Let's Fret: An Ohio State University

By BenSewardLewis on July 20, 2022 at 10:00 am
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© Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
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One Does Not Simply Walk into Columbus...

My dramatic lead in for this post was going to be observing that Iowa hasn’t beaten Ohio State in Columbus since 1991. No wins in Columbus for 31 years sounds pretty bleak, but when you look a bit closer, that game has only happened 7 times in that span. And sure, 0-for-7 stinks, but it isn’t no wins in 30 years abysmal. However, after a win in Columbus in 1987, you have to go all the way back to 1962 to find the next win for Iowa in Columbus. For those of you that aren’t math whizzes, that is one win in Columbus every 20 years. So, uh, yeah, that is what the Hawks are up against here. 

The real lead-in though is the fact that last year Ohio State had two wide receivers, Chris Olave and Garett Wilson, who would become first round draft picks and neither one led the Buckeyes (and pretty much by definition, the Big Ten) in receiving. Despite Wilson having 1058 yards receiving and Olave having 936, those totals were only good for 4th and 6th best in the Big Ten. Jaxon Smith-Njigba had 1594 yards receiving to lead all Big Ten receivers, more than 300 yard ahead of David "The Hawk Wrecker" Bell, and an average of over 130 yards/game. (That is more than the combined receiving yardage of Iowa's top five wide receivers and Tyler Goodson if you were wondering.) It may be the case that Smith-Njigba faced worse coverage because of the other two wide receivers, but opting for that coverage plan is like electing to ingest cyanide instead of arsenic. It turns out having three (basically) 1000 yard receivers is really good for your offense.

The Buckeye offense was just absurdly good last year. They averaged 561 yards a game, a full 110 yards/game better than the second-best offense, Nebraska. With that kind of production against a gauntlet of Big Ten defenses, they pretty much had the best offense in all of college football. And there is really no reason to expect much of a regression this year. Smith-Njigba is back and his counterpart on the outside is the son of that Hall-of-Fame wide receiver that caught a bunch of passes from Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. I haven’t yet mentioned the Heisman finalist at QB, C.J. Stroud, who is also back, and there a whole bunch of other studs on offense, too.

I don’t mean to give short shrift to the Buckeyes defense. It’s just that their defense was just run-of-the-mill very good. And that’s the rub with the Buckeyes. Aside from suffering the indignity of an 8-4 season once a decade, you can write in pen that they will have the most talented team in the Big Ten every year. The names on the back of their jerseys change, but the production stays the same. Conservatively, Iowa will be at least a 10-point underdog in this one, and it wouldn’t be a shock if the line ends up north of two touchdowns.

Call me a naysayer if you like, but I’m going into this game straight-up assuming a loss. I’ll be delighted to be wrong, of course, but going into a game with rock-bottom expectations is its own kind of fun, like playing with house money. There is plenty of intrigue here. I am delighted to watch Phil Parker try and stop one of the best offenses in college football. The fewest points Ohio State scored last year in any game was 26. It is definitely a possibility that Iowa manages to limit OSU’s damage to something around there, but can Iowa's offense generate something close to 30 points? Iowa exceeded that total a few times last year, but it took several turnovers and/or defensive scores to do so, which the 2017 game against OSU tells us isn’t impossible... and who knows, maybe Urban Meyer shoots Ryan Day a text telling him not to bother covering Sam LaPorta. Maybe Brian unveils the wishbone or something, and Ohio State is flat-footed. I’m not holding my breath for any of that, but maybe the Hawkeyes are due…

Ben’s Anxiety Scale: 9/10

Homer Version: The game isn’t played by actuaries on a computer. The Hawks want it more and capitalize on several Buckeye mistakes to win 27-24. 

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