Huge Challenge In Columbus

This is the game I have been dreading all fall.  You could go back as far as the summer or last winter, for that matter.  Heck, once the schedule was released and we saw Iowa had to go to Columbus on this date, it’s a game you dread.

The Horseshoe is Iowa’s most daunting house of horrors as it relates to a Big Ten road venue.

The two teams began playing one another in 1922, which was the year Ohio State began playing games in Ohio Stadium, aka The Horeshoe.  The original seating capacity was just over 66,000 and a cinder track was ringed around the field.  Per Wikipedia: “Upon completion, it was the largest poured concrete structure in the world. Many university officials feared that the stadium would never be filled to capacity.”  The track would see upgrades through the years but was removed in 2000 after renovations to the stadium lifted its capacity to over 101,000.

Since Iowa began playing there, the Hawkeyes are 8-29-1.  Six of those eight road wins came before 1960., meaning Iowa has won in Ohio State just two times since John Kennedy was the President of the United States.  those two wins came in a five year span, starting with the 29-27 win in 1987.  Hartlieb to Cook…an improbable touchdown conversion on 4th and 23 with under 10 seconds left to give Iowa the win, their first there since 1959.  Here’s a recap of the final play from our old friend Jim Zabel

It’s still my favorite Iowa game of all time, though I didn’t see the game until years later as it wasn’t shown on live TV in eastern Iowa. We listened on the radio, listened to Jim hit those high notes and my family and me celebrated in our living room as Marv Cook made the catch and scored. Cook grew up across town from me, which in a community the size of West Branch meant about a quarter mile and we knew the family well.

Iowa’s next win at Ohio State came in 1991, a fantastic season that saw Iowa go 10-1 in the regular season. Iowa went to Ohio Stadium with heavy hearts as the game took place after the Gang Lu murders on the Iowa campus. Hayden Fry removed the tigerhawk and gold striping from Iowa’s helmets as a sign of mourning, just one of two times Iowa has done that since going to the tigerhawk and it was also the first time. Iowa was ranked #11 and Ohio State #13

So there you have Iowa’s two wins at The Horseshoe since 1959. If you were five or six in 1959, you probably don’t remember that win. So really, anyone under the age of 60 has just those two wins in Columbus from 1987 and 1991 to recall as it relates to any happy endings at Ohio Stadium.

Iowa is 2-19 at Ohio Stadium since 1960 and the average score of those games has been 32-12, or roughly three touchdowns.

Iowa isn’t playing teams from Ohio State past on Saturday, but the foe across the field will not be chopped liver. This is a good Ohio State team, but not one of the greats despite the current winning streak the Buckeyes are enjoying. I think the 2010 team that was in Kinnick Stadium was a better football team than these Buckeyes. I think the 2009 team Iowa nearly knocked off at The Shoe was a better team than this team, as were a handful of Jim Tressel coached Buckeye squads from the 2000’s.

This Ohio State team is not the third best team in the country, at least in my opinion. That said, they are good enough to blow Iowa out of the water if they are focused and execute. Is Iowa good enough to hang with them?

If that happens, it means the Hawkeyes will have played a flawless game in the special teams department. It will mean no costly turnovers deep in their own territory. It will mean Iowa’s passing game will have gone against its recent grain and was productive. It will mean deep attempts to Jordan Cotton or anyone else cannot be off by just one step, the way it was against Michigan State. Iowa will have to connect on every opportunity it has, otherwise it will lose.

The 2009 team had a dropped pass in the endzone in the first quarter, which was a play that you make 99 times out of 100. We all remember that James Vandenberg looked good on that day, but we forget that he threw three interceptions. He also threw a pick six that was called back on a penalty and had a miraculous completion to Tony Moeaki in triple coverage that should have been picked, too. The game ended in regulation at 24 apiece, but in addition to the dropped touchdown pass, Iowa also missed a 22 yard field goal on their first possession of the 3rd quarter when they had first and goal at the OSU 7. The line of scrimmage was the OSU 5 yard line, meaning this was two or so yards longer than a PAT. You can’t play like that and win at Ohio State; you have to seize the chances you get and Iowa had so many chances on that day….yet the enduring story is that Ferentz should have tried to go for it with :59 remaining and Iowa taking over at its own 33 yard line. I am guessing he was remembering that JVB should have had five interceptions on the day up to that point. The much bigger and more accurate story from that day was mistakes and missed opportunities and the 10 points Iowa left on the board (if not 14) in the first 35 minutes of play.

This Iowa team is not as good as that 2009 Iowa team. I think Jake Rudock is more advanced than the sophomore James Vandenberg, but he’s not throwing to Marvin McNutt, DJK or Tony Moeaki. I also think Ohio State will be far more aggressive defensively in this game than Jim Tressel was in 2009; Tressel played base defense for much of the day and it nearly cost him.

Circle back to where I wrote this Ohio State team isn’t the third best team in the nation. A lot of people feel that way, people who vote in polls. Ohio State has also played the toughest portion of its schedule, so the computers are going to like the Buckeyes less and less. As I said on 1040 WHO Wednesday night, Ohio State needs style points the rest of the way. If they have a chance to hang 60 on you, they will do it. While this team isn’t an elite Ohio State team (they don’t have the playmakers on the outside) they are capable of scoring a lot of points against Iowa.

