Similar Teams Have a Lot at Stake in Big Ten Opener
Conference play begins this weekend, with a lot on the line
Sept. 23, 2005
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - There are no games circled on Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz's schedule. He doesn't use a red marker to draw an arrow toward a rival or to underline a top opponent.
"It's a dangerous practice if you just point to a single game because what do you tell your team the next week? 'This one's not quite as big?"' he asked. "They all count for one, so I've never really subscribed to that."
Yet there's no question that No. 8 Ohio State does heading into its rematch with the 21st-ranked Hawkeyes, dating back to last year's 33-7 beating in Iowa City.
"It was a day you'd like to forget," is how Buckeyes wide receiver Roy Hall put it.
That loss dropped the Buckeyes to 0-3 in the conference for only the second time since World War II, although they bounced back to win six of the next seven games.
What lingered for Ohio State was how thoroughly they were pushed around. The Buckeyes aren't accustomed to getting manhandled.
"This is a focal point for us, not only because it's our first Big Ten game but because it is Iowa and the way that they beat us last year," Buckeyes cornerback Donte Whitner said. "It was really embarrassing going up there and losing the way we did to them."
Whitner looks at the game as a bit of redemption after too much time thinking about last year's outcome.
"We just want to go out and play a good game and show everybody we've gotten over last year," he said. "We had to deal with that through the whole offseason."
The teams are similar in far more ways than they are different.
Both Ferentz and Ohio State's Jim Tressel prefer a ball-control offense and solid special teams, relying on their defenses to crack a game open. Don't expect to see many flea-flickers or triple reverses. Both Iowa (2-1) and Ohio State (2-1) are products of their Midwestern roots - substance over style, patience over panache, winning on the lines rather than by taking chances deep.
"It's unusual to see them beat themselves," Ferentz said of the Buckeyes.
Said Tressel: "Iowa is going to be Iowa. That's kind of what I love about them. They are who they are. They do what they do, and every day they get better at it, so they're not going to change."
Which is not to say both teams don't have playmakers. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate is a double threat whenever he stands in the pocket, capable of a quick strike to a quality receiver such as Clinton Solomon or turning upfield for yardage. Albert Young is off to a fast start at tailback and the offensive line is big and efficient.
"Everybody does their jobs," Ohio State defensive end David Patterson said. "You rarely see a breakdown out there."
Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith added, "They're not going to trick you. They're not going to sub very much. They're going to line up and play assignment football and dare you to beat them."
The Buckeyes feature Smith, still feeling his way in his third game back since a two-game suspension for accepting money from a team booster, along with acclaimed receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes.
"I like going into games against guys who are highly rated because it gives me a chance to showcase what I can do," Iowa cornerback Jovon Johnson said. "And it also gives my teammates and myself a chance to be successful and knock off the top dog."
The most obvious similarity between the teams is that each has a brilliant linebacking corps. If there's a unit anywhere in the land as good as Iowa's Abdul Hodge, Chad Greenway and Edmond Miles, it might be Ohio State's A.J. Hawk, Rob Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel.
"It would probably be hard to find a college game that had better linebackers," Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes have won their last seven Big Ten games but Ohio State hasn't lost to Iowa at home since 1991. On top of that, the Buckeyes are tired of being peppered with questions about the last meeting.
"It's going to be physical and fast," Ohio State running back Brandon Schnittker said. "The first challenge of the Big Ten season is Iowa; you can't really ask for much more. We'll know a lot about who we are after this game."