Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Complete Game Preview
The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Iowa Hawkeyes haven't met since 2010, but the two are set to reignite a series that has produced some nail-biting finishes this Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
No. 4 Ohio State (6-0) is coming off a much-needed bye week after playing two of the Big Ten's strongest teams (Wisconsin and Northwestern) in back-to-back weeks.
The Hawkeyes (4-2) will be a week removed from a 26-14 defeat to Michigan State, a loss which snapped Iowa's four-game winning streak.
The last two games between Ohio State and Iowa have come down to the wire.
In 2010, Ohio State drove 76 yards and Dan Herron scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes to go to seal a 20-17 victory in Kinnick Stadium.
The year before, the Buckeyes withstood a furious rally from the Hawkeyes as Devin Barclay knocked in a 39-yard field goal in overtime for a 27-24 victory. The win sent the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl.
Will this year's game provide the same drama? Get all the details of the matchup with this complete game preview.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 19
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Ohio Stadium; Columbus, Ohio
TV: ABC/ESPN 2
Spread: The Buckeyes are favored by 17 points, according to Vegas Insider.
Ohio State Keys to Victory
Get Braxton Miller Back in Rhythm
Braxton Miller entered the 2013 season as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, per Bovada (h/t Chip Patterson of CBS Sports), but things haven't gone smoothly for Ohio State's star quarterback.
After suffering a knee sprain seven plays into the Buckeyes' second game, Miller missed most of the next three weeks of action.
Against Wisconsin, Miller was brilliant, throwing four touchdown passes and accounting for 281 total yards of offense in a 31-24 Ohio State victory.
The following week against Northwestern, Miller looked out of rhythm. The junior signal-caller turned the ball over three times and accounted for zero touchdowns, but running back Carlos Hyde carried the load down the stretch to secure a 40-30 win.
Getting Miller back in a groove is not only important for Ohio State's game against Iowa, but it also impacts the Buckeyes' national-title aspirations.
Avoid the Bye-Week Letdown
A number of Ohio State players spent the bye week traveling home to visit with families, and others took the opportunity to simply watch football and eat a lot of food.
A week away from the action can work for and against teams, because it gives the players an opportunity to heal and recover, but it can also knock a team out of its groove.
Ohio State can avoid a bye-week letdown by getting off to a fast start. The Buckeyes are outscoring their opponents, 126-28, in the first quarter this season, and if they can put Iowa in a hole early, it will make getting back into the flow of things much easier.
Iowa Keys to Victory
Stop the Run
Iowa owns the nation's ninth-ranked defense, giving up just 290 yards per game, but it is most stout against the run. The Hawkeyes are only allowing 88 rushing yards per game, ranking No. 8 nationally.
Ohio State is averaging more than 280 rushing yards per game, so it will be strength against strength when these two meet.
If Iowa can limit the Buckeyes' rushing attack, it will take away Braxton Miller's safety net.
When Ohio State was struggling against Northwestern, Urban Meyer turned to Carlos Hyde and the run game to get the Buckeyes a victory. The Hawkeyes are better suited to stop the run, so if they can force Miller out of his comfort zone, it could put Ohio State in a tough position.
Accuracy in Play Action
None of Ohio State's first six opponents have had much success running the ball, as the Buckeyes have made a concerted effort to stop the run.
That has put the secondary in some tough situations, and a number of teams—primarily Wisconsin—had tremendous success on its play-action passes.
Iowa's run-heavy offense will certainly slant Ohio State's defensive scheme toward stopping the run, so that will give Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock plenty of opportunity in the passing game. Rudock has thrown for more than 1,200 yards to complement eight touchdown passes this year, so he has the ability to hurt the Buckeyes through the air.
Players to Watch for the Buckeyes
None of Iowa's first six opponents have rushed for a touchdown, which is an unbelievable stat midway through the year.
Carlos Hyde, who ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns the last time he was on the field, will look to change that this Saturday.
The Ohio State rushing attack ranks No. 11 in the country because Miller and a deep stable of running backs keep opposing defenses off balance. Hyde will lead the charge against the Hawkeyes.
Middle linebacker Curtis Grant has provided a huge boost to the Ohio State defense this year. Grant ranks second on the team with 35 total tackles, and his physical playing style is a big reason why Ohio State has a top-10 run defense.
In tragic news, Grant lost his father to "a brief illness" during the Buckeyes' bye week, according to John Taylor of NBC Sports.
Grant is expected to return to Columbus to play against Iowa. Ohio State will need Grant against Iowa's physical running attack, and the middle linebacker will, undoubtedly, be playing with a heavy heart.
Players to Watch for the Hawkeyes
Iowa's rushing attack, led by running back Mark Weisman, was averaging 244 yards per game leading up to its matchup with Michigan State last week.
The Spartans held the Hawkeyes to a season-low 23 rushing yards, and Weisman had just nine yards on seven carries.
Iowa will face another stiff test against the Buckeyes and their eighth-ranked rushing defense. Weisman will have to be much better this week, because if he has a similar performance against the Buckeyes, Iowa's chances in the game will go from slim to worse.
The Hawkeyes have a trio of senior linebackers in James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens.
Hitchens has been the best of the three, leading the team with 59 total tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. He has played at a consistently high level since earning a starting job last year, when he led the Big Ten with 124 tackles despite playing in just 11 games.
The senior out of Lorain, Ohio, will be playing against his home-state team in Columbus for the first time in his collegiate career, and now as the leader of one of the best rush defenses in the country, he'll have a huge task limiting a dangerous Ohio State attack.
What They Are Saying
I see a guy that recognizes the mistakes he made and that he's going to work hard to correct them. Ball security, that was our No. 1 issue. … If he takes care of the ball and maybe hits a couple more passes, I thought he played great.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz talks about Ohio State's offense, via the team's official website.
They have an effective offensive system. Their quarterbacks have been extremely dangerous and productive and their running backs are outstanding. There is really nothing you can load up on because their receivers are really good. They throw the ball down field, they threaten you. They threaten all regions of the football field. It's a tough preparation.
It was good for everybody to get away from football. We’ve been here for so many weeks in a row. To be able to go home and spend time with your family was good. Now, we can come back and work and be ready for the next game.
That’s something we definitely need to step up on. I think we’re still going to run the ball, but we’re going to try and do a little bit of both, give everybody a chance to make some plays.
Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier says the team is supporting Curtis Grant after his father's passing, according to Todd Porter of The Canton Rep.
"I’ve talked to him a lot and he’s actually doing better. I’ve been talking to him and telling him that we’re all here for him and if he needs anything, I’ve got him."
I do think we’re a better team right now, but time will tell. Everybody wants to predict the future, but there is no way to do that. I think all of us feel this is a better football team. We’re a more capable team right now, but every year is a new adventure, every game is a new adventure. We feel like we’re on the right path now.
Ohio State 38, Iowa 17
Braxton Miller and the Ohio State offense will come out of the gate hot, scoring the game's first 14 points before Iowa kicker Mike Meyer connects on a 35-yard field goal at the beginning of the second quarter.
The Buckeyes, fueled by the strong running of Carlos Hyde, will add 10 more points before halftime, and Iowa will get into the end zone for the first time right before half to make it a 24-10 game.
Iowa will take the opening drive of the second half 70 yards for another touchdown, cutting Ohio State's lead to seven, but that's as close as the Hawkeyes will get. Miller will connect with Devin Smith on a long touchdown pass on the ensuing drive, and early in the fourth quarter, Dontre Wilson will burst free for a 50-yard touchdown run to close out a 38-17 Buckeyes victory.
All stats via NCAA.com, unless noted otherwise.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.