- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Lessons from No. 4 Ohio State’s 34-24 win over Iowa on Saturday at the Horseshoe.
There’s no stopping the rushing game: The Hawkeyes came in with one of the nation’s toughest rush defenses and a streak of not allowing a touchdown on the ground that had lasted all season. The Buckeyes shredded both of them.
With quarterback Braxton Miller showing no more signs of being slowed by his knee injury, and tailback Carlos Hyde seemingly getting stronger with every carry he gets, Ohio State’s dynamic inside-outside rushing attack might be even more dangerous when Dontre Wilson and Jordan Hall are sprinkled into the mix than it was a year ago. Between the four of them, Ohio State rushed for 278 yards against a defense that was allowing fewer than 89 per game, and Hyde punched in a pair of touchdowns to end the streak of not allowing a score on the ground.
The margin for error remains thin in the secondary: The Buckeyes were having a few defensive issues even before Bradley Roby’s ejection for targeting in the first quarter left them without two starters in the secondary. And while there wasn’t much to complain about in a second half that only included one touchdown for the Hawkeyes, those points did come at the expense of a blown coverage that produced an 85-yard score and another ugly play for Ohio State to watch in the film room.
Removing Roby from the equation is a significant blow, and with Christian Bryant already out for the season with a broken ankle, the Buckeyes deserve some credit for adjusting and rallying after intermission. But defending the pass was a top priority over the bye week for Ohio State, and that work is clearly not done yet.
Wins, not style points, remain priority: The Buckeyes had a chance to compare themselves to some of the top teams in the country while off on their bye week, and they certainly are aware of the crowded field of unbeaten contenders at the top of the polls. But if they get caught up in winning over voters, Iowa offered a reminder of what can happen if the Buckeyes don’t simply take care of business on the field.
The Hawkeyes were certainly talented and physical enough to earn the lead they had at halftime, and despite the perception of the Big Ten being a bit down, there could easily be a couple more tests coming like the one Ohio State faced on Saturday. And while Iowa’s national reputation right now might not do the Buckeyes any favors when the voters cast their ballots for the rankings, as long as they keep winning, OSU is not going anywhere in the chase for a championship.