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September 29, 2006
Game of the Week: No. 1 Ohio State at No. 13 Iowa
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Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:
Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith is the nation's most valuable college football player.
Then you might get an argument from Iowa quarterback Drew Tate.
"Without (Troy Smith), Ohio State is not the same," Tate said. "I look at him and kind of think of Vince Young because, by far, he contributed more to his team last year than any other person did to his team. The year before that, that's what Alex Smith was to Utah. I think Troy Smith kind of fits that."
The twist to this argument is that Tate might mean just as much to Iowa as Smith means to Ohio State. The two quarterbacks face each other Saturday night (8:13 p.m., ABC) when the top-ranked Buckeyes travel to No. 13 Iowa.
Tate's value has grown increasingly evident this season.
When an abdominal strain forced Tate to miss a Sept. 19 game with Syracuse, the Hawkeyes scored just one touchdown in regulation time and needed double overtime to hand Syracuse its 11th consecutive loss. Iowa has averaged more than 30 points per game in Tate's three starts.
Tate disputes the notion that he must carry this offense, even though the third-year starter has thrown more career touchdown passes than any Iowa quarterback but former Heisman Trophy runner-up Chuck Long.
"This is a team game," Tate said. "It's going to take all of us, not just me. If I play within myself, don't turn the ball over and just try not to make mistakes, we've got a good defense and real good special teams. It's not just the quarterback in our program. That's not how our offense is built. They don't want the quarterback to do everything."
But the quarterback may need to do more than usual Saturday.
Iowa has struggled to run the ball this season. After compiling 1,334 yards last year, Albert Young has rushed for only 280 yards through the Hawkeyes' first four games.
Because of that stagnant ground attack, the Hawkeyes might not outplay the Buckeyes this weekend unless Tate outplays Smith.
Ohio State has defended the pass well this season despite having four new starters in its secondary, but the Buckeyes still haven't faced a quarterback this good.
"The first game, we faced a senior who had kind of split time his whole life," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "The second game we faced a guy (making) his second start of his life. The third game was a redshirt sophomore who had played a decent amount and then this past weekend a guy in his fourth start.
"Drew Tate, I don't know what number start this is for him, but he's good. So it will be a great test for us."
Tate already has tested the Buckeyes a couple of times before.
He threw three touchdown passes and rushed for a fourth score two years ago in a 33-7 triumph over the Buckeyes. Ohio State earned revenge last year by sacking Tate five times in a 31-6 whipping.
The Buckeyes harassed Tate so much last year that he spiked the ball in frustration at one point, providing a glimpse of the competitive fire that has allowed the 6-foot Tate to develop into one of college football's top quarterbacks.
Tate doesn't expect to have a similar outburst Saturday, no matter how this game unfolds. Tate and his coaches agree that he now is more mature and more relaxed.
"The big story with Drew is he has really learned from his experience," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He's still a very fiery and competitive guy, but he lets his emotions work for him a little better now than a couple of years ago. That's part of growing.''
Tate will spend Saturday night trying to show the Buckeyes just how much he's grown in the past year.