IOWA CITY — An accommodating schedule and perfectly placed bye week put Iowa in position for a good start.
It’s about to become more difficult for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) will finish 2013 against opponents who are a combined 25-11, with nearly half of those losses coming from Purdue.
The Hawkeyes lost every game they played in the second half of 2012, but they’re confident that the strides they’ve made will help them avoid another collapse. They kick off a grueling stretch Saturday at No. 4 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0).
“We’re just a better defensive team than we were a year ago, and I’d say the same thing about our offense,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Everything is more cohesive today than it was a year ago.”
Injuries were one of the biggest reasons Iowa finished last season on a six-game losing streak, and the Hawkeyes saw a number of players go down in a 26-14 loss to Michigan State on Oct. 5.
This time, it appears as if last week’s bye gave everyone enough time to get healthy.
Running back Mark Weisman was among a half-dozen starters who missed time in the loss to the Spartans with various bumps and bruises. Weisman, who is third in the Big Ten with 104 yards rushing a game, was limited to 9 yards against Michigan State because of a foot injury.
Weisman is one of Iowa’s most important players, and he is expected to start Saturday. He ranks seventh nationally with 126 carries.
“Another good defense, another good test,” Weisman said of the Buckeyes. “We have to worry about us. That’s all we can worry about now.”
Wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley, defensive linemen Dominic Alvis and Carl Davis, linebacker Christian Kirksey and offensive tackle Brandon Scherff also have been listed as starters this week after missing snaps during the Michigan State game.