COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio State kicker Devin Barclay has never been to Iowa and freely admits he doesn’t know much about the state or the Hawkeyes football team.
But he’s got an idea what everybody out there might think of him.
”As far as I know, I might be one of the most hated people there,” he said Tuesday.
It was almost exactly a year ago that Barclay, subbing for the injured Aaron Pettrey, booted a 39-yard field goal in overtime to give the Buckeyes a 27-24 win, clinching the Big Ten title and a berth in the Rose Bowl.
The teams meet again Saturday, this time in Iowa City.
At stake for No. 8 Ohio State (9-1, 5-1) is remaining a part of the three-team logjam atop the conference standings, while No. 21 Iowa (7-3, 4-2) knows another loss will turn what was once a season of promise into a disappointment.
Even in a successful season, the Buckeyes have shown a propensity to start games slowly. They fell behind 21-0 in their lone loss at Wisconsin, trailed 7-0 early at Illinois and 14-3 at halftime last week at home against Penn State.
With a veteran lineup, 10 games into the season, coach Jim Tressel can’t predict the emotional state of his team heading into the game on Saturday.
”Oh, no, you never know. I never know,” he said. ”If I thought I ever knew, I could write the story early. But you never know what you’re going to get.”
On Saturday, it took a rare halftime pep talk from Tressel, a coach who readily admits he’s not prone to being all that fiery or that much of an inspirational speaker.
Wide receiver DeVier Posey said he would love to know how to prevent being flat at the outset.
”I know before the game, guys seemed like they were fired up, ready to go,” he said. ”I don’t know if it’s a play that does that to you. I don’t really know how to avoid it. I don’t have a formula for it.”
No one expects the Hawkeyes to be anything other than jacked up. They’re coming off a surprising 21-17 upset at Northwestern that knocked them out of that one-loss glut in the Big Ten along with Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Iowa is 12 points away from a perfect season, but instead is trying to make the best of what is left after three close losses.
”We’ve got to move on. So that’s what we’ll do,” coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. ”(Playing Ohio State) is going to be a great challenge for our team. We’ll go back to work, try to put together a great week of preparation, and it will be good to be back in Kinnick, certainly. I know the crowds have been great all season long, so we’re looking forward to a great environment.”
Their field should be rocking for the final home game of the season.
The Hawkeyes have won 49 of their last 59 games at Kinnick Stadium, although Ohio State has historically had good fortune there, winning six of the last seven.
”We’re playing against an outstanding football team and they’re a veteran bunch, a confident bunch,” Tressel said. ”They play extremely well at home. It’s a great atmosphere – it’s nice and tight and there’s a lot of communication going on from the stands down to the field. So it’s kind of one of those neat places that as a player you never forget that you’ve played.”
With a win, Ohio State could remain in the hunt for a Bowl Championship Series berth. A victory would also keep the Buckeyes in line for a sixth straight Big Ten title – if they can also win at home against rival Michigan a week later.
But Posey said it’s better to not think about what’s riding on each game.
”It’s really easy to forget about all that,” he said. ”We have a lot riding on each week. We just really want to come out and just play. Losing is really not in our mind.”
Early in August camp, the Buckeyes spent a day on each opponent, thinking about what lay ahead. Everyone knew the game at Iowa loomed large.
”This is definitely a game we were always aware of,” Barclay said. ”Any time you have to go on the road and play these tough teams, you really need to be even more focused than when you’re at home. So for us it’s just really important to know what the stakes are.”