2005 Opponent: Iowa Hawkeyes

We continue our look at Ohio State's 2005 opponents and the Big Ten with a glimpse at OSU's opponent in the Sept. 24 conference opener against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Quarterback Drew Tate returns after earning first-team All-Big Ten honors a year ago.

We continue our look at Ohio State's 2005 schedule as well as the Big Ten. In today's fourth installment of the series, we look at the Big Ten opener with Iowa.

Iowa

* Date, Time: Sat., Sept. 24; time, TV TBA. (ABC is expected to televise this game. The network has windows at noon and 3:30 p.m. The Notre Dame-Washington game is already in the 3:30 window. Provided this game matches unbeatens, the network could opt to make this its anchor game at noon. That decision may not come until as late as Sept. 12, however.)

* Location: Ohio Stadium.

* Last Year, Bowl: 10-2, beat LSU in Capital One Bowl. Big Ten: 7-1/first (tie).

* Coach: Kirk Ferentz (seventh year at UI, 42-31; 10th year overall, 54-52).

* Returning Starters: 13. Offense (7): LG Mike Jones, RG Brian Ferentz, OT Lee Gray, C Mike Elgin, WR Ed Hinkel, RB Sam Brownlee, QB Drew Tate. Defense (5): MLB Abdul Hodge, WLB Chad Greenway, CB Jovan Johnson, FS Marcus Paschal, CB Antwan Allen. Specialists (1): K Kyle Schlichter.

* Big Ten Championships: 11, last shared title in 2004.

* Rose Bowls: 5, last appearance in 1990.

* BCS Bids: 1, 2002 (Orange).

* National Championships: None.

* Series Vs. Ohio State: OSU leads the all-time series 42-13-3, including 26-8-1 in Columbus. But Iowa snapped an eight-game losing streak to OSU with last year's 33-7 win in Iowa City. Ferentz is 1-3 vs. OSU.

* Schedule: Sept. 3, Ball State; Sept. 10, at Iowa State; Sept. 17, Northern Iowa; Sept. 24, at Ohio State; Oct. 1, Illinois; Oct. 8, at Purdue; Oct. 15, Indiana; Oct. 22, Michigan; Nov. 5, at Northwestern; Nov. 12, at Wisconsin; Nov. 19, Minnesota.

* Outlook: Ferentz has this program at almost unparalleled heights. The Hawkeyes have enjoyed three straight 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. Plus, the dramatic final-play bowl win over LSU gave the Hawkeyes back-to-back New Years' Day bowl victories.

"One thing I discovered is anytime you finish with a win in a bowl game it is a real positive and gives a little extra energy to your team coming back," Ferentz said. "The way we won it last year was a very good representative of the kind of football team we had last year in that they played the entire game each and every week. It's been a big positive for us."

And, while the number of returning starters is not huge, there is star power. Tate (2,786 yards, 20 TDs) outpointed Purdue's Kyle Orton to be named to the All-Big Ten first team. Hinkel had 7 TDs among his 63 catches a year ago. If Iowa can find a running game – the Hawkeyes were 11th in the conference (72.6 yards per game) – they could be dangerous.

"With the return of Drew Tate, it's our first year to have a back-to-back starting quarterback so that should help us offensively as well," Ferentz said.

Hodge (116 tackles) and Greenway (113) were also first-team All-Big Ten picks last year. They will deal with more traffic, though, this year with standout defensive end Matt Roth and the rest of the front four having departed.

"Abdul is a middle linebacker," Ferentz said. "He wasn't the biggest strongest guy when he got here, but he's grown into that, worked hard to get into that situation. He just knows how to play that position, he's got the instincts I guess, some guys just have some savvy and he's got it and he's got the leadership skills necessary.

"Chad was a little bit more of a project, Abdul really knew how to play the position, not that he hasn't improved. Chad is a wildcard, being a safety/cornerback, and he's an athlete that's learned how to play linebacker, and is still learning.

* Jerry Rudzinski Says: They shredded us up pretty good at Iowa last year, both offensively and defensively. I think there were a lot of heads hanging after that game in Iowa City. You could make an argument in some of the other losses that if there was one play that went the other way or a bounce, that it might have been different. But they just flat out beat us.

It was physically men against boys, and I think Ohio State will take that personally when this game comes back around. I look at Kirk Ferentz and see a coach who is one of the best in the country. Think about what he's done there. He went from one win his first year to three wins to seven in the third year. Then, the last three years it's been 11, 10 and 10. They are 20-4 the last three years in the Big Ten. Heck, there were seven teams just last year that lost four or more games in the conference – and that's what they've done over three years.

Drew Tate is a guy they'll have to watch. I don't know how much the supporting cast helped him. They didn't have any tailbacks back there. They have four guys back on the offensive line. They'll show an improvement in the running game. Kirk Ferentz will fix that problem.

He'll have two good receivers with Clinton Solomon and Ed Hinkel. Tate is an athletic guy and a gritty guy. But his play making can also lead to disaster with his 14 interceptions.

How about Abdul Hodge going out and getting 15 tackles in that bowl game against LSU? You can't say he can't tackle fast players because LSU has all kinds of fast players. I don't know if he or Greenway are at A.J. Hawk's level as first-round NFL draft picks, but they are fundamentally sound. And, keep in mind, it must have been nice having (Matt) Roth and (Jonathan) Babineaux in front of them and Sean Considine at safety, too. Those guys are all gone. Now it's going to be on those linebackers to go out and do it without those guys.

* Steve Helwagen Says: All of the focus in these parts is on the Texas game in Week 2. But, from where I'm sitting, Ohio State could (heaven forbid) lose to Texas and still have as good a shot to make a New Years' Day bowl game as anybody in the Big Ten.

But a loss in Week 4 to Iowa could cripple OSU's bid for the all-important Big Ten championship (something Ohio State has claimed exactly once in the six years since 1998) and block the Buckeyes' inside track to at least a Jan. 1-caliber bowl.

In the old days, when Ohio State would get decimated, Woody Hayes would put the score of the game on a welcome mat inside the team's practice facility. They'd see that score every day they came to work. I have not seen any 33-7 mats at the WHAC, but that would certainly have been the order of the day if Hayes was still the coach.

Iowa beat Ohio State in every facet of the game a year ago as Ferentz finally got his win over OSU, the last Big Ten team he had not conquered. That game was also Drew Tate's coming out party as the Iowa quarterback. I do not want to lay that loss at Mark Snyder's feet, but the OSU defense was severely ill-equipped to contain Tate. He drifted outside contain time after time and had all the time he could have wanted or needed to pick Ohio State apart.

Tate, listed at 6-0, 185, is the ultimate competitor and, although this game is in Columbus, the Buckeyes better have a good plan and execute it if they expect to contain the Hawkeyes.

If there is one game Ohio State is up for all season, this should be it. My feeling is, like the Texas game, the homefield advantage will help lift OSU to another monumental win, a 4-0 start to the year and possibly a top-two or top-three ranking.


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