The fine folks at The Buckeye Battle Cry contacted me to do a Q&A with them this week in preparation for the game tomorrow. You can find my answers to some of their Iowa questions as part of their across the web series. Big thanks goes to Mali for sending me their question and to James for answering mine.
Q: Ohio State was ranked #2 in the preseason but lost to Wisconsin and has since been out of the spotlight a little without a realistic shot at the Nation Title. But the Buckeyes have otherwise been completely dominant and are now sitting at 9-1, just 2 games away from another Big Ten (Co-)Championship and a BCS Bowl berth. First, why do you think OSU is kind of under the radar right now? And second, has this season been at all a disappointment for Ohio State fans?
A: A lot of attention is being paid to who will make the championship game, and with all of the Cam Newton stuff going on at Auburn, there are plenty of other things for the national media to focus on at the moment.
The championship situation will continue to be the headliner this college football season, whether it be through the Auburn fiasco or a mid-major making it to the title game. I hope that at some point Ohio State and the rest of the top Big Ten teams get some attention. It will be an exciting bowl season with some great match ups, but with everything else that is going on, it is understandable that Ohio State and the Big Ten are not in the spot light at the moment.
As far as the season being a disappointment or not, I would hate to speculate about that with three games left to play. I will say that at the beginning of the year Ohio State fans knew that playing at Wisconsin and at Iowa would be the toughest tests of the season. If Ohio State were to drop both of those games, that would be disappointing.
Q: Obligatory TP question: The Rose Bowl last year seemed to be a turning point for Terrelle Pryor. His numbers this year have been considerably better, particularly his completion percent. Can you pinpoint what has changed that has made him a better quarterback?
A: I think just going from a sophomore quarterback to a junior quarterback and that extra year of experience is one of the biggest changes and sources of improvement.
Terrelle Pryor has so much hype surrounding him that it is easy to forget that he was only a true sophomore last season. I think it is natural for a young quarterback to struggle at times reading defenses and making smart decisions throwing the ball, even one with as much talent as Pryor.
At the same time, Pryor's mechanics are noticeably better this year. His release point is higher and his footwork in the pocket is better. I think it is all part of growing up and maturing as a quarterback. Any other quarterback would experience the same growth and improvement from year to year, just not under as much scrutiny as Pryor has endured.
Q: Both Coach Ferentz and Coach Tressel are usually conservative and quite leaders. I read, though, that Tressel gave a pretty fiery speech at the half last weekend to which the players seemed to respond quite positively scoring 35 unanswered points in the second half. Do you expect that to carry over into this game or do you see another frustratingly conservative defensive slugfest that Tressel and Ferentz like to play?
A: Unless something goes terribly wrong for one of the teams, we won't be seeing anyone scoring 35 points, much less 35 unanswered in a half. It very well could be a defensive slugfest, I don't know if I would call that frustrating though.
Just to clarify, Ohio State didn't score 35 points in the second half by getting crazy aggressive on offense last week. The Buckeyes had two pick sixes and ran the ball down Penn State's throat. It was the same old Jim Tressel conservative style football, Penn State just couldn't stop it (we also held them to 31 yards of total offense in the second half, that was pretty nice too).
I certainly hope that Ohio State continues to play inspired football, and I think if they do they can beat anyone. At the same time, Iowa is a much better football team than Penn State, so we will see what happens.
Q: Ohio State has only had 2 real road games this year (Minnesota obviously doesn’t count) and struggled in both. They particularly struggled early in those games (and obviously did last week too). Will the Buckeyes ride that momentum of a huge second half last week into the Iowa game, or will we see another slow first half by the Buckeyes on the road?
A: I actually spent a lot of time talking about this in the preview I wrote for the game, so for a more elaborate response, check that out.
Long story short though, both teams have a lot of psychological and intangible factors that will be in play heading into this game. As an Ohio State fan, I hope that the Bucks will come out swinging just like in the second half last week, but football is a game of emotions, and one play can make a huge difference in the momentum of a game.
If Ohio State gets a big play and goes up early, I think they could continue to roll their way to a big win. If Iowa gets a big play first and goes up early, Ohio State could be in for another slow start and be forced to dig their way out of a hole.
The fact that Ohio State responded so well in the second half after going down early last week is encouraging, but that will obviously be a much tougher to duplicate on the road.
Q: I’ll be honest, beyond Pryor, Herron, and Sanzenbacher I am not too familiar with the Buckeye’s offense and on defense there is obviously Heyward. Who are two players (1 offense, 1 defense) that I should have heard about by now but haven’t?
A: On offense, you should know about #44 Zach Boren. He is only a sophomore, but at 6'0" 252 lbs. he is a mack truck at fullback and a big part of Ohio State's rushing attack.
Ohio State basically runs the ball two ways; read options out of shotgun and iso plays out of the I-formation. Iowa's already depleted linebacking corp will be in for a long night if Ohio State gets rolling out of the I behind Boren .
If you are a fan of old school football, you will enjoy watching Boren play.
On defense, Ohio State really doesn't have many players that jump out at you on the stat sheet. Even Heyward's production has been pedestrian so far this season. I would like to think this is because there are so many weapons that they share the load evenly. I think Ohio State's defensive rankings support that point of view.
If I had to pick just one that you should know about, I guess I would go with defensive end Nathan Williams (#43). He is the lightning to Heyward's thunder and Ohio State's biggest pass rushing threat (he replaced Thaddeus Gibson from last season's squad).
Williams is a tremendous speed rusher off the edge who can also drop back into coverage. Hopefully he will be able to get in the backfield and disrupt Stanzi and Iowa's passing attack early and often.
Q: This is likely the last time Iowa and Ohio State will be playing for a while (unless they both reach the Big Ten Title Game). The game isn’t exactly a rivalry and OSU owns a sizable advantage in the win column, but the meetings this past decade have for the most part been "big games." Are you going to miss this game at all? Are there any other teams you are going to miss playing annually the new division?
A: If Ohio State continues to play competitive football games in the Big Ten, I don't think they will necessarily miss playing any opponents that were placed in the other division. The way the conference is set up now, we miss playing every team except Michigan and Penn State several times a decade anyway, so it won't be that big of an adjustment.
I do wish that they would swap Wisconsin and Michigan and make the divisions into a pure east/west split. I could go on for awhile about that, but I will spare you.