The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

OSU vs Iowa preview

Posted by disappointmentzone on 29 September 2006

Few OSU fans have forgotten what happened to the Buckeyes the last time the team visited Iowa City:

Iowa: 34 points, OSU: 7
Iowa: 24 first downs, OSU: 12
Iowa: 117 yards rushing, OSU: 27
Iowa: 331 yards passing, OSU: 150
Iowa: 154 yards punting, OSU: 354
Iowa: 24 points scored in first three quarters, OSU: 0

It was the worst lost since Jim Tressel became coach, knocking OSU out of the top 25. The kind of loss that’s the football equivalent of throwing up in your mouth after falling down a flight of stairs. But let’s turn to this season, shall we?

Back when I wrote my small preview of the upcoming season I said that the Iowa game would cause outright horror in the minds of OSU fans. I called the Iowa game the most-worrisome game of the season and said that it would also be one of the best games of the season. I’m confident that all three of these statements are true.

Iowa hasn’t played particularly well this season. It took OT to beat Syracuse, Iowa was tied with Iowa State heading into the fourth quarter, Montana isn’t a D1 school, and I’m not sure Illinois is either. Nothing about Iowa this season has been impressive or dominating or noteworthy. Iowa has demonstrated an ability to be indifferent for long stretches, and then turn a switch and suddenly transform into a very good team. Iowa isn’t beating inferior teams in the way one would expect from a 13th-ranked team, but 1) there have been injuries to key players and 2) Iowa has had no reason to be particularly dominating and every reason to be pedestrian. Getting to OSU with a 4-0 record without having done much (i.e., without having showed much) is exactly the position Iowa wants to be in. OSU is the first real game of the season for Iowa. Having done so little so far probably means there is a lot Iowa can do now. Open up the offense. Multiple new blitzes and defensive schemes. Everything is on the table. What Iowa had done in the first four games is certainly a less-accurate picture of this Iowa team than the picture of OSU from the first four games of the season. Which is exactly why Iowa is scary.

That and Kirk Ferentz. He’s an awfully good coach.
Iowa has a solid running back in Albert Young, who as a sophomore last season finished fourth in the Big Ten in rushing, compiling over 1300 yards. He’s had a slow start to this season, however. He has yet to rush for 100 yards in any game and last week had only 57 yards on 14 carries. Drew Tate is the quarterback. I think he’s been in college for 16 years now. He’s the guy who passed for all those yards back when OSU last visited Iowa. Then again, OSU has a 16-year starter in Troy Smith. Smith actually threw the only touchdown pass for the Buckeyes in that game against Iowa. I suppose two seasons isn’t that long ago, but in the life of a college team two years can feel like a decade. Tate is not as good of a quarterback as Smith, but is is a more-than-capable passer. On the season he’s completed 62% of his attempts for just under 700 yards, with seven touchdowns against only two INTS. He’s not a particularly mobile quarterback, but he moves well in the pocket and is capable of running if needed. Tate is probably the most underrated QB in the Big Ten. I’m very high on him. Expect to see him make a number of passes to the tight ends. Controling this aspect of Iowa’s offense will be crucial for OSU’s defense since Iowa is not particularly loaded with WRs.

In order for Iowa to remain in the game Iowa must sustain its drives. Scoring points is most ideal, obviously, but driving the ball to midfield or into OSU territory is very important for Iowa since the punter, Andy Fenstermaker, does not have a strong leg. In fact, Fenstermaker has a very weak leg. Of his 19 punts this season his long is only 48 yards and he’s averaging only 35.3 yards per punt. With this in mind don’t be surprised if Tressel, at least early on, is conservative (with Tressel, does ‘conservative’ even mean anything?), opting to kick on fourth and short even when OSU has a decent chance of picking up the first down, possible even being conservative on long third downs (8 yards or more) if OSU is in good field position. With the way the defense is playing, forcing Iowa to make sustained drives is a wise move. With Ginn returning Fenstermaker’s short punts, OSU could easily pick up significant yards in field position just by playing a regular, boring offensive game. Good old Tressel ball.
The weather in Iowa City on Saturday is expected to be ideal. Troy Smith should rebound from the Penn State game and my guess is that he’ll figure prominently in the offense this week, which is to say that I think he’ll be more mobile. Not necessarily scrambling but moving in the pocket or even rolling out, putting pressure on the defense to respect the fact that he could take off. Smith didn’t do this very well against Penn State and I think it contributed to his poor outing. This is a roundabout way of saying that OSU will score on Saturday. Iowa’s defense is good, but OSU will return to form. With Iowa as a seven point underdog, the only way for Iowa to remain within this range is to score points. I don’t see this happening. I think OSU wins by more than seven.

OSU 31, Iowa 20

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