Ohio State smelling roses after win over Iowa

Ohio State edged Iowa 27-24 in overtime to win at least a share of their fifth consecutive Big Ten title and essentially book a trip to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl. It’ll be the Buckeyes first appearance in the Rose Bowl since 1997.

I’ll be honest, I expected more out of the Buckeyes today, who were 17-point favorites over a depleted Hawkeyes team. I figured OSU’s stingy defense would harass freshman quarterback James Vandenberg, who struggled mightily last week when Ricky Stanzi suffered an injury in Iowa’s loss to Northwestern.

But give credit to Vandenberg, who was awfully impressive while completing 20 of his 33 pass attempts for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He found Marvin McNutt for a 10-yard touchdown pass with less than three minutes remaining to tie the game at 24-24 and force overtime.

The problem is that Vandenberg also made a ton of freshman mistakes, which led to three Ohio State interceptions. The Buckeyes actually picked him off a fourth time and returned it for a defensive score midway through the fourth, but OSU was called for offsides and the touchdown came off the board. Vandenberg was also lucky another one of his passes wasn’t intercepted on Iowa’s game-tying touchdown drive, as the ball was deflected into the air around multiple OSU defenders but a Hawkeye receiver caught it for a first down.

Vandeberg’s counterpart, Terrelle Pryor, wasn’t asked to do much in the passing game. He completed 14 of his 17 pass attempts for only 93 yards and no scores. Jim Tressel played things ultra-conservative and allowed Brandon Saine and the running game to take over. Saine finished with 103 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns.

Iowa was the No. 4 team in the country heading into last weekend’s action, had the inside track to win the Big Ten title and at the very least, had a trip to the Rose Bowl almost locked up. After today, they’ll be lucky to be ranked in the top 15 when the new polls are released on Sunday and will likely head to the WhoCares.com Bowl.

On the flip side, everyone was ready to write Ohio State off after they lost to Purdue last month and now it looks like they’ll be crowned Big Ten champs again. It’s amazing how quickly things can change in college football from week to week.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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