Friday, November 19, 2010

GAME PREVIEW: THIS TIME AROUND HAWKEYES HOPE TO PLAY SPOILER

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Ohio State senior place kicker Devin Barclay admits that he doesn't know much about the great state of Iowa.

"I honestly don't know anything about Iowa, the state or just anything to be honest," Barclay laughed.

Of course, everyone in the "Hawkeye State" certainly knows Barclay.

No, they're probably not up on the fact that he was a professional soccer player prior to playing at Ohio State, and they're probably not aware that the talented kicker leads the ninth-ranked Buckeyes in scoring this season.

They may not even realize that he has missed only six field goal attempts in his entire life. However, they  do know about one kick he didn't miss, though — his 39-yard game-winning field goal during last season's overtime showdown in Columbus that cost the Hawkeyes a chance at a Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

"I'm sure they don't forget that kind of stuff," Barclay said. "I don't know if it's going to be taken out on me in particular. Maybe. I don't know. But I think they absolutely remember last year and that's definitely going to be something that motivates them to play even harder than maybe normal."

The Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) travel to Iowa City this Saturday to take on the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten), a team coming off an upset loss at Northwestern, and a squad looking to return the favor by spoiling Ohio State's Big Ten title and Rose Bowl hopes this time around.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said that his Hawkeyes can't be looking for revenge, but instead need to learn from last year's loss.

"It's going to be tough because they've got a couple different personalities," Ferentz said of the Buckeyes. "They were wide open in the Rose Bowl, they have that capability. But they can also run the ball right at you and make it tough to stop them. They were one of the few teams last year that did that to us.

"Not many teams did that to us. They took that ball and jammed it right down our throats last year in that second half. We better strap it up and be ready. That's a tough outfit we're playing."

Saturday's game between the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes offers some really intriguing match-ups, most notably Ohio State's offensive line against the stout Iowa defensive front.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said the Hawkeyes d-line is as good as any in the country.

"They're so strong and they're so technically sound," Tressel said of the Iowa defensive line. "They're just very, very powerful and very consistent. In games where you might have a seven-yard run, against them it's three. You know, that's just ... look at their numbers. They're very, very good."

If the Buckeyes are going to have success against the Hawkeyes' defense — which ranks first in the Big Ten stopping the run — junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor must be able to throw the football with effectiveness.

It may be a lot to say that a game will ride on one person's performance, but this Saturday's showdown in Iowa City will more than likely be dictated by the Buckeyes' signal caller and the plays he makes — and doesn't make.

"Oh, we're going to need everybody, and for sure Terrelle," Tressel said. "I think as we've talked before Terrelle is such a perfectionist and the expectations that everyone has for him are perfection ...

"On the road against Iowa, every play we can possibly make we've got to make, which means one of them might be throwing it into the stands when it's not open. But whatever it is we need done, he's a big part of it."

Coach Ferentz is well aware of Pryor's abilities and knows how important it is for his team to contain him.

"He's a very dynamic football player," Ferentz said of Pryor. "He's developed into a pretty good passer. He's extremely athletic. He's got great size and range. You can't gang up on him because they've got excellent skill players at all positions and they've got a line that blocks very well.

"We're going to have to play team defense. We're going to have to play well in all three phases. That's pretty obvious."

(The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
Bottom Line

The game may be decided by how well the Iowa offensive line protects senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

Stanzi, who didn't play in last season's thriller because of injury, has really cut down on the mistakes this season throwing just four interceptions, compared to 15 last season. He also has 22 touchdown tosses to his credit.

However, Stanzi has thrown interceptions in each of the past two games — an 18-13 squeaker at Indiana, and a 21-17 loss at Northwestern — and his pass efficiency, which was superb for most of the season, has plummeted in recent weeks.

He must be able to right the ship, or it will be a long day for the Ohio-native going against Cameron Heyward and the Buckeyes' front seven.

I'm predicting that won't happen, as Stanzi is pressured into at least two interceptions on Saturday, while Pryor gives the aggressive Iowa defense fits all game long.

No need for heroics from Barclay in this one, as the Buckeyes relegate him to kicking extra points — instead of game-winners.

Lee's Call: OSU 35-16