The last time coaches Urban Meyer and Kirk Ferentz squared off on a football field, there were 95 passes thrown. That might be Iowa’s best strategy again Saturday when it visits No. 4 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes, riding the nation’s longest winning streak at 18 games, are sixth nationally in rushing defense at 86.2 yards a game. Iowa, 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten, is eighth nationally in rushing defense at 88.5 yards a game.
“I don’t know a whole lot about Iowa other than I did coach against them in a bowl game a while back.” Meyer said Monday. “And they’re the same as they’ve always been on defense. Real stout, real firm against the run. I believe they have not given up a rushing touchdown (he’s right).
“I read that somewhere, and I can see that they are very good.”
Meyer was the coach at Florida when his team beat the Hawkeyes and Ferentz in the 2006 Outback Bowl, 31-24. The Gators had 42 carries for 169 yards. But quarterback Chris Leak completed 25 of 40 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns.
Iowa also struggled to gain traction on the ground, rushing 20 times for 64 yards. The Hawkeyes went air-heavy after falling behind at halftime, 24-7, giving up touchdowns on a blocked punt and an interception return.
Quarterback Drew Tate rallied the Hawkeyes with 17 fourth-quarter points. He finished the game completing 32 of 55 passes – both Iowa bowl records – for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
The Hawkeyes are the only Division I team to not allow a rushing touchdown this season. Ohio State has scored 17 rushing touchdowns and allowed just three.
Iowa has thrown for an average of 209.3 yards a game this season, and quarterback Jake Rudock will be trying to move the ball against a Buckeye team that is eighth in the Big Ten in pass defense at 240 yards per game. Iowa ranks third in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing 201.5 yards a game.
Both teams are coming off bye weeks. Meyer-coached teams are 34-2 in games after bye weeks. Iowa’s running game ground to a halt in its last outing, a 26-14 home loss to Michigan State on Oct. 5. The Spartans, who have the nation’s top defense statistically, limited Iowa to 23 yards in 16 carries.
In addition to its 18-game winning streak, Ohio State has won 11 of the last 12 games against Iowa.
Not many expect that streak to end Saturday, with the Hawkeyes a 17-point underdog against a team carrying the banner for the Big Ten when it comes to national title aspirations.
“Where are we? I don’t know,” Meyer said. “We are 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people.”