What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? This week: Matt B. at Land-Grant Holy Land, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things Buckeye.
1) Ohio State is 6-0, pretty much like everyone expected. How have the Buckeyes looked to you so far this year? Are they living up to your expectations? Does that record flatter them?
Ohio State looks a step behind Alabama and Oregon, but slightly shakier-than-expected secondary aside, has played pretty well. The Buckeyes have two legitimate wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin, and this offense, while still not fully weaponized, has been devastating compared to last year. The front 7, thought to be Ohio State's weakness this season, has performed better than expected, and the schedule is setting up nicely for OSU to work out a few kinks before Michigan...and probably the Big Ten Title game.
2) The Buckeyes are in the midst of an 18-game winning streak, which is enormously impressive. It looks like the two longest OSU winning streaks of the last decade-plus were 19-game winning streaks in 02-03 and 05-06 and the all-time OSU winning streak is 22 games. At what point does the streak take on a life of its own? Is it there already? Does the streak feel a little surreal, given that the first twelve wins happened in that weird limbo year of 2012, with the NCAA sanctions looming over everything?
I'm not sure that the steak has become a thing of it's own yet, but it's certainly close to getting that way. I think part of the reason it hasn't completely blown up yet is the fact that it hasn't included that many signature wins, save close victories over Wisconsin (twice), Michigan, and a total de-pantsing of Nebraska. The Buckeyes certainly weren't a dominant team for much of last year, and while it kind of sucks to say it, a big part of the streak has been a product of who Ohio State has had the bad luck of playing lately. I think if OSU heads into the Michigan game undefeated, and it's probable that they'd miss out on the Title Game even with a win and a league title, then folks will talk about it more...
3) Iowa and Ohio State don't see each other too often in football, but I think we're still somewhat familiar with Braxton Miller and what he can do. Who are some players on offense that Iowa fans might not be as familiar with -- but who will likely be scoring copious points on Iowa's defense on Saturday?
Ohio State has a lot of depth when it comes to offensive firepower. Carlos Hyde pretty much carried this offense by himself in the second half of the Northwestern game, and is a dangerous combination of speed and strength. He'll be spelled by H-back Jordan Hall, whose early season performance has started a movement to BETTER CALL HALL, and freshman fireplug Dontre Wilson, whose raw speed out of the backfield makes him a threat to take any play to the house. At wideout, the Buckeyes have a deep threat in Devin Smith, and a reliable possession guy in Philly Brown. Both are capable of having huge games, in case Iowa sells out to stop the run. Also, Xbrax is still capable of doing Xbrax type things.
4) Is there any concern about Ohio State's defense? It's certainly not bad, but it doesn't seem to be quite the unbreakable vise of vintage Ohio State defenses, especially the pass defense (240 ypg, 77th nationally). Are there weak points in the defense that Iowa's offense can target on Saturday?
I think the concern is a little overblown, given that part of the reason OSU's secondary has struggled a little is the fact that the unit has sold out to slow down two rushing heavy teams, but it isn't as good as we thought it would be. Bradly Roby, a presumptive 1st rounder, has struggled a little in coverage this season, and the Bucks do give up big plays more than they should. They are excellent at keeping teams from getting too comfortable in their power run games though, so Iowa should probably plan on making a few big plays in the passing game if they want a shot.
5) Let's assume Ohio State runs the table in the regular season (again) and also wins the Big Ten Championship Game. How disappointed would you be if a 13-0 Ohio State team gets passed over for the BCS national championship game (which could happen, unless 2/3 of Alabama, Oregon, and Clemson/Florida State lose before then)? Is it title game or bust this year or would a trip to the Rose Bowl still be a satisfying accomplishment?
Before the season, a lot of our writers would have been happy with a Rose Bowl win, but if they win 26 games in a row and don't get ONE shot at a national title, we may burn a couch or two in Columbus. Luckily, Ohio State's schedules get a little tougher in the near future, with Va Tech and Cincinnati on next year's slate, and games with Oklahoma, UNC, Texas and Oregon already scheduled. Tough to combat the forces of #NARRATIVE though.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
I'm not sure how Iowa scores enough to keep this close. I like this to be ugly early, but OSU breaks a few big plays,then runs away with a 35-10 win.
Thanks for being a good sport, Matt, although I still hope your team loses by 50 on Saturday. You can check out Matt and the rest of the LGHL crew at Land-Grant Holy Land. You can also follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLGHL and LGHL on Twitter at @Landgrant33. The Iowa-Ohio State game is in Columbus on Saturday, October 19, and is scheduled to start at 2:30 pm CT, with television coverage from ABC/ESPN2 (check local listings).