No need to over-recap what happened the last times these two met. The Iowa Hawkeyes had the outlier of all outlier offensive performances but defensively, the Hawkeyes turned Ohio State interceptions into points early and often.
Amani Hooker snagged an interception on the first play and returned it to grant Iowa a 7-0 lead! The team traded scorers until a late-second quarter Josh Jackson pick allowed Iowa to extend the lead to 2 [touchdowns] going into half. The offense stagnated in the second half but Iowa’s defense held the Buckeyes to two three-and-outs before unleashing some special teams trickeration to put the game out of reach for good.
And it all started with the pick!
Iowa will need some similarly great pass defense - they had four in 2017 and lead the conference with four games of four-plus interceptions since 2017 - to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone. To have a chance at the win, Iowa very likely needs to score on defense as well.
Riley Moss has been particularly quiet in the category with no interceptions so far this season despite having 10 on his career, returning three for scores. The production has come in the form of Cooper DeJean at cornerback & cash. He’s got three and all the makings as Iowa’s next award-winning defensive back. With Terry Roberts (who has a pick of his own!) Iowa will likely see those two out wide with Sebastian Castro at cash. He can bring the hammer, forcing a fumble, but has too often allowed slot receivers to get behind him.
They’ll be up against a reloaded receiving corps from the Buckeyes who lost two to the first round of the NFL draft and the next presumed first rounder to injury. Emeka Egbuka & Marvin Harrison, Jr. are third and fourth in conference receiving yards. Together, they’ve combined for 1191 yards and 15 touchdowns. Harrison’s 9 touchdowns are tied for the lead in the conference with a certain former Hawkeye.
They’re explosive, with those guys leading the conference in yards/reception at 18.7 & 17.3. Must be nice.
Their #3, Julian Flemming has a cool 222 yards and 5 TDs. Iowa wide receivers have combined for 390 yards and 1 touchdown this season. Fun times!
This is all without discussing Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who led the conference with 1606 receiving yards last season, but has been injured for much of the season and caught just four balls. He might be on the field Saturday, to add some firepower to an already fiery offense.
The Hawks are a strong defensive unit with a sturdy back five. But they haven’t been tested yet this season like they will on Saturday. Considering just how absent the Hawkeyes offense has been so far this season, Phil Parker’s bunch will need to have an all-world performance to keep the Hawkeyes in the game.
If the Hawkeyes don’t hold up on the back end to give Iowa’s defensive line enough time to get home, we’ll see a lot of “recess football.” That’s tough defend.