IOWA CITY, Iowa - The game on the 2013 schedule that most scared Iowa fans before the season is here. The Hawkeyes travel to No. 4 Ohio State Saturday for a game few people outside of their locker room give them much chance to win.
The Buckeyes own the nation's longest winning streak (18 games). Iowa goes to Columbus having lost seven of its last 10 Big Ten games.
Suffice it to say that an Iowa win would lead many college football wrap-up broadcasts Saturday night. It would represent that kind of an upset.
"I think as much as anything, if you look at it, they've got a win streak that's approaching 20 games right now," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "You don't do that by accident. That requires good players, good coaching. It requires good players that understand you have to show up every week. They've done a great job of that now for a year plus.
"You know, it's really hard to find weaknesses unless you count inexperience. They're a little bit inexperienced in some positions but they still have guys that are very, very capable and guys that are playing at a really high level. They're a really tough challenge."
The formula for an upset on this level often includes the favorite experiencing an off-day. One of the reasons that occurs is over-confidence. In this case, the long winning streak can sometimes be an albatross.
"We are 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people," Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer said. "And I can feel, sometimes, pressure mounting on players when you streak; you start hearing about streaks, you start hearing about that. And it's my job as a coach and our coaching staff is it's all about today. There's some teams that do an incredible job of that."
Meyer worried about his team's leadership heading into the year but he's had some of those concerns answered.
"I was panicky going into the season because I thought it was poor," the coach said. "It was certainly poor in the spring, and obviously when you have issues like we had in the summer, then that questions the leadership of the team.
"But, you know, I'm not saying it's great yet because they are still only halfway home, but through the first half the season, they have done a very nice job. There's good chemistry, good alignment and good leadership right now."
Ohio State's focus will be challenged this week with a game against a team its predicted to beat handily and a night game with Penn State coming up next. The Hawkeyes are hoping for an ambush.
HAWKEYE HUDDLE: Hosted by the National I-Club and UI Alumni Association, the Hawkeye Huddle will be held on Saturday, October 19, from 12:30 - 2:30 p.m., EST, at the Fawcett Center, 2400 Olentangy River Rd., in Columbus. The Fawcett Center is located within walking distance to Ohio Stadium. Admission to the Hawkeye Huddle is free and includes cash refreshments, door prizes, Hawkeye DJ, Iowa cheerleaders, and Herky.
Iowa is 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are 6-0, 2-0 and ranked fourth nationally.
Ohio State holds a 46-14-3 advantage in a series that began in 1922.
Ohio State opened as a 17-point choice on Sunday at the Wynn Casino in Vegas. That number dropped to 16.5 as of Tuesday. The total stood at 55.
-Buckeyes are 4-1-1 Against The Spread in their last 6 home games.
-Hawkeyes are 4-12 ATS in their last 16 road games.
Iowa CB B.J. Lowery v. OSU WR Devin Smith: Smith is a dangerous combination of speed and athleticism with respectable size. He averages 15.7 yards per reception and likes to get deep. Lowery, an Ohio kid, is a playmaker on defense but he has broken down on occasion this season. He can't do that this week or the Buckeyes will make he and Iowa pay dearly.
Iowa LT Brandon Scherff v. OSU DE Noah Spence: The Buckeyes call Spence's position "Viper", which sounds pretty cool. It also describes the true sophomore's play. He's not huge, at 6-3, 252, but he's big enough with cat-like quickness for his size. Scherff is expected to play in the NFL someday and this is the type of athlete he'd see weekly on that level.
Iowa - Mark Weisman (lower leg, probable), Dominic Alvis (undisclosed, probable), Kevonte Martin-Manley (undisclosed, probable), Christian Kirksey (leg, probable), Michael Malloy (undisclosed, doubtful).
POINTS OF INTEREST
-Ohio State enters the game with the nation's longest winning streak at 18 games
-Ohio State has won the last three meetings with Iowa and 11 of the last 12 overall.
