COLUMBUS, Ohio — A victory Saturday by the Iowa football team would turn the Horseshoe upside down.
The Hawkeyes, 17 1/2-point underdogs, are long shots when it comes to snapping fourth-ranked Ohio State’s string of 18 straight wins — the longest active streak in the nation — but with a little luck, this 2:30 p.m. showdown could swing in their favor.
“You don’t do that by accident,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of the Buckeyes’ success. “It requires good players, good coaching. It requires good players who understand you have to show up every week.
“They’ve done a great job of that now for a year-plus.”
Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 in the Big Ten Conference) seems impervious.
Everyone knows coach Urban Meyer owns a spotless record since taking over the program in 2012, but most are unaware of how fragile the Buckeyes have been at times.Of those 18 wins, eight were decided by 10 points or less.
“You know, it’s really hard to find weaknesses unless you count inexperience,” Ferentz said. “They’re a little bit inexperienced in some positions but they still have guys who are very, very capable and guys that are playing at a really high level.”
The Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1) have not won in the Horseshoe, officially known as Ohio Stadium, since 1991.
That was the year before Iowa safety John Lowdermilk and linebacker Anthony Hitchens were born.
“We’re going in there and just blocking everything out,” Hitchens said. “All that other stuff is just numbers.
“It doesn’t give them extra points, or take points away from us.”
But does it give the Buckeyes any sort of psychological edge?
“We’re honestly not even thinking about that,” Lowdermilk said. “We’re just going to go in as prepared as we can, and be ready to go win.”
The Hawkeyes have won their last three games against teams in the top five of the Associated Press poll — beating No. 5 Michigan State in 2010, No. 5 Penn State in 2009 and the third-ranked Nittany Lions in 2008 — but knocking off Ohio State would rank as the biggest upset of Ferentz’s career.
“Over the years, typically when you go there, you play against a really good football team,” Ferentz said. “And that’s the case right now. They’ve got guys that look like big-time football players.”
Nobody doubts Ohio State’s talent. A little good fortune also helps.
Three examples from last season:
–Meyer made his Big Ten debut at Michigan State, and it was nearly a bust thanks to three turnovers. Quarterback Braxton Miller was shaken up twice, but the Buckeyes escaped 17-16.
–Ohio State committed four turnovers against Purdue, but rallied from a 22-14 deficit in the final seconds of regulation and won 29-22 in overtime. Miller was hurt again, but backup Kenny Guiton orchestrated a comeback.
–Nine penalties prevented Ohio State from pulling away against Michigan. Drew Basil’s two field goals provided the only second-half scoring in a 26-21 triumph.
The Buckeyes also were pushed to the brink in their past two games this year.
Wisconsin’s Joel Stave passed for 295 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-24 loss on Sept. 28.
Northwestern’s quarterback duo of Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter combined for 343 passing yards the following week.
The result was a tight, one-possession contest until the Buckeyes punctuated their 40-30 win with a defensive touchdown as time expired.
Will Ohio State fumble an opportunity to extend its streak this afternoon? Or, is Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock capable of passing the Hawkeyes into contention?
If the answer to either question is yes, the Buckeyes fortunes could change.
“There is a reason they haven’t lost a game in a while,” Rudock said. “We’ll definitely have our hands full.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football