The Hawkeyes will head to Ohio Stadium, which has seating for 102,780 fans, to play against the Buckeyes on their home turf. The Hawkeyes (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten West) have scored just 88 points in its six games, fewer than the Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten East) have scored in six first quarters (98). So they will need to rely on defense if there is any hope of pulling off an upset.
Fortunately for Iowa, that defense is one of the best in the land, so the Hawkeyes may have a puncher’s chance.
“They’re very good at what they do,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “There’s a reason they’re ranked so high, and year in and year out they’re one of the best defenses in the country.”
Hawkeyes D will have eyes on Buckeyes O
Iowa is allowing just 9.8 points per game, third best in the country behind Illinois and Georgia. The Hawkeyes don’t do much in the way of tricks but are always sound on fundamentals and technique, and they play their gaps and lanes as well as any team in the country – evidenced by allowing just 50 plays of 10 yards or more, third best in the nation.
“They’re playing vision defense, vision break,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “The underlying thing, they don’t flash, but they have better quality players than they get credit for. You’re in the back half of the Big Ten, so it’s not easy. You play this time of year with elements.”
In linebackers Jack Campbell and Seth Benson, the Hawkeyes have two of the best in the Big Ten. Campbell leads the team in tackles with 63, and Benson has 51. Iowa asks its defensive backs to be multipurpose players, standing strong in coverage but also packing a wallop against the run game.
Sophomore Cooper DeJean has been a revelation in his first season as a starter, making 37 tackles, intercepting three passes, and breaking up five attempted passes. Senior Riley Moss is an All-America candidate but will be tested mightily by Ohio State’s stellar receivers.
“The tape shows that they’re really, really good,” Wilson said. “When you’re a strong offense, when you play a really good defense, it shows what you really are.”
Buckeyes o-line could rule the day
While the national media has talked endlessly about quarterback C.J. Stroud, the Buckeyes receivers and their ability to score points in bunches, Day and Wilson believe they are more old school than they look.
It starts up front with an offensive line that is first or second in most categories as ranked by Football Outsiders. Ohio State is first in rushing yards created by the line, first in fewest runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, and eighth in overall sack rate allowed. Iowa’s front is usually pretty active and adept at disrupting the quarterback, but this season, the Hawkeyes are closer to the middle and bottom of the pack when it comes to sacks and tackles for loss.
That could mean big things for an OSU offense that leads the country in scoring (48.8) and yards per play (8.07).
“Their line is really big and physical. Two huge tackles. So that sort of starts the problem,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “If you want to defend the whole field, makes it a little tougher to hold up against the run, and their backs are very capable.”
Ohio State’s standout has been Paris Johnson Jr., who has made the smoothest of transitions from guard to tackle. He hasn’t allowed a sack and is playing at an All-America level forecast for him coming out of high school in Cincinnati.
“Paris has done a lot, both on the field and in life,” Day said. “In three short years, he’s made a major impact on this team. He’s playing at a high level.”
On the opposite side is Dawand Jones, who got All-American mention last season but hasn’t quite been in the same spotlight in 2022.
“Dawand is not close to what he can be, and he’s doing well,” Wilson said. “I think he’s got a high ceiling and I want to see him finish well for us.”
Wilson said Luke Wypler is “one of our best workers” and is another who could be in line for postseason honors. “He’s off to a good start to his career, for sure.”
Iowa sophomore Lukas Van Ness has been the most disruptive force up front, with six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, but he should have his hands full against the Buckeyes line.
Home has been sweet for Buckeyes
The Buckeyes are sitting on an 11-game home winning streak, among the top dozen marks in college football.
They haven’t faced the Hawkeyes since 2017, but that’s something it would just as soon forget as they left Kinnick Stadium with a 55-27 loss and an end to their College Football Playoff hopes. The offense was confused and off-kilter, which Day still remembers.
It’s a scar that doesn’t go away,” he said. “I’ve felt it this week, for sure.”
Ferentz didn’t recall many particulars but did recall that there was no indication of how the game would turn out.
“Boy, I didn’t see that coming. And boy, you just get hit by a train,” he said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned long before I was a head coach that sometimes that just happens. And when it happens on the good side, man, that’s a great feeling.”
Iowa hasn’t won at Ohio Stadium since a 16-9 victory in 1991 and enters this year’s game as a 27-point underdog.
“We haven’t been there, it’s been seven, eight years since I’ve been there,” he said. “I think I remember the right side where we used to be on the bench, the right side being really noisy. … There’s really no preparation other than experience. It’s the best way to get through.”