Ok, we could get cute and say the only way to beat Ohio State is to outscore them, but there really are five things Iowa needs to do in order to have a chance to win. None of them are easy, especially because the Buckeyes are 18-0 under Urban Meyer. No team could probably do all five against the talent assembled in Columbus, but the Hawkeyes (4-2) must at least approximate some of the following in order to leave the Horseshoe with an upset victory:
Creative coaching – This could be the most difficult task of all of them. The Hawkeyes have shown zero, none, nada, no tendencies to break from their philosophy on offense. If the run-first approach gets stuffed for two quarters (which it will), then short passes to backs and tight ends and quick passes to receivers follow. Occasional a deep sideline pass or post route will be mixed in to keep the secondary honest. If they Hawks have draws, screens, traps, counters, flea-flickers, reverses or the like, now would be the time to break the mold and break them out.
Block Buster – Nearly every play the Hawkeyes run relies on blocking to succeed, and that includes even pass plays. Very few teams are able to block the Buckeyes on a consistent basis in order to generate space and yardage. Iowa needs to find a way to make great individual plays from the few playmakers that they have.
Contain, contain, contain – Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller is a dual threat player and Heisman Trophy candidate. He can run wild if the front four can’t keep him in the pocket. When he does break containment, the trio of Iowa linebackers must pounce on him and bring him down. Iowa’s 4-3 defense could be it’s Achilles’ heel if it can’t get wide enough to cover from sideline to sideline. The Hawks may need to bring their safeties closer to the line to help in run support but still be diligent enough to not give up the big plays over their heads.
Speed kills – Iowa has abandoned the zone-read and hurry-up offense for the most part. They need to get back to it. The time Iowa beat Ohio State in 2004 the Hawkeyes were able to run in the fourth quarter on a defensive line that they wore down for three quarters. The Buckeyes have superior athletes at nearly every position so the Hawkeyes need to find a way to wear them down then hit them with some speed plays when they are a step slow.
Backed in a corner – The secondary for the Hawkeyes has been feast or famine this season. Cornerback B.J. Lowery can make a play or give up one. Iowa would be wise to play more nickel and zone coverages to keep everything in front of them and defend the whole field. Making Ohio State use up the clock and make long drives to score is the best way to keep the game close and give them a chance for victory in the fourth quarter.