When Ohio State runs onto the Kinnick Stadium field on Saturday night, an aura of sustained success will surround them. The Buckeyes came into the season with the sixth most victories in the history of Division IA college football.
"We don't really try to circle games here," Iowa Tight End Scott Chandler said. "But anytime you're a player and you look at the schedule and see Ohio State or Michigan, those are two marquee teams in the Big Ten. They have a long history. You always want to play those guys tough."
Ohio State brings a 4-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in the country into Iowa City this weekend for a nationally televised night game on ABC. The Buckeyes have won their last 11 games.
Some folks have tabbed it as the biggest game in Iowa history, although they'd get a lot of arguments.
"I'm just happy that I have a chance to play in it whether it's the biggest game or not," Iowa safety Miguel Merrick said. "The chance to play against the No. 1 team in the country is great. A lot of teams don't get that chance. We're just elated to have that chance."
One of the keys for Iowa might be to concentrate on it being a game against a very good Ohio State team and not get caught up in the history of the program they playing. The Buckeyes garner enough benefits from their past.
"Whenever you've been winning for so long, you're definitely going to have a certain confidence," Merrick said. "That's definitely what they have."
Iowa's not playing against the seven national championships in Columbus. None of the five Heisman Trophy winners will be suiting up for Ohio State.
"You just have to be ready to come out and play," Iowa Safety Marcus Paschal said. "The Ohio State team from 20 years ago is not showing up. You have to play this year's team. We have to be ready to play hard against them."
Chandler doesn't worry about the history.
"We've played them since I've been here," he said. "That's the only history that I know of. It comes down to this year. Each team is different this year than they were last year."
The history to which Chandler refers includes one tight game and a pair of blowouts. Ohio State won, 19-10, in 2003 and 31-6 last season with both games being played in Columbus. Iowa handed the Buckeyes their worst loss in the series, 33-7, in '04.
"They beat our butts last year," Merrick said. "There's nothing more you can say about it. They were pretty pissed off about the year before. That definitely showed. They executed a lot more than us. They just outplayed us. You have to tip your hats to them."
So, does last year's humiliation at The Shoe still irk the Hawkeyes?
"Whenever you step on the field and lose, you want to be able to accept losing," Merrick said. "That day, we weren't the better team. They played a great game and we didn't think we played out best game."
That's the politically correct answer to the question, but you can bet the Hawkeyes are talking about what happened last year leading into Saturday. All you have to do is use the photo copies of the Iowa State billboard being plastered all over the Iowa complex before that game as evidence.
"It was just the worst feeling," Iowa Linebacker Mike Klinkenborg said of leaving Ohio Stadium last year. "No one talked the whole flight home. I just remember sitting next to (Chad) Greenway and Abdul (Hodge) and watching those two. You felt so bad for them because it was the last game they were going to play against those guys."
Several verbs were used when explaining last year's game with Ohio State, including embarrass.
"I would say embarrassing, not from the standpoint that of the score, but because we didn't come out and play the type of game that we know were capable of," Paschal said. "You're going to have some days when you come out and play to the best of your ability and come up on the short end of the stick. But the one thing that was embarrassing about that is that we went out there and weren't ready to play.
"We had a good week of practice, but from the plane ride to getting on the field, I don't know what happened. This week we're going to have to go out and work hard because we're not trying to go out there and have that embarrassed feeling again."
Chandler said he was more frustrated by the loss at Arizona State a few years ago than what happened in Columbus. "At that point of the year, they were a much better team than we were and that showed out on the field," he said. "I felt like we were better than we played, but they were a very good team. Sometimes you go into a hostile environment and you just can't get it going."
Chandler said that he didn't need the emotion of payback or revenge to get him going for this week's game.
"If you can't get motivated to play this game this week, you shouldn't be playing football," he said. "I don't think we need any extra motivation other than we're playing Ohio State and we're both undefeated. It has a lot of implications towards the conference race."
If anything, Iowa is motivated by trying to run the table in September, a month that has treated them poorly in recent history. As a result, they haven't reached the heights for which they've been reaching.
"We look at ourselves as we still have a lot to prove," Chandler said. "Three out of the past four years have been real good years and then last year we didn't have as good of a year. We had the potential to, but we didn't finish a couple of games. That's what (Ohio State) has done, they've stayed consistent every year. We still have a lot to prove."