Iowa City – A current top-ten national ranking, eight national championships, and history that puts most other schools to shame. The resume Ohio State garners trounces that of Iowa, and most other D1 schools in the country. It isn’t even a discussion.
History doesn’t reflect well for Iowa. Ohio State leads the all-time series by 33 and sports a plethora of five-star impact players. Since Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield planted the flag in the horseshoe, the Buckeyes have rolled.
Included is Ohio State’s all-but removing of Penn State, who narrowly beat Iowa, as a playoff contender. This isn’t the same Ohio State team that snuck by Indiana. They’re hot and Iowa is searching for a much-needed, season shifting victory.
That said, when Ohio State takes the field in Kinnick this afternoon, will the name be too much to overcome? Are the grey helmets and national champion nuts to tough a task for the identity seeking Hawkeyes?
The players took two different approaches to addressing the name earlier this week. Not surprisingly, both reflected a commitment to winning the game against the opponent at hand. Still some recognized that this team isn’t the average opponent.
Defensive back and rising NFL prospect Josh Jackson welcomed the idea of playing an elite opponent.
“It’s a great opportunity. We’ve got a ranked team coming in to play us in Kinnick Stadium,” Jackson said Tuesday. “It’s going to be really fun to play against those guys and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Jackson faces the challenge of working on an Ohio State passing game that ranks eleventh nationally is pass offense, averaging over 325 yards.
“We have to be physical and aggressive,” he said. “I think it’ll be a fun challenge going against those guys. Every receiver in every receiver group has a new challenge, we just need to adjust.”
It will obviously be a new challenge. It is also an age-old puzzle. Since the two began playing in 1920, Iowa has emerged victorious only 17 times. Recent memory gives the Hawkeyes two wins in the last 15 meetings.
The most recent came during a 2:30pm kickoff game in 2004. Both teams entered with two losses that afternoon. Tomorrow there will be four losses on the field, just distributed differently.
Forcibly ignoring the bad memories and rampant history of Ohio State becomes a necessity. Sophomore quarterback had to put the excitement on the back-burner.
“Sometimes I think about it but after while it’s just another game, you can’t get caught up in the accolades,” Stanley said. “Being able to acknowledge it and then step away from it helps in the preparation.”
Stanley added, as any seasoned footballer would, being scared of Ohio State isn’t an option.
“The more prepared you are, the more confident you are in your own skills,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to do something special.”
That is how Iowa approaches every game. Not often a mention of revenge or shooting for something more than a good team win. With Kirk Ferentz, every game is looked at the same way. Late in the year, that approach seems to work.
Even against college football’s sixth best team, Iowa is simply playing another game. Besides Stanley and Jackson, everyone echoed that point. It is one way to avoid the pressure of playing the Buckeyes.
“The name doesn’t matter,” running back Akrum Wadley said. “Once it’s time to play, all of that goes out the window.”
Iowa, as usual, looks to capture their signature yearly upset later today. It won’t be a simple task. The odds say it’s impossible, but that is why they play the game.