As our Summer Series Preview rolls along, we take a look at the newly minted #1 party school in America, the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten)
Iowa (4-8, 2-6 Big Ten)
The Buckeyes did not get to see the Hawkeyes and head coach Kirk Ferentz last season, but hold a significant 46-14-3 lead in the overall series. More specifically, OSU is 30-8-1 in games vs. Iowa played in Columbus, which is where this year’s contest will be held. After a dismal season for Iowa last year, which saw them lose to Central Michigan in Iowa City AND lose their last six games, Ferentz will be looking to rebound. He holds a 100-74 overall record at the school, and has won two B1G Championships along the way.
The Hawkeyes did defeat BCS participant Northern Illinois in the opener 18-17, but that would be the highlight of an otherwise forgettable season. Meanwhile, OSU marched their way to 12-0, something Iowa couldn’t dream of happening any time soon.
Believe it or not, Iowa does have a running back that can stand on his own two feet. It seems they have had an injury to every one of their backs lately, either that or they leave the program. This year, Mark Weisman is back, and the junior will need to improve on his 815 rushing yards from last year to help get Iowa back to prominence. He did average over five yards per carry, however. That is something positive for this team.
They do lose their starting quarterback from 2012. James Vandenberg, who Buckeye fans may remember from 2009 when he came into The Shoe as a freshman and nearly beat the #5 Buckeyes to steal the B1G crown, is gone. There is a battle going on to replace him as of now, but the struggles of the pass game last year need to improve no matter who the quarterback is. Iowa was a hapless 99th in the nation in total passing and 112th in passing efficiency.
The good news? The aforementioned Weisman has some promise and the line should be improved. It’s hard not to be better than 101st in rushing like they were last season, so there has to be a little optimism right?
Meanwhile OSU looks to be bringing back one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the nation, as well as a steadily improving Heisman candidate at QB. Bottom line, Iowa’s offense may look like the Little Giants at first, but should definitely be improved. The Buckeyes’ offense should be dominant.
More bad news for Ferentz here. Their best defensive player, cornerback Micah Hyde, went in the NFL draft last April. The team was a respectable 44th in the nation in pass defense, but that includes many pass deficient teams and now with the loss of Hyde that will change. This means it should be a good time for Braxton and company to air it out. The Hawkeyes have three linebackers returning, so the run game might be a bit tougher for Ohio State. It could be a Heisman stat-padding day for Miller.
As for OSU, the new front seven should have gelled together well at this point in the season. There will (hopefully) be no more suspensions to speak of, and OSU should very well ‘out athlete’ Iowa. If the Hawkeyes’ passing woes continue, and our defensive backfield is as good as advertised, then stops for the Bullets should be plentiful. The talent and physicality of our defensive line should give the Iowa QB very little time to scan the field. Look for the Buckeye D to load the box and make them pass.
Kirk Ferentz is definitely on the hot seat. After his worst season since 2000 and six straight losses, people in Iowa City have to be getting anxious. Ferentz has an admittedly NFL style of coaching, which given his background in the league makes sense. As we know, Iowa will usually not get highly sought after recruits. But in the early 200os Ferentz was able to do a lot with lower rated classes and develop his talent. That has seemed to change, as Iowa has not been in the B1G title hunt since 2009 and Ferentz will soon have to answer his critics if he racks any more bad losses like last year.
On the flip side, Urban Meyer is looking at possibly going 26-0 in his first two years in scarlet. That might be getting ahead of ourselves, and it is much more difficult to go undefeated than most people realize, but the expectation is there for the fans. If Meyer can get the leadership to develop like last year, this season can be special for the Buckeyes. You rarely see a coach with two national titles get this motivated to win another one, but thankfully he is.
With the seemingly deflated pass defense of Iowa, and the emergence of Braxton Miller and the passing game at Ohio State, look for this one to be a blowout. It is still a league game so it must be taken seriously but all signs point to a big win in Columbus. If Iowa can get any semblance of a run game going, they might be able to hang around for a half. I see a few turnovers for the Silver Bullets and a big day for the receivers in red. Final score: 41-13.