Tate, the 2004 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, missed Iowa's game at Syracuse in week two with a strained oblique, but has played well in the Hawkeyes' other three matchups. On the season, Tate is 58 of 93 passing (62.4 percent) for 687 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
"It's all on Tate," OSU cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's what he wants to do. They give him the option. They like to get him out of the pocket and get the ball out. They have a great running back (Albert Young) who can run the ball, too. It is kind of balanced, but it is all in Drew Tate's hands."
Young rushed for over 1,334 yards last year (three more than OSU tailback Antonio Pittman). This year, he has 280 rushing yards (4.1 per carry) and three touchdowns. Young is also Tate's top target with 18 receptions for 152 yards (8.4) and a touchdown.
"Young is quick," OSU defensive tackle David Patterson said. "He does a great job on screens and does a great job when he get the ball in the open field. I saw one play where Tate fumbled it and he picked it up and avoided three guys and took it to the house. He's a great back."
But Patterson thinks OSU needs to affect Tate to really be successful.
"We definitely want to make sure we get a push up the middle and we're really just going to try and keep a bracket around him," he said. "But even then, he doesn't have to roll out, he can just drop back and hurt you. So, we just have to play fundamentally sound and execute.
"We want to be in our gap and get penetration. When me and Quinn (Pitcock) can get penetration, it really helps our scheme and helps our defense. When you get in the backfield in our gaps, that helps our defensive strategy."
Iowa is nursing a few minor injuries on its offensive line, but the Hawkeyes are always solid up front and Patterson knows it won't be any different on Saturday night.
"They are big guys, quick and they're very technique-sound," he said. "They do a really good job of not giving anything away with their stances. They come off the ball pretty hard and they do a great job of getting in position and getting their hips around. So, I think they are a pretty good offensive line."
Iowa's top wide receiver is freshman Dominique Douglas who has 14 receptions for 195 yards (13.9) and one touchdown. The Hawkeyes graduated their top receivers from last season.
"They have a good freshman," Jenkins said. "They're all tall and have pretty long arms. Their leading receivers are the running back and tight ends, but I don't think we can fall asleep on their wideouts. They have some good wideouts."
But Jenkins is confident knowing he will be matched up against inexperienced players.
"Definitely," he said. "When you have younger players you want to get in their head and affect them early. So, I think that's one of the things I'm going to do is get after them. But you can fall asleep thinking they are going to roll over. They are good receivers."
Senior defensive back Antonio Smith also gave his take on Iowa's receivers.
"I know they've got a true freshman in No. 88, Douglas, and he's doing a good job for them catching the ball extremely well," he said. "Their also getting the ball to the running back quite a bit and their tight end. They've been a good passing team through the years and I'm sure they're going to be a good passing team on Saturday."
Smith and Jenkins each mentioned Iowa's tight end – 6-7 senior Scott Chandler. He has 16 receptions for 167 yards (10.4) and two touchdowns. So, how does the secondary need to adjust when the top two receivers are the running back and tight end?
"For the corners it doesn't change anything because we cover the receivers no matter what," Jenkins said. "They put their running back out at receiver a lot and their tight end a lot. So, as a secondary we just need to know where they are."
"Just hard work and coaching," Jenkins said of Russell's strong play. "He responds to coaching. Anything they tell him, he's listening and he tries to do it on the field. He's focused when he's on the field and I think hard work has paid off for him.
"Same thing for Donald. Competition made him better and it was hard for him to keep his spot. He's in the film room a lot and I think the coaches, with us being so young, are making it easy on us to make that transition."
There was a lot of hand-wringing coming into the season regarding OSU's linebackers. All three starting backers from last year are in the NFL and many wondered how the new crop would step up.
But through four games, the linebackers have played well.
"The only difference now is the experience," Pitcock said. "They have the potential to be just as great as those linebackers. It's just going to take some time."
Junior outside linebacker Curtis Terry is one player that has really taken his game to a new level and has earned a starting spot.
"I talked to Curtis," Pitcock said. "He says, ‘Hey, Quinn, I'm going to shoot through this gap and get the double team off of you.' He's a very unselfish player. He plays hard. He always has some big hits. He played well against Texas. He puts his helmet down and drives through a player."
One major reason why OSU is playing well defensively is its ability to force turnovers. Last year, the Buckeyes only forced 12 all year. This year they already have nine.
"The biggest reason is we have put a lot of emphasis on turnovers," Pitcock said. "We have done a lot of turnover drills. Last year, we had chances to get turnovers but we just didn't catch the ball. The guys on the back end are having great coverage and they're getting the ball. Us and the linebackers, we are having great coverage and we're getting pressure and getting the ball thrown up early in coverage. As a defense, we've played together to create turnovers."
Iowa hasn't been extremely impressive thus far this season, but the Hawkeyes are 4-0 and are likely saving some new plays for Ohio State. And the Buckeyes are expecting to see Iowa's best game on Saturday.
"Iowa is a physical team and they're going to be ready to play," Smith said. "Great offense, great quarterback in Tate. They are going to do what they do and do it well. They're going to run the ball and definitely pass the ball. Iowa is a great team. Each year they're one of the top contenders and we have to get ready for Saturday."