On Saturday, the Big Ten will host its de facto championship game when No. 15 Iowa visits No. 10 Ohio State. On the line: at least a share of the league title and its automatic BCS berth. "We all know what's at stake," Iowa coach
Yeah, we do. That's the simple part. Less simple: how we got here.
Before last weekend, the Iowa talk centered on whether the Hawkeyes could go undefeated and still get shut out of the national title game. Now, after falling to Northwestern and losing quarterback
The Buckeyes suffered a shocking upset of their own (to Purdue), but have found new life thanks to last Saturday's win over Penn State. The loss to the Boilermakers left many wondering if much-ballyhooed prospect
Against Penn State, Pryor remained poised and in control and avoided turnovers. Despite playing on
That growth will be tested against an Iowa defense that boasts an athletic front and leads the Big Ten in takeaways (26).
After a full week of preparation, it's unlikely Vandenberg will replicate the 9-of-27, 82-yard performance he delivered after being thrust into the fire against Northwestern. But as Ferentz said: "You couldn't ask for a tougher starting contest for him." Vandenberg will face the nation's fourth-stingiest defense, which has given up 11.2 points per game and which last weekend teed off on a far more veteran quarterback in Penn State's
With the inexperienced Vandenberg under center, expect Ferentz to go with an even more conservative gameplan than usual. Still, the formula will largely remain the same: attempt to establish the run, minimize the potential for mistakes and put the team's best of chance of winning -- its defense -- in good spots.
The Hawkeyes do have a track record of flopping against the Buckeyes, who have won nine of the teams' last 10 meetings, including the last five in the Horseshoe. Though it's still hard to imagine a team that a week ago stood undefeated earning so little love, Ferentz seems to be reveling in it.
"We've got them right where we want them, that's the way I'm looking at it," he said. "So it's perfect."
"They're always going to be solid and they work not to beat themselves, but they're not as explosive, outside of the quarterback position, as they've been. They've got good receivers and good running backs but they don't have outstanding receivers and outstanding running backs. Their line is solid; it's not the best in the Big Ten. It's a good line but I don't think it's a dominant line.
"When Pryor is on and taking care of the football they can score points and play with anybody. But they're still built the way they've always been built, which is [for] ball-control, and I don't think they're going to put up huge numbers on really good defenses. Not that they're not good and sound, they're just a little unpredictable because you don't know how Pryor is going to go.
"You just have to gear your defense around stopping the running game and stopping [Pryor]. I think the people who have success, they play the receivers man-to-man and they commit more people to the box, even in passing situations, even on third down you try to keep him bottled up. If you do that and you don't let him out and don't give him early big plays down the field he's likely to get frustrated and maybe make some mistakes."
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