1. How does Ohio State handle the Iowa run defense?
So far this season, the Buckeye rushing game has been running on all cylinders, averaging 280.7 yards per game. But this week, they face off against an Iowa squad holding its opponents to 88.5 rushing yards, good for eighth best in the nation. If OSU’s last game against Northwestern is any indication the Buckeyes will look to run senior running back Carlos Hyde and company a lot to open up some space for the passing game. Redshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall can come in as a change of pace player to help OSU, but Halls’ usage remains in question after a joint issue in his knee kept him out against Northwestern.
2. Can Braxton Miller bounce back?
After a four touchdown performance against Wisconsin in his return from an MCL sprain in his left knee, Miller struggled mightily against Northwestern. His three turnovers and no touchdowns almost cost OSU the game, and their undefeated season, but Hyde was there to pick up the slack. If the Hawkeyes can stifle Hyde and the running game Miller will need to be at his best for the Buckeyes if they hope to pull out a victory. If Miller can repeat his performance against the Badgers, the Buckeyes should take care of business, but if he struggles again the game could be a tighter affair than most expect.
3. Mark Weisman v. the Buckeye defense.
Almost mirroring the battle on the other side of the ball, the sixth-ranked OSU run defense is set to face off against a strong Iowa rushing attack led by junior running back Weisman. Coming into the game, Weisman is averaging 104 yards a game on the ground, good for 21st best in the country. To prevent the upset, sophomore defensive lineman Noah Spence and company will need to win the battle up front to try and contain Weisman and the Hawkeye running game. Already this year, the Buckeyes have faced off against a high profile running back, Wisconsin sophomore Melvin Gordon, who OSU held to a season-low 74 yards, almost half his average.
4. Which team will shake off the rust better?
It will be a full two weeks since the last time the Buckeyes played a football game, when they beat Northwestern Oct. 5. OSU coach Urban Meyer’s teams are 34-2 when they have more than one week to prepare for an opponent (includes bye weeks, season-openers and bowl games). Iowa is coming off a bye week as well, looking to get back on track in B1G play after falling to Michigan State two weeks ago. Turnovers could be abound early on, as both teams will be getting back in the swing of things after the time off.
5. How will Iowa starting quarterback Jake Rudock fare in his first start at Ohio Stadium?
OSU gets to play in front of more than 100,000 people every time they play in Columbus. Kinnick Stadium, home to the Hawkeyes, only holds a little more than 70,000. Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock has been decent so far in 2013 (1,202 passing yards, eight touchdowns, six picks through six games), but has never played in front of a crowd like the one that will be at Ohio Stadium Saturday. How he is able to handle the noise provided by what is sure to be a charged up Buckeye Nation could ultimately decide Iowa’s fate. The Buckeye secondary hasn’t exactly been rock solid even when senior safety Christian Bryant was on the field, but if Rudock struggles and turns the ball over, it could be a long night for the Hawkeyes.