Talkin' Tressel: Iowa Edition

Ohio State will take to the road this weekend for the final time in 2010 to face Iowa with a share of the Big Ten title on the line. Thursday, head coach Jim Tressel offered the latest on his team heading into the crucial road contest.

A relatively healthy Ohio State team might have an new ally heading into Saturday's contest with Iowa: confidence.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday night, junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor said he is more excited about the team's game plan for the Hawkeyes (3:30 p.m., ABC) than any previous plan he has been a part of for the Buckeyes. Although offensive coordinator Jim Bollman then refused to spill any secrets, head coach Jim Tressel offered a wry remark Thursday at his final press conference of the week.

"I said, ‘Well, we're trying to get better (as coaches),' " he said. "It took however many games he's been here – 40.' "

However, the coach added that "It means everything when your guys are excited about what they're about to do. Terrelle just tells you how he's feeling and he feels good about the game plan. Now we need to execute it well because the guys we've been practicing it against aren't quite as good as the guys we're going to try to execute that game plan against."

Last week, the Buckeyes returned linebackers Ross Homan and Dorian Bell to the starting lineup. Homan responded with seven tackles in the win against Penn State while Bell almost immediately drew double teams while playing on the kickoff coverage units.

This week, Tressel said there were no new injury updates. Wednesday night, safeties coach Paul Haynes indicated that there is an outside chance freshman safety Christian Bryant could be back in action for next week's contest against Michigan.

After struggling on special teams for much of the season, Tressel said he was pleased with the development he saw last weekend.

"All of (the kickoffs) were pretty good except one," he said. "All of them last year were good against Iowa except one. That's the nature of that play is that if you're not perfect … it might change the season."

Kicker Drew Basil earned special teams player of the week for his efforts against the Nittany Lions because he improved from a consistency standpoint, Tressel said.

"The last one he got under it and it didn't go quite as far," the coach said. "I think his average hang time was 4.12 (seconds), which we say as long as you get to four (seconds) we can cover it. If he's consistent, that really makes the job of the others easier."

The Buckeyes go into Iowa City needing a win to stay tied atop the Big Ten and to stay in the hunt for a record-tying sixth straight conference title. The coach said he feels his team is ready to go against the Hawkeyes, who lost to Northwestern last weekend and find themselves on the outside looking in at the title chase.

"The attitude is one of excitement," Tressel said. "They know it's a fun place to play. They know it's a great challenge. They know it's a big deal. They're a lot like you'd hope they'd be. They're handling the difficulty of the challenge.

"We thought they'd be a pretty even-keeled group from that standpoint."

The team received an emotional boost Wednesday when it learned injured safety Tyler Moeller had been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Tressel said he was confident that the verdict would be in Moeller's favor.

That evening, Moeller told reporters that he had been preparing to go through senior day the following week.

"I thought it had solid rationale," Tressel said. "Compliance did (its) due diligence researching case precedent. I think the fact that the year of inactivity while he had a head injury … that affected the rehab on the chest injury and the chest injury lasted two plays longer than you're allowed to have it last."

Moeller was injured a few plays into the team's road contest against Illinois, the fifth game of the season.

"We had all the medical documentation of the injuries, so I thought it had a lot of strength."

Tressel said he learned of the decision at noon but then kept it under wraps so as to let everyone in on it at the afternoon's practice.

"We knew how excited they would be," he said. "The staff didn't even know. It was a neat thing. He's had a couple tough things happen and he's persevered. Usually when you persevere, good things happen."

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