Iowa-Ohio St. Preview
Urban Meyer has yet to lose since taking the job at Ohio State, and he's beginning to sense pressure among his players to keep that streak alive.
He said that's the last thing he wants on their minds as the fourth-ranked Buckeyes go for their 19th consecutive victory when they host Iowa on Saturday.
"I can feel sometimes pressure mounting on players when you (are on a) streak,'' Meyer said. "You start hearing about streaks. And it's my job as a coach and our coaching staff (to make sure) it's all about (Saturday).''
A victory would tie the second-longest winning streak at Ohio State and would get the team closer to matching the school record of 22 straight victories that ended in 1969.
"It brings a little bit of pressure,'' defensive tackle Joel Hale said. "It's great to be part of something outstanding, but our main goal right now isn't to win the next four games, it's to beat Iowa.''
The Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) are coming off a much-needed bye week after beating then-No. 16 Northwestern 40-30 on Oct. 5, a close contest that came after they narrowly beat then-No. 23 Wisconsin 31-24 on Sept. 28.
"Six tough games including back-to-back primetime games against ranked opponents,'' Meyer said. "I told them we would take care of them if they won, and they did a good job.''
Ohio State ranks 19th nationally with 492.8 yards per game, and its 36 touchdowns from scrimmage are tied for fourth. Braxton Miller threw for 203 yards and ran for 63 more against the Wildcats.
Carlos Hyde carried 26 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns, but this week he'll be facing an Iowa defense that ranks eighth in the nation with 88.5 rushing yards allowed per game.
Corey Brown caught six passes for 127 yards against Northwestern, and he said the Buckeyes aren't thinking about the winning streak heading into Saturday.
"I mean, it's a good honor, but that's not our ultimate goal so we don't spend much time on that,'' Brown said. "We're more worried about winning this next game and then winning some more games after that.''
Though the offense has flourished, Meyer has been open about his concerns with the defensive unit. Ohio State ranks sixth in the nation by giving up 86.2 rushing yards per game, but it ranks 77th with an average of 240.0 yards allowed through the air.
The secondary has no doubt felt the loss of safety Christian Bryant, who is out for the season with a broken ankle suffered against Wisconsin. The Buckeyes allowed 343 passing yards against Northwestern.
"That still is not settled yet,'' Meyer said of filling the hole left by Bryant's injury. "That was a stinger.''
Cornerback Doran Grant doesn't believe the team has far to go to reach the level it would like defensively.
"We've been doing pretty good,'' Grant said. ''We've just got to sharpen up a few things. We just can't have missed tackles as a team. Everybody has to keep running to the ball.''
Ohio State will face an Iowa team also coming off a bye week after Jake Rudock went 26 of 46 for 241 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 26-14 loss to Michigan State on Oct. 5. It marked the most times the Hawkeyes threw the ball in nearly two years.
Iowa (4-2, 1-1) entered that contest averaging 244.4 rushing yards but was limited to 23. Mark Weisman is third in the conference with an average of 104.0 yards on the ground, but he was held to nine on seven carries while battling a foot injury.
He said he should be healthy enough to face Ohio State's stout rush defense.
"Another good defense, another good test,'' Weisman said. "We have to worry about us. That's all we can worry about now.''
Coach Kirk Ferentz said he was relieved to have the bye week for some extra rest. Wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley, defensive linemen Dominic Alvis and Carl Davis, linebacker Christian Kirksey and offensive tackle Brandon Scherff all should start despite suffering minor injuries against Michigan State.
The Buckeyes have won 12 of the last 13 matchups with the Hawkeyes, including six straight at home. The teams haven't met since 2010.