The Iowa Hawkeyes have been college football's version of a weed. Just when you think they've been taken care of, they come back ... again and again.

The Iowa Hawkeyes have been college football's version of a weed. Just when you think they've been taken care of, they come back ... again and again.

Before the season even started, Jewel Hampton, who was projected to start at tailback, hurt his knee. That's cost him his season, but didn't keep Iowa from winning their first nine games.

Star tight end Tony Moeaki sprained his ankle, missed three games, and Iowa won all three.

They lost their leading rusher, Adam Robinson, to injury late in their game against Michigan State and still beat the Spartans. A week later, Robinson celebrated Iowa's victory against Indiana from the sidelines while on crutches.

They've won games thanks to big plays in the fourth quarter, ranging from blocked kicks (Northern Iowa) and a blocked punt (Penn State) to an interception (Michigan). That's not to mention the offensive drive they engineered in the final minutes of the Indiana game.

In fact, Iowa had to rally from deficits in eight of their first nine games. In those contests, they outscored opponents 107-41 in the fourth quarter.

They ignored critics who knew the Hawkeyes were the dandelion in their otherwise immaculate garden of top-10 teams. The Coaches' Poll had Iowa ranked eighth even as the computers had them ranked first.

To Iowa fans, winning ugly was a beautiful thing.

But then something happened. The root of Iowa's success had been their mental toughness. They were unflappable when the situation seemed most dire.

And quarterback Ricky Stanzi had been the player who'd kept his teammates calm - until, that is, he went down with a sprained ankle. His replacement, redshirt freshman James Vandenberg, was admittedly "too amped" when he entered the game versus Northwestern.

The Hawkeyes finally wilted, and lost 17-10.

For all that, Vandenberg will have a chance at redemption, as he'll probably be called on again this week. And Iowa still dreams of Roses. All that stands between them and Pasadena is the Ohio State Buckeyes.

OSU also has a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line this weekend. Plus, they have the momentum of a huge win against Penn State. The Buckeyes played well on offense, defense and special teams in a 24-7 victory; while quarterback Terrelle Pryor showed improvement and poise.

He has learned, perhaps, the importance of being a quarterback who can keep his teammates calm.

The Big Ten title is up for grabs, and nothing is certain but that someone's dreams are going to be uprooted on Saturday.

OSU Fast Fact

24-4

Jim Tressel's record as OSU's head coach in the month of November

Huddle Up

Prior to last weekend's loss to Northwestern, Iowa had been winning with a tough defense and an opportunistic offense. It's a formula that had some comparing the Hawkeyes to the 2002 national championship Buckeyes.

Just as OSU would have found it difficult to win it all without Craig Krenzel at quarterback, Iowa will have a tough hill to climb now that Ricky Stanzi has severely sprained his ankle.

Stanzi is probably the Hawkeyes' second most important player. Leading the squad is defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn. He's been disrupting opposing offenses all season, and keeping him in check Saturday will be a key for Ohio State.