The Hawkeye have been susceptible to big plays in the passing game and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller can go up top, although he is not very accurate when he does it. I’ll admit to thinking Ohio State was better at big plays than they actually are, prior to doing some research.

Ohio State is 10th in the Big Ten at passing plays of 10+ yards while Iowa is 11th, but the Buckeyes have 43 to Iowa’s 42 so that’s a wash. Iowa has nine passing plays of 30+ yards while Ohio State has 6. Here’s another interesting number I was surprised to find; Iowa is 3rd in the league in fewest passing plays allowed of 10 yards or more while OSU is 8th and the Hawkeyes are 4th in fewest passing plays allowed of 20 yards or more (16) while OSU is third in that category (15); Michigan State is #1. Ohio State does lead the league in rushes of 10+ with 55. Iowa is 8th with 32 of those plays.

The teams are 2-3 in rushing defense in the league with near mirror statistics, although Ohio State appears far more capable of ripping off bigger chunks of yards than Iowa given Mark Weisman’s limitations there.

You might also be surprised to learn that Iowa’s pass defense is statistically better than Ohio State’s in defensive passer rating, fewer passing yards allowed, the same 10 touchdown passes allowed but Iowa has nine interceptions to OSU’s seven and opponents are completing 61.4% of their passes against OSU compared to 52.8% against Iowa. Miller is not that great of a passer and I think the guy on the bench Kenny Guiton, is a much more dangerous thrower. It’s just that Miller is one of the most dynamic rushing threats under center in the country and Iowa must contain that aspect of his game. I think you’ll see the old contained pass rush by the ends that we’ve seen Iowa use against mobile runners in the past. It worked well against Denard Robinson through the years as well as Terrelle Pryor, save for that 4th and 10 Houdini-like escape he had in Kinnick in 2010.

Ohio State is just meh in the return game, with one return of 30+ yards on the year. This is typically an area where the Buckeyes excel, given all of the playmakers they bring in on an annual basis. However, Iowa is last in defending this area in the Big Ten, having allowed six returns of 30 or more yards on the year.

But the eye test…this is where my biggest fears have been all week. This is a big play offense, but they haven’t really played against any great defenses this year. Wisconsin is solid, but that would be the only one. They didn’t reach 400 yards of total offense in that game and they scored 31 points. I expect the Buckeyes to score in the 30’s at a minimum and I just don’t see Iowa doing the same. Wisconsin scored 24 and couldn’t run the ball. They had a career day from ho-hum QB Joel Stave and a 200-yard receiving day from Jared Abbrederis. Iowa doesn’t have an abracadabra on its team, much less an Abbrederis.

Both teams are coming off of a bye week and I think Urban Meyer has his charges convinced that they need to maul the rest of the slate or they will be on the outside looking in when it comes to the national title picture, even if they do go 13-0.

Iowa has a shot if they play a near perfect game, but I just don’t think they are up to it. The good news is I think Iowa has a chance to beat every opponent remaining on its schedule. It won’t win all of those, but in a game by game look, they have a decent shot. Just not this weekend.


TV coverage Map: The game will be on ABC or one of the ESPN’s. If you are not in the blue shaded area, it will be on one of the ESPN’s.


  • Bert D

    Ah yes, the 2009 game. The one where Captain Conservative decided to play for OT instead of trying for a win in regulation. How’d that work out, Kirk?

    • HNStaff

      Being that JVB already threw equiv of five interceptions you could understand him not wanting to attack with the pass in his own end zone. Or rather, some people can
      Jon Miller

      • Bert D

        If I remember correctly, we got the ball back with almost a minute and a half left with timeouts remaining on about the 25 yard line. Instead of attacking, which may have caught them off guard, we ran the ball up the middle for nothing and then sat on the ball. Even if we had been intercepted, how would that have changed the outcome? You will never convince me that employing that strategy is playing to win the game.

      • harv01

        Strength-wise, we should stand up to OSU. That’s a lot better than this time last year. Skill positions, less so over a 60-minute game. We all know Kirk is risk averse and generally always will be. Yet, not going for a win when there is a reasonable opportunity is a risk, too. IF (big IF) our overall team and QB are playing well, he has to know the odds over time is for the more talented team to find a way to win. So call me crazy, but if a reasonable (emphasis on reasonable, going for a 2-pt conversion in OT if we have the ball second?) opportunity presents itself late in the game to go for a win, I expect him to do so tomorrow in Columbus.

      • louie

        terrible coached never play for overtime on road.going in I would of given iowa !0% chance ,so why not go for win.nothing to lose.typical nut less wonder.just one of many games Ferentz has lost for us when we have superior team.

  • Joyce Lee

    Absolutely love watching these old videos and listening to Jim, bless his heart. You never know, miracles happen, and GO HAWKS!

  • fuzzyhawks

    “Sooooooooooooo your saying there’s a chance!”

  • Joyce Lee

    good game, Hawks!

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