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Newz Forum: FOOTBALL: Ohio State braces for battle agaisnt Iowa

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posted on Sep, 29 2006 @ 10:21 PM
The last time Ohio State ventured into Iowa City, it suffered its most lopsided defeat under coach Jim Tressel. That contest was also the last time Troy Smith wasn't the Buckeyes' starting quarterback.

Smith looks to continue strengthening his case for the Heisman Trophy and help top-ranked Ohio State complete an unbeaten September on Saturday night against No. 13 Iowa.

The Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) have established themselves as the team to beat in both the Big Ten and the nation, outscoring their first four opponents 124-32 and receiving 59 of 65 first-place votes in this week's Top 25.

Smith, meanwhile, may be the Heisman front-runner. The senior has completed 66 percent of his passes for 884 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. His 159.9 passer rating leads the Big Ten.

Smith had his worst statistical game of the season on Saturday against then-No. 24 Penn State, going 12-for-22 for 115 yards, one TD and his first two interceptions of the season. However, it was enough for Ohio State to overcome a 3-0 halftime deficit and pull away for a 28-6 victory.

The win was the second over a ranked opponent for Ohio State, which defeated defending national champion and then-No. 2 Texas 24-7 on Sept. 9.

"They have had four tests and they've passed them, some with better grades than others," Tressel said of his Buckeyes. "They've incrementally gotten better. And (Saturday) they face a veteran quarterback and an outstanding running back and a good football team that will be the next test."

Visiting the Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0) was a test Ohio State flunked two seasons ago, losing 33-7 at Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 16, 2004, the only defeat by more than 14 points in Tressel's six seasons as coach. Smith, who began that contest as Justin Zwick's backup, came off the bench to complete eight of 12 passes, including the Buckeyes' only touchdown.

Smith became the starter the following week. Ohio State is 19-3 since, with none of the losses coming by more than a touchdown.

The Buckeyes won last season's meeting with Iowa, 31-6 on Sept. 24, 2005, at Columbus. Smith passed for 191 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 127 yards and two more scores. Ohio State gained 314 yards on the ground, while holding the Hawkeyes to minus-9.

Iowa may prove tougher to defeat back on its home field. The Hawkeyes have won 32 of their last 35 games at Kinnick Stadium.

"We know we must be intense," Ohio State guard T.J. Downing said. "We also know that they're one of the top couple of teams in the Big Ten and we'll have to play a great game if we want to walk out of Kinnick Stadium with a win."

None of Iowa's victories, however, have come against a top-ranked team. The Hawkeyes are 0-7-1 in their history against No. 1 schools, including a 49-0 loss at Ohio State on Oct. 11, 1975.

The Hawkeyes also have yet to face a ranked opponent this season. Their victories have come over Division I-AA Montana, and three Division I-A teams -- Syracuse, Iowa State, and Illinois -- with a combined record of 5-7.

"As an athlete and competitor, this is what you live for," Iowa safety Miguel Merrick said of the matchup with Ohio State. "This is why you play the games. Whenever you have the best, you want to step it up and have a good game."

Merrick had one of Iowa's four interceptions in Saturday's 24-7 victory at Illinois, the Hawkeyes' Big Ten opener. Senior Drew Tate completed 17 of 27 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, but also threw an interception.

Iowa defeated the Fighting Illini despite going 5-for-15 on third-down conversions and committing eight penalties.

"The good news is, I don't think we've hit stride yet, or played our best football -- I hope we haven't," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, whose team is seeking its first 5-0 start since 1995. "We going to have to find a way to upgrade that quickly in the next seven days because we're playing an outstanding (team). I can't remember Ohio State ever having a bad team."

Tate struggled in last season's meeting with the Buckeyes, going 22-for-39 for 146 yards and one interception while getting sacked five times. However, he passed for 331 yards and three scores in the win over Ohio State two seasons ago.

Iowa's Albert Young, who finished fourth in the Big Ten with 1,334 rushing yards last season as a sophomore, has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this year, although he has scored four total touchdowns. Young gained 57 yards on 14 carries Saturday.

Ohio State has won nine of the last 10 meetings with Iowa. The rivals will not meet again until 2009 at Columbus.

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