COLUMBUS — Through the first half of the 2013 college football season, the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) are once again unbeaten and eyeing a second consecutive campaign of perfection.
Possessing the nation's longest current winning streak of 18 games, the Buckeyes used an off-week — or intermission, if you will — to rest, tweak and gear up for the back stretch of what's certain to be a serious run toward a national title.
Of course, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer — who is 18-0 as Ohio State's leader — isn't wanting his players to think of streaks and potential glory.
He just wants the focus to be on the now.
"We are 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people," Meyer said Monday, during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "I can feel sometimes pressure mounting on players when you streak; you start hearing about streaks, you start hearing about that.
"It's my job as a coach and our coaching staff to make it all about today."
During Meyer's 12-year career as a collegiate head coach, he has been nearly unbeatable after a bye, going 34-2 in games where he has had more than a week to prepare.
"I've been very blessed to have really good assistant coaches, and I think we manage it well," Meyer said of his success over the years following an off week. "I think that's where my strength coach is very involved, or where I always seek guidance on how our team is doing. I think we are just very careful how we manage everything."
Meyer will look to keep that success going this Saturday afternoon, when his Buckeyes host the Iowa Hawkeyes in a homecoming tilt at Ohio Stadium (3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2).
The Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1) are powered by one of the finest defenses in all of college football. They are ranked ninth in total defense in the FBS, and are eighth against the run, surrendering just 88.5 yards per game (3.07 avg. per carry).
Also, they have yet to allow an opponent to cross the chalk on the ground.
"A very good Iowa defense," Meyer said. "They are the same as they have always been on defense, real stout, real firm against the run. I believe they have not given up a rushing touchdown.
"I can see that they are very good. It's just a big game."
The showdown between the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes — who haven't played each other since the 2010 season — will pit strength versus strength.
While the Hawkeyes are "real stout" as a defense, Ohio State possesses the sixth-ranked scoring offense (46.8 points per game) in the nation, including the 11th best rushing attack in all of the FBS (280.7 avg.).
Iowa hasn't given up a rushing touchdown, while the Buckeyes have ran to pay dirt 17 times.
Something has to give.
This is where the' dynamic duo of quarterback Braxton Miller and tailback Carlos Hyde set the Buckeyes apart from the visiting Hawkeyes.
Look for Ohio State to establish the run early, setting up the big play in the passing game for Miller and the Buckeyes as the game progresses. Although "stout," the Hawkeyes just don't possess the thoroughbreds to keep up with the home team in this one.
Urban Meyer improves to 35-2 after a bye, and more importantly, 19-0 as the Buckeyes' head coach.
Lee's prediction: OSU 42-17