October 17, 2013

Keys to victory

The Hawkeyes headed to Columbus looking to pick up their fifth victory of the season and the odds firmly against them achieving that goal. We take a look at the Keys to Victory for the Hawkeyes, which include Jake Rudock airing it out and Braxton Miller turning it over.


Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. In this case, the best offense is one that can grind away the clock and keep the Ohio State offense on the sidelines as long as possible. One area where the Hawkeyes have improved on the offensive side is time of possession. Last season they lost that battle pretty decisively, particularly in the final six weeks of the season. Too many three and outs on offense and not enough of them on the defensive side of the game.

This season it's been quite a bit different. That was until their last game against Michigan State, when the Spartans dominated time of possession 37 minutes to 23 minutes. In Iowa's two losses this year their time of possession is around 27 minutes. In the four wins, Iowa's offensive time of possession was at 37 minutes per game. This season the Buckeyes are at 32 plus minutes per game in time of possession. If Iowa is going to pull the upset on Saturday, they are going to have to control the clock for somewhere near 35 minutes or slightly more, and run over 70 plays.


In addition to getting the clock on their side, for Iowa to hand Ohio State their first loss of the season they need to win the turnover battle and win it in a big way. Based on what we have seen this season, particularly with Braxton Miller at quarterback, the Hawkeyes will have a chance to make some hay. Miller has played in four games this year and he has two interceptions and he had two fumbles against Northwestern.

On the other side of the equation, Iowa has forced 12 turnovers this season, which is a pretty good number. They are going to need to add to that total this weekend against the Buckeyes if they want to leave Columbus with a victory. In tandem with that, Iowa will need to limit their own mistakes in a big way. Best guess is Iowa needs to be +3 in this category to have a chance to pull the upset.


Having watched Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes a few times this season, there's no question he is one of the best in the country at handling the zone read in the backfield. Miller is outstanding at the sleight of hand and keeping opponents guessing until the last second if he has the ball or if he's handing it off. Couple that with the return of bruising back Carlos Hyde and Ohio State has a lot of weapons to contend with on the zone read option.

The key for the Hawkeyes, especially the defensive ends, will be assignment football and making the right read of Miller's movements. Do you crash in to tackle the back or follow Miller to the outside? One mistake and a big play is potentially on the way. The Hawkeyes shut down Minnesota's rushing attack, but they don't have a back nearly as big and talented as Hyde and they certainly didn't have Braxton Miller running the show. Iowa's nationally ranked rush defense will be put to the test on Saturday.


Ohio State has plenty of talent in their defensive backfield. The Buckeyes have an experienced secondary with NFL caliber prospects in Bradley Roby and Dorian Grant, but in their first two Big Ten contests, they have given up a lot of yards. Wisconsin, which is hardly known as an air it out type team, threw for 295 yards. Of course the bulk of that was to Jared Abbrederis, who caught ten passes for 207 yards, but the fact is they made plays against their secondary. Against Northwestern, the Wildcats were able to put up 343 yards in the air on 25 completions. Again, one receiver went off, so to speak. This time it was Rashad Lawrence with 8 receptions for 149 yards.

One of the big questions for Iowa will be the health of leading receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. He says he will be ready to go on Saturday and Martin-Manley could have the potential for a big game. Bottom line, Iowa probably can't sit back and hope the run game gets them to the winner's circle. Ohio State is among the best in the country against the run. They are allowing just 86 yards per game on the ground and the longest rushing play they have allowed all season is just 17 yards. Iowa is going to have to look to the air for a path to victory.


The struggles of Iowa's special teams this season have been well documented. From onside kicks to fake punts and poor kickoff coverage, Hawkeye fans are well aware that special teams continue to be a question mark. Enter Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, who aren't afraid to take some chances on special teams. They aren't fearful of trying something risky on special teams. Against Northwestern they attempted a fake punt (and it didn't work) and they blocked a punt against the Wildcats. Given Iowa's struggles in those areas this season, it's certainly cause for concern. Kirk Ferentz said during the bye week that they may never try to return a punt again, but he somewhat softened that stance earlier this week. Bottom line, special teams can change the game and Iowa cannot afford to give up another huge play in this area if they want to pull the upset against the Buckeyes.

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