The Iowa Hawkeyes do not have the explosiveness of the Wisconsin running backs nor the dual threat of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian but they do have a bruising running game that controls the time of possession (8th in the nation) to compliment a rock solid defense.
As the Buckeye coaching staff said during the weekly press conference, they look to stop the run first and so far they have been successful in that department. The Buckeye defense ranks 6th in the nation in rushing yards against per game at 86.17 ypg and yields only 2.69 yards per carry.
On offense, the Hawkeyes want to establish the running game with the 6-0 ft, 236 lb junior tailback Mark Weisman and the Buckeye defense will look to take away the running game early, as they did with Wisconsin. In Iowa's previous game versus Michigan State, the Spartans completely took away Weisman as he gained only nine yards on seven carries. Prior to the Michigan State game, Weisman averaged 123 yards on 23.8 attempts the previous five games. Look for the Buckeyes to take a page out of the Michigan State defensive playbook and stack the box early to force sophomore signal caller Jake Rudock to beat them with his arm.
Let's take a look at how Michigan State shut down the Iowa running game:
1. On the first series of the game, the Spartans played man to man on the Hawkeye receivers and brought the two safeties six yards off of the line of scrimmage on the hashmarks. Yes, Sparty had nine men in the box. Through film work, Spartans Head Coach Mike Dantonio knew of Iowa's tendencies about when they wanted to run the ball.
Knowing that Iowa has a young, inexperienced quarterback with Rudock, who is most likely limited in making checks at the line of scrimmage, the Spartans were able to load the box and Rudock was unable to change the play call. The Spartans did this early and often in this game, taking Weisman completely out of the game. Prior to the Michigan State game, the Hawkeyes had a 66/ 34 rush/pass ratio.
2. In shotgun on 1st & 10, Michigan State is still treating this formation like a rushing formation, with the safety creeping up to the box, the Spartans are sensing run.
On the snap, the linebackers and safety fly up to fill he gaps while the Hawkeyes run the read option. The defense sells out on the run, not even thinking of play action. Although Rudock correctly reads the end and hands the ball off to Weisman...
He is bottled up at the line of scrimmage for no gain with nine or ten green helmets around him.
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I would expect the Buckeyes to look at how Coach Dantonio limited the Hawkeye rushing attack to only 23 total yards rushing and made the young quarterback throw the ball a season high, 46 times. The Buckeye defense has the talent in the front seven to bottle this rushing attack and they can also bring up safety CJ Barnett in run support as we saw in the Wisconsin game. I would expect to see Barnett play closer to the line of scrimmage in the beginning of the game and allow Bradley Roby and Doran Grant to man up on the outside until Iowa decides to scrap the run game. Expect a huge game from the linebackers, filling gaps and making plays at the line of scrimmage. Forcing Iowa into quick three and outs in the beginning of the game and getting out to an early lead will force the offense to rely on Rudock to beat them.
With Ohio State coming off the bye week and the negativity swirling around the defense and especially the secondary, expect to see more press coverage and aggressiveness in the secondary. The coaching staff had an extra week to break down their player's weaknesses and maybe there will be a different safety next to CJ Barnett or a focus on physicality in the secondary.
If this team wants to be dominant, the time is now and it begins Saturday versus Iowa.