For as bad as Iowa has been on offense, it’s been that near flawless on defense. Is that because of quality play or a lack of quality opponents?

Entering Week 8, Iowa ranks 3rd nationally in scoring defense (9.8 points per game), 3rd in pass defense (154.0 ypg) and 7th in total defense (264.7 ypg). The Hawkeyes have 2 All-America caliber defenders on the back end with Riley Moss at cornerback and Cooper DeJean at safety. Plus, linebacker Jack Campbell — the B1G leader in tackles —  can ruin an offense’s day if given half a chance.

There’s no denying that the Hawkeyes are remaining competitive against Big Ten foes due to their defensive standouts. But how good is the unit as a whole? Fans are about to find out, as Iowa is set to face No. 2 Ohio State and Heisman hopeful CJ Stroud at noon ET Saturday in Columbus.

Finding a way to contain Michigan and Illinois’ passing offenses is one thing. Dealing with Stroud and his myriad offensive weapons is quite another.

Consider Michigan’s JJ McCarthy a QB neophyte compared to Stroud. Everything offensive coordinators want in a passer, Stroud possesses, and then some. Challenging throws are second nature for him. Deep shots and quick slants come with ease.

Stroud plays the game like a pro. Multiple scouts are arguing whether he or Alabama’s Bryce Young should be the first passer off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft.

For Iowa, facing Stroud is the ultimate test. Showing up and showing out against a big-play offense like the Buckeyes would solidify the Hawkeyes’ defense as a premier unit in 2022. It would also silence the critics of the Hawkeyes’ level of competition.

The Hawkeyes have only allowed 300 passing yards once through 6 games. That came on a road trip to New Jersey, against Evan Simon and Rutgers. The numbers defy logical explanation, as Simon went 28-of-49 for 300 yards with 1 TD and 2 picks in a 27-10 loss. Other than a game against Wagner, Simon has never thrown for better than a third as many yards before or since.

If Evan Simon can do that to Iowa, what might Stroud — seemingly at the height of his powers — do against the Hawkeyes? It’s scary.

Iowa’s secondary has yet to face an offense that comes close to having Ohio State’s upside — especially in terms of passing. Of Iowa’s opponents this season, only Michigan ranks top 25 in total offense and scoring. The next closest? Illinois, a program that ranks 62nd in total offense (415.9 ypg) and 87th in scoring (26.0 ppg).

Ohio State is 2nd in total offense (543.7 ypg), 15th in passing (315.7 ypg) and 1st in scoring (48.8 ppg).

The Buckeyes know how to get on a roll. The offense is a well-oiled juggernaut that takes the field, strikes fast, and heads back to the sideline wondering how they could have scored faster. Kobe Bryant was nicknamed “The Black Mamba” because of his ability to deliver deadly strikes on NBA courts.

Stroud is the Mamba of the gridiron. His 24 passing touchdowns lead the FBS, as does his 10.9 yards per pass attempt. His 207.6 passer rating is nearly 20 points higher than the guy behind him — Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker (187.7) — while his 70.6 completion percentage remains inside the top 10.

And Stroud is just the band leader. He has cronies that help cushion his numbers on the regular. Currently, Ohio State has 4 pass-catchers with at least 15 catches and 200 receiving yards. Three receivers have at least 5 touchdown grabs, while 5 different options are averaging over 12 yards per catch.

Keep in mind Stroud’s been without star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba for nearly the entire season. Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. have stepped up big time. In a sense, Ohio State is the Alabama of the Midwest: It replenishes rather than rebuilds.

Ohio State is going to get its points. For Iowa, it’s how can it contain Stroud enough to give its lifeless offense a chance to match the production. When looking at the big picture, can it at all?

The truth is that few teams have come close to stopping Stroud since he took over for Justin Fields last September. In 18 starts, Stroud has thrown for under 200 yards only twice. One came while he was battling a sore arm against Tulsa in his 3rd college start. (He sat out the next week vs. Akron.) The other time came this year against Rutgers, when the OSU running game took center stage.

There’s no denying that the defense has kept Iowa (3-3, 1-2 B1G West) in games. The Hawkeyes have lost by a field goal twice, and they stayed close with Michigan into the 4th quarter before falling 27-13.

So, maybe just maybe, they are one of the few teams that can slow down Stroud and the Buckeyes. Perhaps Moss or DeJean nabs a pick and runs it back for 6 points.

Oddsmakers have the Buckeyes as 29.5-point favorites, so Iowa’s defense will have something to prove Saturday. That’s a crazy-high spread against a team that has given up that many points only once in its past 45 games. Iowa has given up more than 10 points only once this season. We’re about to find out whether any of that will count for anything against a Stroud-led offense.

Short of a monumental upset, the defense’s success could be measured in not letting Ohio State cover — regardless of what the Iowa offense does or doesn’t do.

That might keep the Hawkeyes relevant — at least as a spoiler in the B1G West — and in the hunt to reach bowl eligibility for a 10th straight season.

That would be something.