michigan State Spartans, but Iowa (7-3, 4-2) managed to drop three close games on the way to the showdown. No. 9 Ohio State (9-1, 5-1) is still fighting for at least a share of the conference championship and a possible BCS bowl invitation, but they too have stumbled in their quest for a championship season.

At least for the Buckeyes, the dream of a sixth straight conference title is still alive. No. 20 Iowa is playing for a New Year's Day bowl game and a win for their seniors in their last home game. So even with something less than undefeated seasons and national title game berths on the line, Saturday's game is still a compelling matchup between two talented and motivated teams.

By the Numbers

Tressel_FerentzIowa vs. OSU will feature the Big Ten's two best defenses, with the Hawkeyes having the slightest of statistical edges in run defense, giving up 86.8 yards per game to OSU's 86.9.  The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes are ranked 1-2 in total defense as well, with OSU giving up just 238.0 yards per game compared to Iowa's 307.0.

On offense, the game pits the league's top two quarterbacks in passing efficiency in Iowa's Ricky Stanzi (167.2) and Terrelle Pryor (166.4). Pryor and Stanzi are also tied for the league lead in TD passes with 22 apiece.

The all-time series between Ohio State and Iowa has been dominated by the Buckeyes with a record against the Hawkeyes of 45-14-3. The Buckeyes have a 17-6-2 mark in Iowa City, and OSU has won 11 of the last 12 meetings since 1991, the only blemish in two decades being a 33-7 Iowa victory in 2004. (That game was the last of three straight OSU losses that year, and marked the end of the ill-fated Justin Zwick quarterback experiment and the onset of the Troy Smith era.)

Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz is in his 12th season at Iowa, and this will be his sixth meeting with a Jim Tressel-coached Buckeye team. Ferentz is 1-6 against OSU, and 1-4 against Tressel, (which, as The Ozone's Tony Gerdeman quipped the other day, must give Rich Rodriguez hope that he too can one day win three Big Ten Coach of the Year awards.)

Stanzi Gets His Chance

IowaHelmetNo player on either team has more reason to be pumped up for this one than Ricky Stanzi. As most OSU fans know by now, the Hawkeyes' 5th-year senior quarterback is from Mentor, where he suited up for Lake Catholic in high school and put up big numbers, but was not recruited by the national football powers.

Now in his third year as the Iowa starter, Stanzi will be getting his first opportunity to face Ohio State. These teams didn't meet in 2008, and last year Stanzi suffered a severely sprained ankle in Iowa's loss to Northwestern one week before the OSU game, and had to sit out the overtime thriller that decided the Big Ten title. He returned in time to lead Iowa to a win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, and he has really elevated his game in this his last season as a Hawkeye. Stanzi is currently ranked 3rd nationally in passing efficiency, with 2,482 passing yards and a 66.4 completion percentage.

Iowa established themselves as a 4th-quarter team in 2009, coming from behind several times in dramatic fashion as they ran out to a 9-0 record, and it was Stanzi at the controls as the driving force in the Hawkeyes' string of late comebacks. The flip side of that story is that it was often Stanzi's penchant for throwing interceptions that put the Hawkeyes behind in those games in the first place. He had 17 TD's and 15 interceptions in 2009, but this season has been a different story. Stanzi has just four picks to go with his 22 touchdowns in Iowa's first 10 games, and the turnaround is due in large part to the talent and experience he has at the wide receiver positions.

Skill Positions Stacked

Iowa_OSU2With freshman James Vandenberg subbing for the injured Stanzi in last year's game, the Hawkeyes had more success in the downfield passing attack than any team on the OSU schedule. Not only did the Iowa offensive line catch the OSU defensive line reading their own press clippings, protecting Vandenberg from any sacks in regulation, but the Hawkeye receivers Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt burned the Buckeye corners a couple of times for big plays.

Johnson-Koulianos, a Youngstown Cardinal Mooney product, had 3 catches for 73 yards in that game, including one reception for 55 yards, and he had a 99-yard kickoff return for a TD that got the Hawkeyes back in the game in the 4th quarter. McNutt caught six balls, including both of Iowa's offensive touchdowns, the last one tying the game and sending it to overtime.

Both are back this year, and both are among the top ten receivers in the Big Ten, with 41 receptions apiece coming into this game. Johnson-Koulianos has 673 yards receiving and nine touchdowns, and McNutt has 6 TD's and 660 receiving yards. It's hard to think of a better receiving duo in the conference than these two guys.

Ferentz always gets a lot out of the tight end position, and this year is no different, with senior Allen Reisner, who has 35 catches for 350 yards and three scores so far in 2010.

Iowa is showing more offensive balance than they did a year ago, largely because their running back situation has improved greatly with the performance of Adam Robinson at tailback. Robinson is averaging 101.6 yards per game, good for fourth in the conference. They'll throw the ball Robinson's way too, as evidenced by his 20 grabs for an additional 270 yards. He is backed up by freshman Marcus Coker, who has contributed 243 yards on 51 carries.

The offensive line is younger than last year's stellar unit, but they'll always be well-coached by Ferentz, and as expected they have improved as the season has progressed. They'll have sophomores Reilly Reiff and the coach's son James Ferentz starting at left tackle and center respectively, and a first-year starter in junior Markus Zusevics at right tackle. The guards are both seniors, with three-year starter Julian Vandervelde at left guard and Josh Koppel on the right side.

Iowa Defense Among the Best

Iowa_OSU6The Hawkeyes defense was touted in the preseason as one of the very best, if not the best defense in college football for 2010. As a unit they haven't been as dominating as some people expected, but as noted above, they've been good enough to rank at the top of the conference statistically.

