Ohio State 54, Iowa 10: Scarlet & Gray Matter analysis

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Observations on Saturday's Ohio State-Iowa game by Joey Kaufman:

Ohio State football grades:Bottom line: How did the Buckeyes grade out vs. Iowa? How did OSU's offense grade?

Ohio State football:Jaxon Smith-Njigba returns for Ohio State football but leaves Iowa game limping

The game at hand

• Short-attention span synopsis: Tresselball in the first half. A barrage of field goals. Dayball in the second half. A flurry of touchdowns. Adds up to another blowout win for the Buckeyes, avenging an upset from five years ago.

Pregame buzz: The shortcomings of Iowa’s offense removed much of the suspense surrounding the teams’ first meeting since 2017. But there was a layer of intrigue over the challenge presented by the Hawkeyes’ stifling defense, one of the nation’s highest-rated units, for Ohio State’s quick-strike offense. Could the Buckeyes pile on points as usual?

Spread the wealth? Iowa, historically one of the tougher teams in the Big Ten West, a program that finished atop the division last fall, was an uncharacteristic underdog. It was the heaviest ‘dog it had been since 2000 as the Buckeyes were favored by 29 points. The oddsmakers might have still been generous as Ohio State was in position to cover the lopsided point spread late in the third quarter before adding two more touchdowns in the fourth.

Strategically speaking: After four seasons of facing the Big 12’s up-tempo, spread offenses, Jim Knowles has modified his 4-2-5 defense for the heavier personnel seen in the Big Ten. When Iowa featured multiple tight ends and a fullback against the Buckeyes, Knowles swapped a safety for a linebacker or put a fifth defender along the line of scrimmage. It kept the Hawkeyes bottled up for the afternoon.

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The View

  • How the team sees it: Our defense jumpstarted things for a change. Top teams win with balance between both sides of the ball.  
  • How the pollsters will see it: A win over a ranked team is needed to overtake Georgia for the top spot. Blame strength of schedule.
  • How Buckeye Nation will see it: Red zone woes give us concerning flashbacks.

Hey, what did Ryan Day say?

  • What he said: "We knew that it was going to take time to crack. It's just the way they are."
  • What it means: Iowa’s defense is good, but the dam will break.

They said it

  • Pregame chatter: Ohio State fullback Mitch Rossi, to fans during the during the pregame Skull Session: "Imagine if someone came in your house and tried to take what you've got. I would die before someone got to my family. These are my brothers and that is our house out there. It’s going to be a street fight for 60 minutes, and I’m taking them every day of the week."
  • Talking heads: "At this point, I just want the two defenses to go out and play each other, because the offenses can't do anything." − FOX's Joel Klatt in the third quarter.

Numbers for dummies

54: Points scored by Ohio State, the most given up by Iowa since a 56-35 loss to the Buckeyes in 1995.

360: The Buckeyes' total yards of offense, their second smallest accumulation in a game in the four seasons of Ryan Day's tenure.

79: Length of touchdown pass thrown by C.J. Stroud in the fourth quarter, the first time this season the Hawkeyes’ defense had allowed a play from scrimmage longer than 40 yards.

57.1: Touchdown percentage by Ohio State in the red zone, reaching the end zone on four out of seven trips inside the 20-yard line and settling for field goals on the three other trips inside the 20-yard line.

66: Rushing yards totaled by the Buckeyes, a season-low by more than a hundred yards.

5: Consecutive games Julian Fleming has caught at least one touchdown.

158: Total yards of offense by Iowa, the fewest against the Buckeyes since Indiana amassed 128 last October.

16: Minutes before Iowa’s offense picked up a first down against Ohio State.

6: Turnovers generated by the Buckeyes, their most since they also forced a half-dozen turnovers in a win over Tulsa in 2016.

10: Tackles for loss by Ohio State, its second-most in a game this season.

0: Touchdowns allowed by the Buckeyes’ defense, the first time a Big Ten offense has not gotten into the end zone against them since Northwestern in 2019.

On tap

The Buckeyes make their even-year trip to Penn State, but the environment promises to be a little different with a noon kickoff. It’ll be the first time in more than a decade that Ohio State isn’t playing a night game at Beaver Stadium, a rabid scene that often correlates with the Nittany Lions’ annual “White Out.” Following its first loss at Michigan the previous weekend, Penn State bounced back with a 45-17 win over Minnesota in convincing fashion on Saturday night.


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Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman

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