Seeing 'Eye to 'Eye: Iowa vs. OSU

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa has welcomed the nation's top-ranked team into Kinnick Stadium before. But the hype surrounding those games was never this big.

The undivided attention of a national TV audience -- and possibly the best chance the Hawkeyes have ever had to knock off No. 1 -- has created an unusual frenzy in Iowa.

Top-ranked Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) visits the No. 13 Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0) Saturday night in one of the most anticipated events in the 78-year history of Kinnick Stadium. The game has been sold out since well before the season started, and tickets on eBay were going for as much as $500 a pop as of Wednesday morning.

"It's a huge game for us, this state, for everything involved with this program," senior quarterback Drew Tate said. "It's a huge game for them. They're No. 1 and they're trying to stay No. 1."

The buzz in Iowa over a potential matchup against the nation's top-ranked team has been brewing for months. The Buckeyes' impressive win over Notre Dame in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, along with the return of QB Troy Smith and flanker Ted Ginn Jr., helped cement Ohio State's position as the preseason No. 1.

The Buckeyes haven't disappointed so far, posting wins over Texas and Penn State and holding opponents to an average of eight points a game.

The Hawkeyes also have kept up their end. Iowa is off to a 4-0 start, just its second under eighth-year coach Kirk Ferentz. After a string of lackluster Septembers, the Hawkeyes are positioned for a run at a BCS berth, and maybe more, if they can upset the Buckeyes.

"How many times do you get to play in a game like this?" Ferentz said. "Players only get one chance to play in a game like this, just like coaches do."

History has not been kind to Iowa in games against top-ranked teams. The Hawkeyes are 0-7-1 all-time in such matchups, including 0-3 at Kinnick. But no Iowa team that has hosted a No. 1 went on to post winning records or reach a bowl -- both near-certainties for this year's squad.

Three weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Hawkeyes lost to top-ranked Minnesota, 34-13, en route to a 3-5 season. In 1964, Iowa fell to the Buckeyes 21-19 in what was the third loss of a six-game skid.

Miami came to Kinnick early in the 1992 season for the first true night game in the stadium's history. Coming off a 10-1-1 season, the Hawkeyes lost 24-7 and wound up 5-7, their worst record in 12 years.

Ferentz has had one crack at No. 1, at Nebraska in 2000. But the team he brought to Lincoln had lost 11 straight, and the Cornhuskers made it 12 in a 42-13 blowout win.

In 1985, Iowa was No. 1 for the Ohio State game -- and it didn't matter. Two weeks after the Hawkeyes beat No. 2 Michigan 12-10 in what many consider the biggest game ever at Kinnick, the Buckeyes ruined Iowa's perfect season with a rain-soaked 22-13 win.

There hasn't been a more highly anticipated Buckeyes-Hawkeyes matchup since. But even the 1985 game, which current Ohio State coach Jim Tressel watched from the sidelines as a Buckeyes assistant, didn't come close to matching this week's hoopla.

"There wasn't quite the hype that there is today. I think (two reporters) were at practice and that was because we invited them," Tressel said.

No such luck this time. This matchup will attract plenty of attention, especially considering that only one other game Saturday, No. 11 Virginia Tech against No. 24 Georgia Tech, will feature two Top 25 teams.

"You can't beat the feeling you have coming out of Kinnick on a Saturday night. It's just going to be fantastic," Ferentz said. "But it's still our job to do a good job during the football game. That's where our focus is."

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