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The Morning After: The Slippery Slope

It was the Buckeyes after all. What’s so wrong with that?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

There is a certain peace in low expectations.

Too often this year I’ve been suckered into thinking the next game will be different, they’ll figure something out and surprise me with a great performance. Ah, but as the saying goes “fool me six times, shame on me”. So yesterday I set my expectations accordingly. I would kick back, enjoy the gorgeous weather, and try to watch the game from a cold distance.

After all, this was THE Ohio State we’re talking about. This was the nation’s second best team, and the standard bearer for the Big Ten for the last twenty-plus years. I’ll watch the game, but it is the Buckeyes and the Buckeyes are the gold standard.

The road to apathy is paved with low expectations.

Iowa v Ohio State Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

Yes, the Iowa Hawkeyes fell to the Ohio State Buckeyes 54-10 in Columbus yesterday. It was eerily reminiscent of the Woodshed game of 2017, only in reverse. This time around it was Iowa throwing an interception on their first play from scrimmage, yet still hanging around for most of the first half. This time around it was Ohio State who opened the floodgates on offense in the second half and dropped over fifty points on a reeling opponent. This time around it was Kirk Ferentz suffering the most lopsided loss as head coach of his team.

It was a lot more fun five years ago.

This year, coming out of their bye week, the Hawkeyes looked sloppy and shell shocked. The offense turned the ball over six, count ‘em SIX times in a game in which they needed to play flawlessly to stand a chance. Petras’ second pick was returned for a touchdown and he added a fumble to his list of missteps. The much-maligned starter was benched in favor of Padilla in the second half.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“Finally! The moment we’ve been waiting for” some of you may have said at the time. After screaming for Alex since the South Dakota State game we’d finally be able to see what the upside could be for bringing in the backup. The upside didn’t amount to much.

Padilla himself went 5 of 10 in passing and notched an interception of his own. He frequently was pressured behind the same shaky offensive line that doomed Spencer on many a down. This was an impossible situation for Padilla. After having been given exactly zero chances in game action before today, this was the football equivalent of lowering the cow into the velociraptor pen in Jurassic Park.

The Buckeyes ate both Iowa quarterbacks alive yesterday. It’s very strange why Ferentz would see fit to finally pull the cord on the better practicer in the middle of one of the most intimidating environments in all college football.

The defense was the sole bright spot in this game. You really could copy and paste that sentence into every post game article this year and it holds true each time. Phil Parker’s crew did everything they could to keep the Buckeyes at bay and were largely successful for half of the game. Despite working with short fields all day long, the Buckeyes had to settle for four field goals in the first half. Joe Evans managed to cause a fumble, recover said fumble, AND score a touchdown on said recovery!

With two turnovers of their own, the Iowa defense did everything humanly possible to stop Ohio State from breaking the game wide open. But after the offense continued turning the ball over or going three and out over and over even they couldn’t keep up forever. By the third quarter the tank was empty and the Buckeyes feasted.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Brooke LaValley / USA TODAY NETWORK

Again, this defense should be applauded for carrying this team on its back for the umpteenth time. Whatever Phil Parker is getting paid, it’s not enough. Evans’ fumble recovery for a touchdown was awesome and even kindled an ember of hope. Seeing Cooper DeJean defend one of the conference’s best receivers in Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Kaevon Merriweather slice into the Buckeye backfield to make a stop behind the line was great. Iowa’s defense had one sack and five tackles for loss. Not a bad day against the nation’s second best team.

Unfortunately, the Buckeyes had five sacks and ten tackles for loss.

So once again, Iowa’s offense continues to be the liability holding this team back from what could have been a great season. It will be interesting to hear Kirk’s reasons for finally putting Padilla into a game after so much noise. But depending on his answer it could be quite damning.

“But this was THE Ohio State we’re talking about” I hear you say once again. Yes, it’s comforting to take solace in the fact that they’re the mighty Buckeyes and we’re just little old Iowa. We’re lucky to get one up on them every ten years or so anyway. But with what we’ve seen so far this year, how long will it be before we’re saying the same thing about Illinois or Minnesota. Purdue has already elevated themselves out of the Probable Win column and Nebraska could be a coaching hire away from doing the same.

It’s easy to lower expectations based on the quality of your opponent. But it’s also the slippery slope into irrelevancy.