It's Big Ten play. It's Kinnick Stadium. It's black and gold under the lights. It's Iowa week, which, if you're a Penn State, fan is just about as much fun as going to the dentist to get a dozen fillings. You just want to get it over with and move on. For three hours you feel totally helpless as sensations of numbness and pain wash over you. Then when it's all done you have no recourse but to thank the man and tell him, "See you next year."
Here are your BSD Staff predictions.
I’ve had this game circled on my calendar since last year when I stood out in the rain for 12 hours thinking I was going to see a Penn State State victory and ended up getting taunted by Iowa fans (sat in the visitors section for the game). Evan Royster proved he could run against a horrid Temple defense. I’ll be more impressed if he can do it against Karl Klug and Adrian Clayborn. For the first time in his short career, Robert Bolden did not turn the ball over. However, he did look tentative and unsure of himself. If Penn State is going to have a chance, they need Bolden to be confident and not worry about making mistakes. If there was ever a weak to unveil the Kevin Newsome Wild Lion Package – this is it. If it doesn’t come out on Saturday, it never will and we can all move on. I think Newsome has a unique skill set that could help us win, at least this one game on Saturday. Look for Derek Moye to have a monster game if the revamped offensive line can keep Bolden on his feet. The loss of Lou Eliades is critical, especially when facing an Iowa defensive line that is dominant.
Prediction: Penn State 13, Iowa 10
I've been saying it all week and I'm not backing down now: Evan Royster needs to have a good game. We can talk about Robert Bolden and forcing turnovers all we want, but if there's no running game, Penn State's going to have the same red zone difficulties it had last week against Temple, if the Lions even get there. Iowa's run defense is about as stout as it gets, and expecting 100 yards on X carries from Royster is probably unrealistic. That said, there's absolutely no reason Royster can't run with the purpose he ran with against Temple. He was quick into the hole, steady on his feet and solid after first contact. If he can do that, get the extra one or two yards, and put Robert Bolden into 3rd and 4-6 instead of 8-10, then Penn State will have a chance. If he doesn't, well then it's going to be a long day.
On defense, it's going to be important that the Lions take away the middle of the field where guys like Alabama's Greg McElroy and USC's Mark Sanchez have torn them to shreds in recent years. If they can force Ricky Stanzi to throw to the sidelines, and take away the intermediate routes, the defense should be able to keep Penn State in the game. Force some turnovers and tackle well, and all of a suddent.
That said, I'm not at all confident Penn State can accomplish any of those things.
Prediction: Penn State 6, Iowa 27
If either Iowa or Penn State was undefeated, this game would be more meaningful. With both teams at 3-1, there's no real way to properly avenge the 2008 (or 2009) game. Hopefully, that gives the good guys in the road whites the lightness they need to play with abandon. It's pretty simple to outline a path to victory: tough defense, no mistakes on offense or special teams, and getting lucky with a big play or two.
But I don't think that's how this one plays out. I see Bolden finally start to look like a freshman--two or three interceptions--at least one in the redzone. Lou Eliades was maybe the second worst possible injury this team could face--with Wiz being first. I don't see us doing enough up front to have either a credible running or passing game. But I also think our defense and special teams play well enough to give the Hawkeyes a run for their money. More importantly, this team continues to develop an identity, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
Prediction: Penn State 16, Iowa 19
BSD Mike Says...
The key to this game will how well Penn State performs on first downs. The Iowa defense is going to be a tough challenge for Rob Bolden and the offensive line. Staying out of 3rd-and-long situations will be critical, especially in the redzone where Penn State has struggled all season. In order to do that, Joe Paterno can't go into his usual conservative play-calling shell he usually goes into on the road. Playing for field position and hoping the other guy beats himself has cost Penn State seven of the last eight games in this series.
But we can't neglect defense and special teams. After struggling to find their identity in the first three games, the defense played with fire and passion in the second half against Temple. That needs to carry over against the Hawkeyes. Iowa is down to one guy at running back, and the offensive line has some issues protecting Ricky Stanzi. Special teams is an area Penn State has greatly improved from last year, while Iowa has seemingly regressed. A big return by Devon Smith could break the game open for the Nittany Lions, and Penn State should have the advantage at kicker if it becomes a game of field goals.
All of that being said, Penn State is a young team while Iowa is a veteran group. Throw in the fact that the game is in Kinnick, and that it's Iowa which always seems to bring out the worst in our team, and I'm not feeling optimistic about this one. Put away all sharp objects in the vicinity of the couch before the game begins.
Prediction: Penn State 9, Iowa 27
Iowa games never makes sense. Clearly the thing Penn State needs to worry about is the defensive front of Iowa. If they can give Bolden enough time to make a throw Penn State has a fighting chance. I expect Penn State's defense to keep them in the game long enough to make it close enough to win, but if the offense can't get it going it'll be another long night even if the score is close. I like Penn State's chances in this one mainly due to the fact this team has no real dreams of revenge. Penn State played uptight and not to lose the past few years and these guys don't have 2 years of crippling loses to worry about. The youth on Penn State's side of the ball could pay off here and hopefuly their play reflects that. There won't be a trip this year expect Ohio State that will give Bolden an Alabama type atmosphere, that's not to say Iowa won't be rocking, but they've seen it as bad as it can get and came out alright. If he has time there isn't any reason why he can't win.
I still think they win one of the big road games. Iowa is a good team, but they aren't Alabama. I'll keep it low.
Prediction: Penn State 23 Iowa 17
The most fundamental change in big time college football over the past five years has not been the advent of instant replay or the return of oversigning. It’s been coaches who gameplan something not previously displayed by their team at all that season. Jim Tressel schooled JoePa on this with Todd Boeckman in 2007. Remember our players complaining that OSU was calling out our plays as we were running them? Meanwhile, Boeckman lined up in formations our defense hadn’t seen on tape and threw to new receivers and seldom-used tight ends. Al Golden did this to us again last week. JoePa said post-game that they had ‘practiced all week’ against empty backfield sets, and when gametime rolled around they didn’t see a single play run from it.
Now, there are a number of indicators that Joe Paterno continues to learn the trade he is so skilled at teaching. Despite a host of comments to the contrary, he’s been running a pass-first (and balanced) offense, he’s listening more and more to his assistants, and he’s starting the best-option personnel regardless of age. I think the first four games indicate he’s mindful, too, of the modern trend of being careful what he puts on tape. The Alabama gameplan was built to win (and executed to a loss). Kent State saw some stubborn work on our running game, and the conservative play calls in the Temple red zone were a challenge to the toughness of his young team. One they responded to with a long game-clinching drive and a half-time-adjusted shutdown defense. They also indicated he was confident he could still beat Temple with field goals and without showing Iowa more tape of the inherent identity of our offense: diversity.
Joe’s ready to trust this team, and our freshman quarterback, to put together a complete game against a tough opponent. A winnable game. A game we will win.
Prediction: Penn State 31 Iowa 17