Entering Ohio Stadium for the first time since 2005, Iowa looks to defeat Ohio State to earn no worse than a share of The Big Ten championship and clinch a trip to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1990 season.
Iowa is led by Kirk Ferentz, who has consistently delivered quality offensive lines in his tenure at Iowa. Iowa's running game is solid, albeit with several talented players on the sidelines due to injury. Iowa's receivers, led by Ohioans Trey Stross and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, are solid. Iowa's defense is ranked 14th in the country in total defense, and was essential in Iowa's 9-0 start.
Before November 7th, Ohio State fans looked forward to this challenge against Iowa, as native Ohioan Ricky Stanzi, arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the country at rallying his team, was going to have an opportunity to come into Ohio Stadium and defeat Ohio State.
With the loss to Northwestern last week, and Stanzi's severe ankle injury, Iowa is now reduced to starting ...
James Van Der Beek?
No, his name is James Vandenberg, and he has the unenviable task of coming into Ohio Stadium at 3:30pm EST to face an Ohio State defense that is ready to feast upon him.
I can already anticipate Iowa fans writing, "This kid set Iowa high school passing records!". My argument to those people is simply this - if James Vandenberg was the best quarterback on Iowa's roster, Vandenberg would have been starting instead of Ricky Stanzi.
Here are Vandenberg's statistics last week against Northwestern: 9 of 27 for 82 yards, and 1 interception.
Yes, Vandenberg had to come in cold off the bench. It had to be tremendously difficult to come into a game to rally Iowa when the team was deflated due to the loss of their on-field leader.
Iowa fans will say, "Vandenberg will get all of the practice reps this week.". True - Kirk Ferentz will design a game plan around Iowa's solid running game to make it easier on James Vandenberg.
Here is the reality that Iowa fans already know - Northwestern is a good team. Ohio State is a better team.
Ohio State, playing its last home game of the 2009 season, with a crew of seniors such as Kurt Coleman and Doug Worthington playing their last home game in Ohio Stadium, will play with an intense passion to win the first trip to The Rose Bowl in Jim Tressel's tenure.
Look for Ohio State to play conservatively on offense, and rely on its strong special teams and speedy defense to clinch The Rose Bowl berth. I am going to predict Ohio State 24, Iowa 10.