Iowa run offense vs. Ohio State run defense: Last weekend, Booker Stanley of Wisconsin ran for 125 yards against the Buckeyes. Not an easy trick. The Ohio State University has a pretty stingy defense. Of course, Coach Jim Tressel's team will be without linebacker Robert Reynolds, who—until the Cubs played Games 6 and 7—had executed the biggest choke of the week.
Fred Russell has 726 yards rushing and an average of 5.3 yards per carry. The Hawkeyes have struggled at times offensively, but when they're at their best, they are able to pound the ball on the ground. There are question marks surrounding the health of Iowa's offensive line this week, so there may be some lineup adjustments. The good news, however, is that David Walker should be back on the field.
Jermelle Lewis may see some action in Columbus, as well. That would be a big boost for the Hawks as Lewis finished with 709 yards on the ground last season as a sophomore, with a 5.8-yard average per carry. True freshman Albert Young has also been cleared to play after a leg injury. I'll be surprised if Coach Ferentz takes the redshirt off of Young, but who knows? The idea is to do what it takes to win now. Advantage: IOWA.
Iowa pass offense vs. Ohio State pass defense: Nate Chandler has taken a lot of criticism this season from some Iowa fans, despite being on a pace for 22 TDs and only six interceptions. Perhaps it's because Chandler isn't a thing of beauty, isn't terribly fast and he doesn't always have a lot of zip on his passes. But, I think it's better to focus on what the senior IS, rather than what he is NOT. Chandler is now 5-1 as a starter and has a very good 136.5 QB rating.
The Badgers were able to pass the ball with some success against the Buckeyes a week ago, completing 7 of 10 passes for 158 yards. The key will be whether the Ohio State front four can get a good rush on Chandler and force him into quick decisions. It appears that Mo Brown will be sidelined again this week, so Iowa's young receivers will need to run better routes and make more plays than they did in East Lansing a few weeks ago. Advantage: OHIO STATE.
Ohio State run offense vs. Iowa run defense: The Buckeyes have been struggling with running the ball consistently this season. Neither Maurice Hall nor Lydell Ross is averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Not a good sign for Tressell & Co. The combination of Hall and Ross totaled just 45 yards on the ground against Wisconsin.
The Hawkeyes will be geared up to stuff the Buckeye running attack. Quarterback Craig Krenzel may end up leading Ohio State in rushing on Saturday as he tries to escape the Iowa pass rush. Look for a big day from the Hawkeye linebackers—Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge and Grant Steen. Advantage: IOWA.
Ohio State pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense: I look at the Buckeyes as being sort of a "Michigan Lite" type of team. Krenzel is pretty effective, but not a great passer. He has five TDs and five interceptions this season. However, he has a slew of talented receivers to throw to, including: Michael Jenkins, Drew Carter and Ben Hartsock. Jenkins is the most dangerous.
If the Hawks can pressure Krenzel, they may force an errant throw here and there. Don't expect the Buckeye QB to become too rattled, however, as he's an extremely bright guy…and he's been through more than his share of pressure situations on the football field. Look for Roth, Hodges, Clauss and Babineaux to set the tone for this game. Advantage: IOWA.
Special Teams: Mike Nugent is a good kicker with a funny name. That's all well and good. He makes most of his kicks. Nate Kaeding, on the other hand, is the best kicker in college football—for the second straight season. Kaeding's long-distance range is also as good as anyone's in the country and he pretty much negates the potential for kick return teams to succeed against Iowa.
If Hinkel, Lewis, Russell or Young are added to a punt return or kick return squad this Saturday, the Hawkeyes will be even stronger than normal. That's pretty good when you consider that "normal" means having the best special teams in the nation. Advantage: IOWA.
Coaching: Kirk Ferentz has turned the Hawkeye program around. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 2002. Jim Tressel has done an incredible job during his three seasons in Columbus, with a 26-6 career mark with Ohio State, including the 2002 National Title. Advantage: PUSH.
Intangibles: Iowa will be without Mo Brown, but the Hawks proved they could score against a tough defense—without their stud receiver—two weeks ago against Michigan. It should help Iowa to have had a bye week between this game and the victory over the Wolverines. Several Hawkeyes have used this time to get a little more healthy and ready to play.
Ohio State will be without Clarett and Reynolds, two guys you would have figured to play key roles in this match-up.
Both teams have made comments in the last 12 months about wanting to play against each other. So, let's get it on. Advantage: OHIO STATE (home team edge).
PREDICTION: The Hawkeyes will need to play tremendous defense and get a strong effort from their special teams. Sound like a familiar recipe for success? It's the same one that's been working for quite a while. Field position becomes the name of the game. Obviously, Iowa can't afford to give up "short fields" on the road and that really hurt the Hawks against Michigan State.
I look for Iowa to be in a very close game at halftime (perhaps a 10-10 tie), then take advantage of a couple of Buckeye turnovers to grab a 20-10 lead going into the fourth quarter. Ohio State will score late to make it 20-17, but the Hawks will hammer away on the ground in the game's final minutes, settling for a 43-yard Kaeding field goal with 1:35 to play.
The Buckeyes' final drive will be cut short by a Jovon Johnson interception. Hawkeyes win! FINAL: IOWA 23, OHIO STATE 17.
Jon Miller's Prediction: Iowa 23, Ohio State 10
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)