1. This “no rush TD” thing has gotten out of hand — Filed to the “Even Ohio State Needs a Chip on its Shoulder” File is the building up of Iowa’s run defense that’s been going on Columbus this week. Iowa has a nice run defense. It sits third in the Big Ten with 88.50 yards a game. It’s gritty, tough and Iowa sells out to stop the run. Then there’s the “no rushing TDs yet this year” stat. Iowa is the only team not to allow a rush TD this season.
If Iowa were undefeated with a truckload of goal-line stands, this stat would carry some weight. Iowa has two losses and has six stops in nine red zone tries by opponents. There is no marquee stand. Iowa has had perhaps one series of goal-line defense. This is a stat more of circumstance than anything else. No one is off making T-shirts.
The one thing you can say about Iowa’s rush defense is it hasn’t allowed a lot of big runs. Iowa is fifth in the nation with just 13 runs of 10-plus yards allowed.
Still, the “no rush TDs” thingie has been a call to arms for Ohio State, which has a veteran offensive line and a 235-pound back in Carlos Hyde. OSU offensive linemen were simply given a piece of paper with that stat on it. The OL coach didn’t have to say much else. Running backs coach Stan Drayton added this: “So, to sit there and say that we’re going to go into this football game and not run the ball because Iowa is pretty good at it is not real. We’re going to run the football and we’re going to trust our offensive line to get engaged. We’re going to trust our running backs to play through contact, and, you know, we’ll win some and we’ll lose some. We just have to maintain patience in that phase of the offensive scheme.”
And then, Hyde: “We’re not going to change our game plan. We’re going to do what Ohio State does, and that’s run the ball.”
And center Corey Linsley: “It’s definitely an incentive for us.”
OK, OK, Iowa is suddenly the Steel Curtain. Got it.
As long as there’s talking, senior linebacker Anthony Hitchens threw in: “That’s good for them,” Hitchens said when asked about OSU making a rush TD a priority. “We’re taking it as a challenge to keep it like that. That’s just the competitive nature of the game.”
It is sports and it never hurts to have an Ivan Drago to touch gloves with.
2. Goodbye, Columbus — Everyone, take a good look around Columbus this weekend. This will be Iowa’s last trip to the jewel of the Olentangy until at least 2020, according to the future Big Ten schedules released this week. The Hawkeyes travel this weekend to No. 3 Ohio State.
Iowa’s next game vs. the Buckeyes will be 2017 at Kinnick Stadium. After that, who knows. Ohio State isn’t on the docket for 2018-19, so 2020 at the earliest. The Hawkeyes also only play Michigan State in 2017 and then who knows. Michigan makes one trip to Kinnick Stadium from 2014 through 2019, that being in 2016.
Iowa is in the west division. It will play its border teams — Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern — and Purdue every season. Even when the nine-game schedule kicks in for the 2016 season, that leaves little room for crossovers. The fact is the majority of the eastern division will be foreign territory in the new new Big Ten. Iowa will play Iowa State six times from 2014 through 2019. It will play OSU, MSU just once and Michigan twice.
There’s always the possibility these schedules are torn up. The Big Ten TV contract expires after the 2016 season. You can scoff at any more expansion talk. There doesn’t seem to be anything on the horizon. Still, you can’t totally dismiss it.
3. College football playoff committee and angst of a flyover team — The College Football Playoff committee was announced this week. It has solid Big Ten representation with Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez and former Nebraska coach and athletics director Tom Osborne named to the committee, which, starting next season, will select the four teams that will play for the national title.
What does this mean for Iowa? The short answer is Iowa has to make it matter for Iowa. One facet that did interest me, however, was the strength of schedule element. That’s going to be a thing here. How much of a thing remains to be seen.
So, it makes sense now that Wisconsin and LSU will meet at Lambeau Field on Sept. 3 2016. Also this week, Nebraska announced it has struck a deal with Oregon for a home-and-home series beginning Sept. 17, 2016.
On Sept. 3, 2016, the Hawkeyes will play host to Miami, the one from Ohio and not the one from Miami. On Sept. 17, 2016, Iowa plays host to North Dakota State, the finest FCS team in the land.
Before we beat Iowa over the head for this scheduling, you have to take a critical look at Iowa’s brand. What would LSU and/or Oregon have to gain from playing the Hawkeyes? Not a lot, right? Iowa’s brand, like it or not and how it stands now, more directly aligns with, say, Arkansas or maybe Missouri or Arizona or North Carolina (football UNC, not basketball).
It’s easy to be critical of Iowa’s future non-conference schedules as they stand. Those deals were struck before the Big Ten expanded and added the ninth conference game in 2016. They also were struck before the College Football Playoff.
Maybe during the next round of scheduling, the Hawkeyes look to add a like-brand. Or, who knows, maybe pay NDSU the $200,000 to get out of that deal and try to set up Iowa vs. Arkansas at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City or Iowa vs. Virginia Tech at FedExField in Landover, Md.
Schedules have blown up more than once during this transition. One more kaboom wouldn’t hurt.