Ohio State Buckeyes at Iowa Hawkeyes: 5 storylines to watch

Kirk Ferentz on J.T. Barrett: ‘He’s a winner’


No. 6 Buckeyes will have eyes on other games involving top-10 teams as they hope to climb in playoff ranking.

J.T. Barrett calls them “1-inch” throws. The Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback practices them all the time. He throws footballs at a net with the goal of barely clearing the obstacle, thus simulating throwing the ball over linebackers to receivers.

“You’ve got to put it right over them,” Barrett said, “but you still hit your guy. You kind of drop it on him. The only way to do that is throw the ball. Rip it. Don’t baby it.”

Barrett did just that on the 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcus Baugh with 1:48 to play last Saturday. The pass cleared a jumping linebacker and hit Baugh in stride as the Buckeyes rallied from a 35-20 deficit to beat Penn State 39-38 at Ohio Stadium.

RELATED: Five things to know about Iowa

That catch by Baugh was Barrett’s 16th straight completion. He will try to extend that streak and the No. 6 Buckeyes’ six-game winning streak in a 3:30 p.m. Saturday game at Iowa. Here are five storylines surrounding the matchup:

1. Long absence: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer hasn’t coached in Iowa City since he was a first-year Ohio State graduate assistant in charge of tight ends in 1986. No. 17 Ohio State beat No. 11 Iowa 31-10.

Not much has changed at Kinnick Stadium, which seats 70,585.

“I know (the fans are) right on you,” Meyer said. “I know they touch your shoulder pads. I remember that.”

2. New tradition: Ohio State players plan to participate in Iowa’s new game-day tradition. The UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital opened earlier this year adjacent to the stadium. Patients and their families can watch the game from the top floor.

At end of the first quarter, players and coaches and fans inside the stadium wave to the patients inside the hospital.

3. Heisman watch: Barrett has the third-best odds of winning the Heisman Trophy , and his chances are improving every week. He entered the top five in Big Ten history in total ofense last week, passing Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El. Barrett has 11,466 yards.

OHIO STATE COVERAGE: Robert Landers; playoff ranking; standouts in latest win

Barrett has 94 career touchdown passes. He’s four away from moving into the top 25 in NCAA history.

“He’s a winner,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Good things come in all kinds of packages, and he’s certainly that kind of player.”

4. Close games: Iowa has played five games decided by seven points or fewer, winning two of them, and gone to overtime twice. That doesn’t surprise Meyer.

“They’re just tough,” Meyer said. “They’re like their coach. Their coach is a tough guy. They’re like the state of Iowa. They’re tough people. I love Iowa. I never met too many people or players that just don’t have that Iowa characteristic of toughness, and I’m going to hit you as hard as I can.”

5. Playoff picture: Ohio State will have its eyes on games around the country in the next month, as long as it keeps winning. Among the games to watch this weekend are: No. 4 Clemson at No. 20 N.C. State and No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 11 Oklahoma State. To climb in the playoff rankings, especially past Oklahoma, the one team to beat them, the Buckeyes will need some help.

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