Hooley: That wasn't heaven; it was Iowa

Urban Meyer hopes his team can bounce back from its loss at Iowa with a home victory over Michigan State

I've been covering Ohio State football for almost 30 years. 

Never, before Saturday, had I ever seen anything like the 55-24 beatdown Iowa put on OSU. 

Ohio State doesn't lose often, and when it does, it's almost always to a highly-ranked opponent. If not, it's in one of those rare years every decade or so when the Buckeyes aren't ranked themselves. 

But that wasn't the case Saturday in Iowa City, where Ohio State entered No. 3 in both the AP and coaches polls, fresh off its signature win of the season over No. 2 Penn State. Even so, the Buckeyes were obliterated by an unranked Iowa team that scored more than twice as many points as it had in its previous two games combined. 

The 55 points were the most allowed by an Urban Meyer team in his six years in Columbus. The margin tied for his worst loss ever, matching the 31-point embarrassment OSU suffered against Clemson in the College Football Playoff in January. 

You may remember the aftermath of that game for Meyer promising that he would not grow accustomed to such a loss. Ohio State would not get used to it either, and that such a loss would never happen again. 

Well, it not only happened. It happened within nine games, and in between the Buckeyes got bounced at home by 16 points against Oklahoma. 

I've seen Ohio State lose big before. It lost 35-3 at USC in 2008 after playing in the national championship game the year before, but that USC team was No. 1 in the nation. 

Way back in 1989, the Buckeyes lost to USC, 42-3. But the Trojans were No. 12 nationally and Ohio State was trying to find itself in John Cooper's second season. 

In terms of losing to an unranked opponent, OSU went into Purdue in 2009 ranked seventh and lost to the Boilermakers, who had lost 5 straight games. 

The Buckeyes lost, 26-18, but that still wasn't as shocking as what happened to them at Iowa, because of what I thought Ohio State was and who Iowa had been. 

The Hawkeyes scored only 10 points against Northwestern and only 17 against Minnesota the previous two weeks. 

But Iowa rang up 487 yards, an average of 7.0 yards per play. The Hawkeyes had five scoring drives of 60 yards or more. Their tight ends made OSU's linebackers and safeties look silly. Most shocking to me, Iowa ran for 243 yards, more than 6 yards per-carry, with an offensive line that started two freshman tackles. 

The only explanation that makes sense is that we overvalued Ohio State's wins since its loss to Oklahoma. Remember, the Sooners had their way with OSU's defense to the tune of 386 passing yards. Indiana, the week before that, passed for 420 yards. 

Ohio State's defense played well against Penn State, but it still allowed 31 of the Nittany Lions' 38 points. 

So, in its only four games this season against representative opponents, Ohio State's defense has been gashed to some degree every single time. 

Maybe that's who the Buckeyes are. Maybe that's a result of repeated early entries into the NFL Draft. Maybe it's not as simple as plugging and playing the next 5-star recruit into the gap left behind by the latest first-round NFL draft choice. 

Suddenly, the home game against Michigan State on Saturday doesn't appear an automatic win. Neither does the season-finale at Michigan. If OSU wins both, and defeats Illinois in between, it will play Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. 

That means Ohio State could still win the conference championship. But a berth in the College Football Playoff, which typically goes along with winning the Big Ten, is nothing more than a longshot now because of the margin of defeat at Iowa. 

That's life in this new world that OSU finds itself after perhaps its most shocking loss by such a shocking margin in at least the last 50 years. 

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES 

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