Ohio State at Iowa: The Perils

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There’s much more than one peril that can eat up the Buckeyes and their five-straight Big Ten title rear end against the Iowa Hawkeyes today. First and foremost, they are playing the Iowa Hawkeyes, a physical, talented team that has let three football games slip through their fingers so far this year. Second peril, they’re pissed off. After losing those three games by only nine points, getting on a roll, locking in, and serving Ohio State a big plate of whupping would make the Hawkeyes feel a lot better about themselves this year.

Hans Hetrick

That said, the Buckeyes are transforming into a finely-tuned machine a la Jim Tressel this year. The offensive line and Boom Herron have become the meat of solid offense, and Terrelle Pryor and his receivers are now the potatoes. The Buckeye offense struggled to find an identity throughout the first half of the year.

At first, it depended on Pryor’s legs for points. In the Miami game, Pryor nabbed a number of chances to run off 113 yards and a touchdown. In the Illinois game after Pryor setting up a crucial touchdown with his legs, he strained his quadricep. It was obvious, he couldn’t and/or shouldn’t run on it.

The following week, Pryor lit up the Indiana Hoosiers for 334 yards through the air. Tressel must of thought Pryor had turned the corner, made a leap, saw the light, and figured out how to be a potent drop back pure passer, because the following Saturday, the Buckeyes looked to attack Wisconsin through the air.

Two failed drives, the second ending with three straight Pryor incompletions coupled with 21 point deficit, Tressel looked to Boom Herron and the offensive line to dig into the Badger defense. And, they almost brought the Buckeyes back.

Herron’s persistent attacks opened up the passing lanes and allowed Pryor to complete some important passes. But when Wisconsin answered Ohio State’s final touchdown drive with one of their own. Pryor couldn’t find the late game passes when the Buckeyes needed to strike quickly as the game clock wound down.

Since the ground game brought the Buckeyes within 3 points of Wisconsin, Tressel has turned to his running backs more more, and over the next two games Boom Herron and the offensive line, with dashes of Pryor, Jamaal Berry, Brandon Saine, and Carlos Hyde, became one of the most formidable rushing attacks in college football.

Yet, the third peril awaits, today’s game is in Kinnick Stadium and Iowa City. Ohio State has enjoyed six wins in their last seven games at Kinnick, but they’ve been awful on the road this year, struggling against Illinois and losing to Wisconsin.

Which brings me to peril number four, Iowa will be only the second legitimately physical team Ohio State plays this year. Witnessing the Wisconsin offensive line push back the Buckeyes defense like furniture was scary. I can’t remember an Ohio State defense that allowed themselves to be pushed around like that. They’ve been outsmarted a few times, out-finessed and run around for sure, but never pushed around.

I don’t know if anyone’s sure if Wisconsin’s offensive line is just that good or if Ohio State’s defensive line and linebackers just aren’t husky enough to play with the big boys. They’re certainly fast enough and athletic enough. The Iowa game will let us know if the Bucks front seven can stand up against a physical, well-schooled offensive line.

The Buckeye’s haven’t won a full-on, get-knocked-down, get-back-up battle this year. They’ve only played in one. They got back up a couple of times, but the Badgers hung tough. Ohio State will need to improve to .500 in tough games this year because of peril number five. Iowa will not go down without a vicious fight.

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