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Buckeyes host Hawkeyes

October 18, 2013
dsp By SETH STASKEY - Buckeye Blitz (sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

There's a thought process that the Ohio State Buckeyes have passed their two toughest tests until their annual season-ender against Michigan in late November.

That thought stems from the Buckeyes having beaten Wisconsin and Northwestern during their last two games to end the first half of the season.

While that thought might exist outside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, it won't be thought about that way amongst the coaches and players.

Coming off a much-needed and welcomed bye week, the Buckeyes are back to work and return home to celebrate homecoming, both literally and figuratively, with Iowa visiting Ohio Stadium on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

"I think we managed (the bye week) well," said OSU head coach Urban Meyer during his weekly press conference. "Once again, I evaluate that every year on how we do after bye weeks and we gave them some rest."

The total evaluation of the bye week won't come until about 7 p.m. Saturday night, but Meyer is pleased with where his team is mentally and physically they're getting better and better.

Quarterback Braxton Miller has been deemed 100 percent and defensive lineman Tommy Schutt is expected to play for the first time this week since breaking his foot during camp in August.

Prior to the bye week, which featured three days of practice before the players had the opportunity to return home for the weekend, the Buckeyes got all they wanted and more before rallying for a 40-30 victory at Northwestern.

"We're 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people," Meyer said. "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 and our coaching staff, it's all about today. There's some teams that do an incredible job of that. I think every coach's focus is just get to the next day."

The Buckeyes are just 13-9 in their history following bye weeks, but Meyer, however, is 34-2 in his career when he's had longer than one week of preparation and his teams have won 13 in a row with more than one week to prepare.

"I've been very blessed to have really good assistant coaches," Meyer said. "There's not a rigid program we have. I just think we're careful with how we manage everything."

The Buckeyes have another bye week in three weeks. They'll host Iowa and Penn State next week in primetime, then head to struggling Purdue before taking Nov. 9 off to prepare for the stretch run.

Getting back to playing with a chip on its shoulder is something that Meyer and the coaches are hoping to see more of this week. Meyer wasn't pleased with that aspect of his team on its trip to Northwestern. That came just a week after the Badgers' victory, which he was highly pleased with.

"The entire week of the Wisconsin game felt like a rivalry week, but I didn't feel that leading up to Northwestern," Meyer said. "It might have been fatigue a little bit, but this team, at times, really plays like that and they're easy to motivate."

One of the issues that Meyer and the Buckeyes' coaches stressed with Miller during the bye week was ball security. The junior quarterback "got a little loose" with the ball and turned it over three times. Two of those came in the red zone, which is even more deflating.

It actually led Meyer to have back-up QB Kenny Guiton to start warming up, but he never went into the game.

"It wasn't just a couple of times," Meyer said. "It showed up before that, too. Just like anything, with any player, you just work on it and make it clear, this is what we expect. He's a smart guy."

It's going to be quite a conflict of styles this weekend in Ohio Stadium. The Hawkeyes, who are 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten, bring a stout rushing defense to Columbus. They've yet to yield a rushing touchdown for the season and allow only 88 yards a game on the ground.

"It's a very good defense," Meyer said. "I coached against them a while back (in a bowl game) and they're the same they've always been, real stout, real firm against the run."

The Buckeyes' offense is scoring a conference-best 46.8 points an outing and gaining 492.8 yards a contest.

Of those yards, 280.7 come on the ground thanks to the work of seniors Carlos Hyde (294 yards, 3 TDs) and Jordan Hall (427 yards, 8 TDs). Hall is expected to return to the lineup this week in a bigger role. He had just one carry against Wisconsin and didn't play due to injury at Northwestern.

According to the Iowa game notes, the Hawkeyes' defense has held each of its first six opponents under their rushing average. On top of the rushing defense, the Hawkeyes allow just 16.8 points a game.

The Iowa defense is led by Anthony Hitchens. The Lorain Clearview product has a team-high 59 tackles. James Morris had 43 tackles and Christian Kirksey has 42.

Carrollton High product Johnny Lowdermilk, who is the son of OSU graduate Kirk Lowdermilk, has 34 tackles from his strong safety spot.

If Iowa bottles up the ground game, the Buckeyes have become more much proficient in the passing game. Philly Brown and Devin Smith are impressive targets. They've combined for 53 catches for 743 yards.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Hawkeyes average 416 yards a game and 29.7 points a game.

Sophomore Jake Rudock is the quarterback. He's completed 105-of-174 for 1,202 yards and eight touchdowns. Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock are the top rushers with 624 yards and 256 yards, respectively. Iowa has scored only 9 touchdowns via the rush all season.

The Ohio State defense has been stout against the run, allowing 86.2 yards a game, which ranks sixth in the country. However, the Buckeyes' passing defense has been touched up for 240 yards a week.

During the Big Ten Conference call, Meyer called the Buckeyes' pass defense, "alarming."

Ohio State is getting pressure on the quarterback, but it's putting its defensive backs on islands and in the quick passing game it's been costly.

Ryan Shazier leads the OSU defense with 47 tackles and eight for loss. Both rank second in the conference.

Freshman Joey Bossa has played exceptionally well and was named Defensive Player of the Game after the Northwestern game. Michael Bennett and Noah Spence have been strong as well.

Bradley Roby, despite getting picked on in the passing game, is the unquestioned leader of the youthful secondary. He has two interceptions.

 
 

 

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