Buckeyes Want To Give Iowa Third Degree

The Ohio State-Iowa game is a matchup of strength vs. strength in a number of areas, and one of those is when it comes to third downs. The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes are both very good when it comes to what many say is the biggest down in football, and whoever wins that battle should leave Ohio Stadium victorious Saturday afternoon.

Among the many factors that go into being a successful team, being able to stop opponents on third down is one of the major components.

Need proof? The top four teams in the nation in that category are combined 23-0.

Ohio State (6-0) is fourth-best as teams have converted only 25.3 percent of the time against the Buckeyes. The stingiest is Clemson (6-0) at 23.71, followed by UCLA (5-0) at 24.00 and the 24.05 by Louisville (6-0).

And if you're curious, Alabama (6-0) - the top-ranked school in all the polls - is 11th (28.21).

Michigan State (5-1) is right behind the Buckeyes in fifth at 26.32 while OSU's next opponent is darn good as well.

Iowa (4-2) visits Ohio Stadium on Saturday as the sixth-best defensive team on third down with a 26.67 opponents conversion rate.

So, the Big Ten battle could be greatly influenced by how well the teams do on third down and if that's the case there is not a decided advantage when either has the ball.

Iowa ranks 23rd nationally by converting 48.42 percent (46 of 95) third downs while the Buckeyes are 30th at 47.56 (39 of 82).

"The reason they're really successful on third down is because they have a pretty good run attack, so they can do play action and they have pretty good playmakers," OSU junior Ryan Shazier said of Iowa. "They have a nice tight end (senior C.J. Fiedorowicz). They can throw it to him and he can get those little 5-yard catches and everything. It's the little simple things that they really work on a lot."

Shazier thinks the Buckeyes' success on third down, whether it be on offense or defense, is no coincidence. Because the two units go against each other in practice the Buckeyes can't help but get better.

"We work on a lot of things and third down, we go over it almost every day in practice, especially Wednesdays," he said. "We have one of the best offenses in the nation. I think they're pretty good at third downs too. Us stopping them really helps us get better at third downs. Them gaining on us helps them too."

Defensively, the Buckeyes have been tested 83 times on third down and have denied opponents a first down on all but 21.

That success has been even more impressive considering the Buckeyes have at times been beaten on first and second downs, especially through the air.

"The key is first and second down," OSU co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "We are a really good third-down team, one of the best in the country, I believe. And first and second down, that's where people are trying to make their money against us throwing the football and we have to continue to get better on first and second down."

The opposition has been success on third down at a 30.77 clip (8 of 26) in two conference games. In the four home games the Buckeyes are tougher at 18.87 percent (10 of 53) but that was aided by stopping overmatched Florida A&M of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) 10 of 11 times in the 76-0 win on Sept. 21.

Ohio State has allowed six third-down touchdowns, starting with a pair during the 52-34 victory at California on Sept. 14. Jared Goff hit Chris Harper for a 42-yard score on third-and-7 in the first quarter. In the fourth Daniel Lasco ran in from the 1.

OSU was beaten twice through the air against Wisconsin but still beat the Badgers 31-24 on Sept. 28. Joel Stave went for 36 yards to Jared Abbrederis on a third-and-6 in the first period and facing 10 yards for a first down in the second, found Sam Arneson for an 11-yard touchdown.

Northwestern also had two scoring strikes despite losing 40-30 on Oct. 5. Trevor Siemian had a 9-yarder to fellow quarterback Kain Colter on a third-and-8 in the opening quarter in Evanston, Ill. Then, with 9:10 left in the game Siemian had a third-and-goal but passed 12 yards to Cameron Dickerson to put the Wildcats ahead 30-27.

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