It starts with the defensive line, where Adrian Clayborn is the feature player at defensive end. Clayborn hasn't had the big numbers this season in terms of sacks (3.5) or TFL (7), due in part to the attention he gets from offensive coordinators, but he has done nothing to diminish his standing as a Top 5 pick in the 2011 NFL draft. And he is far from the only standout on the Hawkeyes' defensive front.

Karl Klug and Mike Daniels are the defensive tackles, and that duo has combined for 84 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Opposite Clayborn at the other end is Christian Ballard, a three-year starter with 33 tackles so far in 2010. Throw in Broderick Binns, a designated pass rushing end, and these Hawkeyes boast a line as talented and deep as any in the country. Most of the Hawkeyes defensive issues have been with the back seven.

Injuries have really hurt Iowa at linebacker this year. Having lost all three starters from a year ago, including the Big Ten's leading tackler Pat Angerer, Iowa couldn't afford to lose any more backers. But two of their projected starters went down for the season with neck injuries early in the season, and the injury woes haven't stopped there.

Starting OLB Jeff Tarpinian isn't expected to play Saturday, and Iowa will be starting a true freshman, James Morris, in the middle. Jeremiha Hunter is a solid player at one OLB spot, but they'll be playing a redshirt freshman Shane Dibona in just his third start at the other outside LB spot.

The Hawkeyes are very strong at safety, with Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash, both three-year starters patrolling the secondary. Sash was a preseason All-Big Ten pick and showed up on a lot of All-American teams as well. Greenwood leads the Big Ten with four interceptions. Iowa will start sophomore Micah Hyde and senior Shaun Prater at the corners.

The Iowa pass defense hasn't matched their 2009 performance, when they were one of the toughest defenses in the nation to throw against. They are ranked just 8th in the conference so far this year, giving up over 220 passing yards per game, and three of their opponents have passed for over 300 yards against them.

Idle Speculation

IowaCheerleaderTwo weeks ago I would have predicted a Buckeye loss in this game, and I'm still conflicted about it. But the events of those two weeks have me a bit more confident about OSU's chances to come out of Iowa City with a win.

First, Iowa has been wildly inconsistent all year, and they have not looked good in their last two games. Two weeks ago, they won a game they should have lost against Indiana...that's right...Indiana.  A wide open Hoosier receiver dropped a perfectly thrown ball in the end zone on 4th down in the final seconds, and the Hawkeyes escaped with an 18-13 win in Bloomington. Last week, they fell to Northwestern, giving up a 10-point 4th quarter lead to lose 21-17.

On the other hand, they couldn't have looked any better in demolishing unbeaten Michigan State just three weeks ago, so they have it in them to play extremely well. The offense has what it takes to stay even with the Buckeyes. They proved last year they can throw the ball on OSU and protect their quarterback, and this year they can run the ball much better than in 2009 with Adam Robinson having a solid season.

But I think there are real problems with their defense, especially at linebacker and cornerback. They just aren't as talented or as experienced at those positions as they were a year ago, and even then, the Buckeyes rushed for over 200 yards against them.

Here are some of the big factors in the game, as I see them:

- It would help if Iowa isn't able to run the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. Seriously, it's crucial for the Buckeyes to get through the first quarter without falling least not more than one score. If they are even at the end of the first quarter, I think the Bucks win the game.

- The OSU defensive line better be watching film of how they were absolutely handled by the Iowa O-line in last year's game. They gave Vandenberg, a redshirt freshman making his first ever start, all kinds of time to throw the ball, and he hurt the Buckeyes with his downfield passing. Stanzi is very capable of doing the same and more. I think it's important for the Buckeyes to blitz early and often, and for the defensive line to have a much better effort than they came up with last year against the Hawkeyes.

Stanzi is not beating himself this year with interceptions, and he is on a mission to beat the Buckeyes. He must be harassed, knocked down, and roughed up from the first series on if the Bucks are to come out on top.

- Mike Adams has been quietly having a very nice season at left offensive tackle for the Buckeyes, and he has had several good games in a row in the second half. His battle with Adrian Clayborn will be one to watch closely on Saturday. If he plays Clayborn to a draw, I like OSU's chances.

- I hope Jim Heacock decides to play press coverage against the Iowa receivers and get after the QB with extra rushers, including DB's. The soft zone they played against Penn State is not going to bother Stanzi and his experienced receivers. I think OSU can get away with defending the run on the way to the quarterback.

- Pryor was too tentative last week, so it would be good to see him passing more aggressively, especially in the early going Saturday. Word is he is very excited about the game plan for Iowa, so one assumes it contains a fair amount of running plays called for him. But the key will be for the short to intermediate passing game to be effective. The strength of the Iowa safeties would seem to dictate a passing attack focused more outside than inside. It would help to find Dane Sanzenbacher on something other than an accidental reception.


If OSU shows up and gets off to a decent start, I think their superior talent will prevail. I am worried though, about the Iowa passing game against OSU's depleted safety corps and their inconsistent cornerbacks. McNutt and Johnson-Koulianos are the real deal, and Stanzi is very accurate in the short passing game. And they will try to go deep on OSU. It worked last year with a freshman QB.

I think it comes down to this....if OSU is able to pressure Stanzi consistently, I don't think the Hawkeyes will be able to score enough points to win. If he can get time to throw, Iowa has a very good chance to be in it at the end.

I'm going to pick the Buckeyes to win it, but I've got to say it would not surprise me in the least to see Iowa find some emotional edge at home, get off to a fast start on a special teams play or a long pass completion, and pull off the upset with a big game by the kid from Cleveland.

OSU 26 - Iowa 21


OSU Athletics Communications - Game Notes (pdf)

2010 OSU Roster

2010 Iowa Roster

Big Ten Statistics - Team and Individual


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