1. Well, the Hawkeyes have a new quarterback in Jake Rudock since the last time the Buckeyes saw the team. What are some of his strengths and weaknesses and how has he done so far?
Jake Rudock has exceeded expectations, through no fault of his own. He took his first college snap this season and fans and media who questioned him found him guilty by association to a Hawkeye program coming off a 4-8 record. The Floridian's ability to keep plays alive and even pick up yards with his legs probably has surprised people the most. Rudock is accurate in the shorter passing game. He has struggled with that on his deep balls, and the jury still is out on his deep-ball arm strength. He's won his first two road starts at Iowa State and Minnesota. That said, he's yet the face the type of hostile atmosphere waiting for him in Columbus.
2. The Hawkeyes ran for just 23 yards vs. Michigan State. What the heck happened there, and can we expect the Hawkeyes to be able to run at all vs. Ohio State?
A few factors were at work contributing to Iowa's ills on the ground against the Spartans. The biggest problem for the Hawkeyes was Michigan State's ability to shut it down without having to consistently commit extra players to the box. MSU just beat up the home team on both sides of the ball in the trenches. It easily was the Iowa offensive line's worst performance of the season as it was not able to open holes even a little bit. Mark Weisman hurting his lower leg early in the game certainly didn't help matters, but there was no room to run before or after that happened. As for the Hawkeyes being able to run this week, I don't know. I don't think the Hawkeye backfield is as gifted as Wisconsin's and the Badgers struggled to move the ball on the ground against Ohio State. I will say this, however, the Hawkeyes will try to move it via rush early.
3. It appears the Iowa defense is legitimately good and fundamentally sound. Who are some of the players that OSU fans should know about on the defense?
I think Iowa's improvement on defense can be traced to better play from the line. While that unit won't make anyone forget the 2009 Hawkeye front, it has played assignment football and eaten up blockers allowing a talented trio of senior linebackers to make tackles. Iowa has been content to contain dual-threat quarterbacks at the expense of a consistent pass rush. When it comes, it originates from the tackle spots with Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat flushing guys out to the ends. MSU's Connor Cook and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch faced very little pressure from Iowa and picked apart a secondary susceptible to breakdowns the longer it's asked to be in coverage. Iowa also has enjoyed success with the blitz this season probably more than ever before in the Kirk Ferentz era.
4. OSU's rushing attack is one of the best in the country but Iowa's rush defense appears to be able to say the same. What have the Hawkeyes done well vs. the run so far this year and can that carry over vs. OSU?
Piggybacking off of my previous answer, I think the defensive line has done a good job playing assignment football and plugging up the gaps. Absorbing blockers has allowed the linebackers to make tackles and they've missed fewer of them than they had in recent seasons. Michigan State found some running room when they pounded it at the Hawkeyes using physical play up front. While I don't think the Buckeyes will run wild on Iowa, I do think they'll have enough success on the ground to keep the visitors' defense honest.
5. What gives Iowa fans hope for an upset? Is there anything the team can hang its hat on that it can use to beat the Buckeyes?
I honestly don't sense much hope coming from Iowa fans. Most of the ones I've spoken with or whose opinions I've read think this is the only unwinnable game left on the schedule. The loss to Michigan State certainly didn't help matters. The Hawkeye faithful started to feel rejuvenated in a 4-1 start with wins at rival Iowa State and Minnesota and seeing the Spartans manhandle their team was like a punch in the gut. I think the fans that see a glimmer of hope going into Columbus are hanging their hats on Iowa playing strong defense and running the ball while the Buckeyes stumble through an off day.