History is there for the making.
A victory by the Iowa football team Saturday at fourth-ranked Ohio State would be the biggest stunner of coach Kirk Ferentz’s tenure and would send ripples throughout the Bowl Championship Series.
It’s an inspiring scenario for a program in need of a pick-me-up following last week’s loss to Michigan State.
Of course, the folks in Las Vegas have a different perspective.
As of Sunday afternoon, the 4-2 Hawkeyes were 17-point underdogs against the 6-0 Buckeyes.
Some might offer an even more lopsided view, considering Iowa’s last win in the famed “Horseshoe” came two decades ago.
“We’re just going in optimistic,” Hawkeye defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “We’re going to keep building. We’re going to keep chipping away.”
The Hawkeyes beat Ohio State in Columbus on Nov. 2, 1991.
Since then, the Buckeyes own a 12-1 advantage in the series — winning all six games on their turf by an average margin of 17.3 points.
That includes Ohio State’s memorable 27-24 overtime triumph in 2009, which amounted to a Big Ten Conference title game.
This time around, some are wondering if Iowa can qualify for a bowl game.
“As a competitor, I want to be able to play the best teams,” Davis said. “They’re going to compete, and we’re going to compete.
This is a different Buckeyes bunch, however.
Urban Meyer became the head coach in 2012 and has yet to lose a game, posting an 18-0 record.
They didn’t skip a beat when quarterback Braxton Miller missed parts of three games with a knee injury.
When Miller returned for a showdown with Wisconsin, Ohio State went into overdrive.
He accounted for 281 total yards against the Badgers and added another 271 against Northwestern.
With two highly touted Big Ten rivals in the rear-view mirror, Buckeyes followers are fast-forwarding to a potential postseason predicament.
Is it possible Ohio State could go 13-0 and still not land a spot in the national title game?
“We’re going to try the best we can to get to next Tuesday’s practice,” Meyer said last week during a radio call-in show. “Those are questions we have no control over.”
So the stage is set.
To most outsiders, the Hawkeyes are a like an unknown actor in a “Star Trek” episode. They’re bit players in a bigger drama, destined to meet a quick demise.
Only Iowa’s Captain Kirk does have a few upsets on his resume.
Remember when the Hawkeyes routed No. 5 Michigan State 37-6 in 2010?
How about the 21-10 win over No. 5 Penn State in 2009, or when Iowa toppled the third-ranked Nittany Lions 24-23 in 2008?
Of course, Urban the Legend wasn’t coaching those teams, nor was any of the three riding an 18-game winning streak.
And, most notably, those games didn’t take place in the Horseshoe, the hallowed ground where Ohio State owns an all-time record of 408-109-20.
That’s why a win Saturday would be the greatest shocker of Ferentz’s career, with Northwestern and Wisconsin looming.
“Every team is tough in the Big Ten,” Davis said. “We don’t look at it as a tough schedule. We look at it as an opportunity to make plays, an opportunity to get more wins.”
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue.
WHY AN UPSET IS POSSIBLE …
Iowa doesn’t need to look back very far for inspiration against a conference foe ranked in the top five nationally. The Hawkeyes have pulled off that wizardry three times in the past five seasons and twice as an unranked squad:
Iowa 24, No. 3 Penn State 23: Nov. 8, 2008, Iowa City
Iowa 21, No. 5 Penn State 10: Sept. 26, 2009, State College, Pa.
No. 18 Iowa 37, No. 5 Michigan State 6: Oct. 30, 2010, Iowa City
… BUT ALSO NOT PROBABLE
The paper trail becomes equally frustrating, though, when you’re looking for numerical encouragement relative to Ohio State. The Buckeyes have averaged a three-score victory margin in the six games played at Ohio Stadium since Iowa last won there in 1991. A look at the understandable road woes inside the Horseshoe:
Oct. 28, 1995 (Fry): No. 4 Ohio State 56, No. 25 Iowa 35
Oct. 4, 1997 (Fry): No. 7 Ohio State 23, No. 11 Iowa 7
Oct. 30, 1999: No. 21 Ohio State 41, Iowa 11
Oct. 18, 2003: No. 8 Ohio State 19, No. 9 Iowa 10
Sept. 24, 2005: No. 8 Ohio State 31, No. 21 Iowa 6
Nov. 14, 2009: No. 10 Ohio State 27, No. 15 Iowa 24 (OT)