-Ohio State's defense ranks sixth nationally in rushing defense (86.2 ypg). The unit has not allowed a run of 20 or more yards this season.
-Ohio State is one of eight FBS schools who have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 2013.
-Ohio State leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth in the NCAA in scoring with 46.8 ppg.
-Urban Meyer's teams are 34-2 overall with more than a week to prepare for an opponent.
-This year Ohio State opened the season with four consecutive 40-plus point games for the first time since 1917.
-Ohio State is officially 27 of 30 in the red zone this season with 24 TDs and three fi eld goals.
-Ohio State ranks first among all NCAA Div. I programs with 87 consecutive seasons since last posting back-to-back losing records. The Buckeyes have not been under .500 for two or more consecutive seasons since 1922-24.
-Ohio State's crowd of 105,826 vs. Wisconsin Sept. 28 was the third-largest crowd in school history (and the 91st consecutive crowd of over 100,000 fans in Ohio Stadium). The two largest crowds: 106,102 vs. Nebraska in 2012 and 106,033 in 2009 vs. USC.
-No. 4/3 Ohio State is Iowa's highest ranked opponent since No. 3 Penn State visited Iowa City in 2008 (Iowa won, 24-23).
-Iowa has allowed just five sacks through six games, while the Buckeyes have recorded 16 sacks in six contests
-The Iowa offense is converting 48.4-percent of its 3rd downs, the 22nd-best conversion rate in the nation and No. 2 in the Big Ten. Ohio State's defense owns the best 3rd-down conversion rate in the conference (25.3-percent).
-Iowa is 4-6 following a bye week since 1999. Iowa has twice played Ohio State following a bye week (L, 19-10, at No. 8 OSU in 2003; W, 33-7 vs. No. 23 OSU in 2004).
-Iowa is the only school in the nation to have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Hawkeye opponents have rushed 182 straight times without a score. Ohio State has rushed for 17 touchdowns this season.
-Saturday's game is Ohio State's homecoming. It marks the third-straight contest Iowa has played on homecoming (at Minnesota, Iowa, at Ohio State).
-Iowa allows 88.5 rushing yards per game, the eighth-best total in the nation and No. 3 in the Big Ten.
-Iowa has held its last five opponents scoreless in the first quarter. Ohio State has scored 126 of its 281 total points in the first quarter.
-Through six games Iowa ranks No. 1 in the nation in red zone touchdowns allowed (1). The Hawkeyes have allowed just one touchdown on their opponents' nine trips to the red zone.
Iowa under Kirk Ferentz has found ways to prove doubters wrong throughout his 15 years leading the program. Perhaps that's why I've been feeling more optimistic than most Hawkeye fans when it comes to the team's chances this week at No. 4 Ohio State.
As my mind wanders to images of the Hawkeyes celebrating their first win at The Shoe since George Bush's father was in the White House (that's 1991 for you non-history buffs), the more likely reality of a Buckeye beat down pushes them aside. I picture Jake Rudock running for his life against a ferocious OSU defense and his counterpart, Braxton Miller, slicing up the Hawkeyes via land and air.
Iowa will be ready with an extra week of preparation. The Hawkeyes mentally are stronger than they were a year ago at least to this point of the season.
There's really no way of knowing what, if any, intangibles might factor into Saturday's result. We can't tell if Ohio State will suffer from overconfidence as a heavy favorite or if the Hawkeyes will come in sky high attempting to shock a college football world giving them little chance to do so.
We can analyze the tangibles, namely the Buckeyes possessing more talent and that they're playing at home. They will have to be off of their game and Iowa play over its head for us to witness an upset of historic proportions. The chance of that happening is slight.
We remember the great upsets because they are rare. Most weeks, the heavy favorites win even if they fail to cover the enormous betting line.
One thing Iowa fans might take comfort in is that I've been unable to get a handle on these Hawkeyes and their opponents. I'm 2-4 picking their games, having only been right on the Missouri State and Western Michigan contests, which were the easiest ones to handicap.
SCORE: Ohio State 27, IOWA 10