Game of the Week: Buckeyes look to keep Big Ten title hopes alive
The four-team Big Ten race became a three-team race when Iowa was upset by Northwestern last week. The No. 21 Hawkeyes will still play a major role, however, hosting No. 8 Ohio State on Saturday in a sequel to last season's overtime classic, which the Buckeyes won. Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State are all still aiming for Pasadena with two weeks remaining. A trip to Iowa, where Ohio State has not visited since 2006, stands as the Buckeyes' biggest hurdle to earning their sixth straight Big Ten championship.
Ohio State enters as a three-point favorite. Ohio State has covered in three of the last four matchups at Iowa. Ohio State is 8-2 against the number this season, but just 1-2 on the road. Iowa is 8-2 against the spread as an underdog the last three seasons. Trends might lean slightly toward Iowa.
Ohio State and Iowa rank first and second in the Big Ten in total defense, scoring defense, turnover margin, kickoff returns and passing efficiency. Iowa ranks first in rushing defense, with Ohio State checking in at No. 2.
Iowa's defense has plenty of talent and puts up strong numbers, but it has failed in crucial fourth-quarter situations in losses to Arizona, Wisconsin and Northwestern. All three games ended with the opponent scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final four minutes. With a quarterback who can improvise like Pryor, protecting a late lead will be a concern in this game as well. Ohio State shook off a poor first half against Penn State for a blowout win last week and has looked as good as any team in the nation for stretches this season. Iowa's best chance is to get Ohio State in an early hole like Wisconsin did, but the Buckeyes have too much to play for to let that happen.