Hawkeye Insider caught up with our Scout.com sister site for Ohio State this week to get an inside look at Iowa's opponent. Jeff Svoboda, who covers the team for Buckeyersports.com, was nice enough to answer five questions we posed to him regarding the No. 4-ranked team in the country.
Here they are:
1. Hawkeye Insider: Some might consider this a sandwich game for the Buckeyes, albeit with a week off? Do you think these Buckeyes are susceptible to a letdown against Iowa? Why or why not?
Jeff Svoboda: Predicting a team's mind-set is always a tough thing to do, but there does appear to be the makings of a trap game here. OSU is coming off two big wins vs. Wisconsin and Northwestern as well as the open week, and next up is a big night game with Penn State, so you can definitely make the argument that Ohio State might be looking past this one. The Buckeyes also didn't look particularly sharp in the first game of the year vs. Buffalo, and they're using a similar practice schedule this week to that one. On the other hand, at 6-0, there should be plenty of motivation, and there have been some bumps and bruises that likely were helped by the open week, so you never know.
2. HI: My hunch is that the Hawkeyes are going to pick their poison and attempt to make Ohio State beat them with the pass? How far along are Braxton Miller and his receivers with their aerial attack?
JS: The receiving attack has made a step forward this season, though the biggest step came when Kenny Guiton was at quarterback, as he threw for 12 touchdown passes in his three starts. Miller has still been a bit inconsistent in the passing game but improvement has been there. Philly Brown and Devin Smith, the top two wideouts, have been very good this year, which has helped immensely. Miller is still sometimes prone to turnovers and missed reads but he's a much better scrambler than before and able to turn nothing into something, which he did with the game on the line vs. Northwestern with some big throws. The coaches also have more confidence in the passing game, leading them to call plays they would not have a year ago, and the deep ball is definitely part of the arsenal.
3. HI: The Buckeyes rank sixth nationally in rushing defense. What makes them so stout against the run and have they faced any power backs like Mark Weisman?
JS: I would say Weisman will be a unique challenge for OSU, as the backs they've faced before have been more quick, big-play slashers like San Diego State's Adam Muema, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Northwestern's Venric Mark. The good news for Ohio State is that they've been able to contain those players so far, not allowing a single rush of more than 20 yards this season. The rushing defense has been very impressive and fundamentally sound, as the line doesn't get pushed around, the linebackers are physical and flow to the ball and safety C.J. Barnett is a very good downhill player as well, all things that should make facing Weisman a good match-up for the Buckeyes.
4. HI: I read some criticism of Ohio State for being conservative against Wisconsin in the fourth quarter. Was that warranted and do you feel like style points are going to become more important as the season goes along if the Big Ten continues to be viewed as being down?
JS: I would say it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Buckeyes to start earning some style points because it's going to be a very interesting road for OSU when it comes to making the BCS National Championship Game. The computers don't like OSU's schedule (and it's not gonna get much better) and the national pollsters seem to be a bit skeptical as well. But Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman come from the "win the surest way" school, and at the end of the day, a zero in the loss column is the only way the Buckeyes are going to have a shot at the national title, so you can't blame them there.
5. HI: What is the weakness of this Ohio State team that the Hawkeyes need to expose to increase their chances to win as a heavy underdog?
JS: By far the biggest weakness for Ohio State thus far has been the pass defense, as both Wisconsin and Northwestern had very good success moving the ball through the air while nearly posting wins over the Buckeyes. Wisconsin threw for almost 300 yards, with more than 200 going to Jared Abbrederis, and Northwestern's quarterbacks were a combined 22 for 27. The Buckeyes recently lost safety Christian Bryant with a broken ankle, and he was a three-year starter so his leadership and communication skills are missed in the back end. Returning All-American Bradley Roby has struggled at times this year, as it looks like he's pressing a bit, and the team has had a few blown coverages/missed tackles that have led to big gainers. So if Iowa can take advantage of such things, it might be able to move the ball, something it'll have to do the way the OSU offense has been rolling this year.