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Iowa vs. Ohio State Prediction: Rested Buckeyes Welcome the Hawkeyes to the Horseshoe

Ohio State looks to stay undefeated, and exact some payback, by solving Iowa's stingy defense.

For the first time since the 2013 college football season, the Iowa Hawkeyes will travel to Ohio Stadium to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. Iowa was scheduled to play at Ohio Stadium in 2020, but the game was canceled when the Big Ten revised its schedule during the pandemic.

At 1-2 within the Big Ten and 3-3 overall, Iowa is not where most prognosticators had projected the Hawkeyes to be at this point in the season. Besides being undefeated (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten), the Buckeyes also are coming off of a bye, so they should be rested and as healthy as they have been since the start of the season. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is fully aware of the challenges that await the Hawkeyes on Saturday.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 8

"We face a big challenge this Saturday playing Ohio State," Ferentz said earlier this week. "Pretty much any year I talk about Ohio State, you're talking about a team that is very talented. They're very well-coached. That's certainly the case this year in both of those areas... As you might expect, ranked near the top of the national polls for good reason. They have a really good football team. Very explosive offensively. You start with the quarterback, a tremendous player. They have great receivers and a big physical offensive line. Probably as big as we've seen, and they're executing at a high level. Good tight ends and good running backs."

Even though Ohio State is heavily favored, head coach Ryan Day was quick to emphasize to the media that the Buckeyes' goals have not yet been reached. Day said, "There have been really good things, but that was the first half of the season. ... Nothing we've done in the past matters anymore."

Ohio State fans also will be quick to point out that Iowa trounced the Buckeyes 55-24 in 2017, the last time these two teams met. That game was played in Iowa City but it also was significant in that Ohio State was ranked (No. 6) while the Hawkeyes were not. Could another upset be brewing on Saturday in the Horseshoe?

Iowa at No. 2 Ohio State

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: FOX
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Ohio State -29
Tickets: As low as $59 on SITickets.com

When Iowa Has the Ball

It would be generous to say that Iowa has been struggling offensively. Out of 131 teams at the FBS level, the Hawkeyes are ranked 131st in total offense, averaging 239 yards per game.

That doesn't mean that Iowa's offense is lacking weapons, however. Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is paying particular attention to tight ends Sam LaPorta and Luke Lachey. "It's a concern," he said earlier this week. "This is the best tight end, two of them, since Notre Dame [Michael Mayer]. ... You give those guys too much space, they'll kind of body you up." The two tight ends have been the most productive targets in the passing game with La Porta leading the team in receptions (30) and yards (278) by a wide margin.

The bigger issue has been quarterback play and the lack of a running game. Spencer Petras is averaging 156.7 passing yards per game and has more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two) so far. Consistently among the most productive rushing offenses in the Big Ten before 2022, this season the Hawkeyes are dead last at just 82.1 yards per game. Collectively, Iowa is averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

It doesn't help the Hawkeyes that the Buckeyes continue to play solid defense, holding teams to less than three yards per rushing attempt and 4.5 yards per play overall. Ohio State is allowing 16 points per game, a number that Iowa has surpassed just twice in six games this season (27 points in wins over Nevada and Rutgers).

When Ohio State Has the Ball

Ohio State is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum offensively. The Buckeyes are No. 1 nationally in scoring (48.8 ppg) and second in total (543.7 ypg) offense. They are so loaded on offense that two wide receivers — Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka — were named to Athlon Sports' midseason All-American team, and the group could get even better with the return of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who was a preseason All-American selection. Smith-Njigba has missed most of this season after suffering a hamstring injury in the opener, yet the passing attack has remained prolific, including an FBS-leading 25 touchdowns through the air. If Smith-Njigba does play, he'll probably be on some sort of snap count.

The key to Ohio State's offensive success is quarterback C.J. Stroud. A Heisman Trophy finalist last season, Stroud is once again among the nation's leaders with 1,737 passing yards and 24 touchdowns while tossing just three interceptions. Iowa's defense has remained solid, ranking third nationally in scoring (9.8 ppg) and against the pass (154.0 ypg), as well as seventh in total yards allowed per game (264.7), but the Hawkeyes have yet to face an offense as potent and talented as this one.

And it's not as if the Buckeyes are one-dimensional either. The ground game is generating 228 yards per game with Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson taking turns gashing defenses. They rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in the Big Ten in rushing and have combined for 923 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground even though both have dealt with injuries. Compare that to Iowa's total of 493 yards in six games.

As good as Iowa's defense has been, Ferentz knows this will be a tough assignment for his team. "If you want to defend the whole field, makes it a little tougher to hold up against the run, and their backs are very capable. So just kind of got to cat and mouse and figure out where you're going to lean left or right and how you're going to do it. Hopefully won't be too obvious with it."

Final Analysis

This game will pit both teams' respective strengths against each other, with the Buckeyes' offense squaring off against the Hawkeyes' defense. While Iowa may be able to slow down Ohio State for a bit, the canyon that lies between these two teams in terms of offensive production and firepower should only make it easier for the Buckeyes to pull away in the second half against a worn-down Hawkeyes defense.

Prediction: Ohio State 35, Iowa 10

Podcast: Week 8 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Land-Grant Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

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