Hawkeyes ready for stiff challenge from Buckeyes


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In his Tuesday meeting with the media, Kirk Ferentz was asked if he ever "knocked heads" with Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel in recruiting. Ferentz's response: "I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I'm chuckling. That's not the way it works."

The head coach said his philosophy in recruiting Ohio is to "let Ohio State take its guys and then you go from there."

Indeed, a disparity exists between the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes in recruiting wars — or lack thereof. Tressel has landed a top-25 group of recruits every year except one since 2002, according to Rivals.com. Ferentz's has only signed one top-25 class in that time.

On the playing field, however, it hasn't been nearly that lopsided — at least in the last three seasons.

Ohio State's 31-5 record is relatively close to Iowa's 27-9 mark. And oddly, two Ohioans — quarterback Ricky Stanzi and wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, both of whom went unrecruited by their home state Buckeyes — have helped lead the Hawkeyes back to prominence.

That's not to say Tressel's work in recruiting hasn't paid off. His starting quarterback — Terrelle Pryor, who was once the No. 1 recruit in the country — comes into the Buckeyes' matchup with Iowa leading the Big Ten's No. 1 scoring offense.

Saturday's game is slated for a 2:33 p.m. kickoff in Kinnick Stadium. It will be Iowa's final home contest of the year.

"If you look at [the Buckeyes] statistically, it's almost intimidating," Ferentz said.

With their Big Ten title dreams all but lost, the Hawkeyes (7-3, 4-2) will look to play spoiler against the eighth-ranked Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1), who need to a win to stay in the hunt for a share of the conference crown.

Iowa will need to contain Pryor if it has a shot of winning. One of the country's most dynamic quarterbacks, he has more than 2,600 total yards and 26 touchdowns this season. And with the Hawkeyes linebacker corps depleted by injuries, the Iowa defensive line must create pressure up front.

Against the Buckeyes' beefy line, though, that's far easier said than done.

"They have good players at every position. I'm impressed with their offensive line," Ferentz said. "They've grown. They were good last year, but they continue to grow. [Left tackle Mike Adams] is their only new starter. And he may be the best guy they have."

In the Hawkeyes' fourth-quarter collapse against Northwestern on Nov. 13, they allowed the Wildcats to move the chains in 5-of-5 third-down situations. Consequently, Northwestern held the ball for more than nine minutes in the fourth, scoring 14 points.

Ohio State is 37th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 44 percent third-down conversion rate.

As safety Tyler Sash said, "That's one of the biggest things if you want to win the game — you've got to get off the field on third down. And that's something we're going to look to improve on this week."

All week long, Iowa has been contending it still has a lot to play for, even with the Big Ten title all but off the table. Sash said it was pride, but running back Adam Robinson grasped for something more tangible: the 26 seniors who will play their last game in Kinnick.

It's a group full of under-recruited and over-achieving players who have been some of the biggest reasons for the Hawkeyes' 27 wins since 2008.

When asked about the possibility of upsetting the Buckeyes on Senior Day, offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said, "That would be pretty big. … But we have to go out and do it. It's not just going to happen."

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