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Tressel not taking Iowa for granted

BY BRENDAN STILES | NOVEMBER 11, 2009 7:20 AM

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The stage has been set.

When the No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes and No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes meet inside Ohio Stadium on Saturday, a Big Ten title, as well as a trip to the 2010 Rose Bowl, will be on the line.

The Buckeyes enter the conference battle on a three-game winning streak and an 8-2 overall mark, with both losses coming in single digits to USC and Purdue. But aside from its opening-week 31-27 win over Navy, Ohio State’s wins have been convincing.

Last weekend may have been the most satisfying victory, however. The Buckeyes traveled to State College, Pa., and manhandled Penn State to the tune of a 24-7 stomping that put them in a first-place tie with Iowa.

The player who has made the most improvement has been sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor. After a horrific performance during a 26-18 loss to Purdue last month, the second-year signal-caller has looked more and more like the nation’s top recruit in 2008.

“He really has a passion to be good,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said of his quarterback during the Big Ten football teleconference on Tuesday. “He’s extremely coachable. I think he took a step to keep improving, and he’s going to be a very fine quarterback.”

Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes go into “The Horseshoe” without their starter under center in Ricky Stanzi, instead relying on redshirt freshman James Vandenberg.

But Tressel was quick to point out that even with the absence of Stanzi, he and his team expect Iowa to come in ready to play.

“They have a great system,” Tressel said. “Everyone in the program knows what’s expected on the field, off the field, in the weight room. We simply study what they do and how well they do it.”

Purdue

Highly considered to be one of the Big Ten’s doormats in 2009, the Purdue Boilermakers find themselves sitting at 4-6 overall with two games left against Michigan State at home this weekend, and at Indiana next week.

The Boilermakers enter their home finale against the Spartans following another signature win by first-year head coach Danny Hope — a 38-36 victory over Michigan. It was the first Purdue win in “The Big House” since 1966.

But Hope knows his team has to win out in order to become bowl-eligible and finish with a winning record in Big Ten play.

“We don’t have any margin for error if we want to be involved in postseason play,” Hope said during the Big Ten football teleconference on Tuesday. “We have to win two games, so obviously, this game will be a deciding factor for us.”

Michigan

In Ann Arbor, Mich., patience is wearing thin, and time is running out.

After starting the season 4-0, the Wolverines have been in an absolute freefall. Now at 5-5, Michigan still needs one more win to become bowl-eligible.

But with games at No. 21 Wisconsin this weekend and at home next week against Ohio State, the odds of Michigan missing a bowl game for the second-straight season look possible.

“They’re going to be great challenges, but our focus is not even looking forward to Saturday yet,” Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez said during the Big Ten football teleconference on Tuesday.

“It’s just trying to get better each individual day and then try to answer the challenge come Saturday.”


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