Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten, 0-0 Corn)
Penn St. Nittany Lions (4-1 Overall, 1-0 Big Ten, 1-0 Pig)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
The Line: Iowa +4, Over/Under 45.5 (VegasInsider.com)
TV: Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Chris Spielman (analyst, Ur-ban Mey-er (clap, clap, clapclapclap), Quint Kessenich (sideline).
Weather: 75 degrees and sunny. Beautifully rare for central Pennsylvania in October.
Do Not Start The Ur-ban Mey-er Chant. Not unless Penn State is down by three touchdowns.
Steve Smith. Twenty-five years ago, Steve Smith was a fullback and captain for Penn State's last national championship team. Today, he's in his ninth year of fighting ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Penn State is taking this opportunity to promote the Steve Smith Fund. If you have a few extra bucks sitting around, give some thought to donating.
Become Gino Toretta For A Day! Nissan is running a promotion on gameday in which you can get autographs from Derrick Williams and John Cappelletti, as well as get your picture taken with the Heisman Trophy. Festivities start at 11:00 a.m., and will be located outside the student ticket entrance of the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Precipice. This is it, right? A chance for Penn State to conquer their Hawkeye demons, set the 2011 season on a positive course, and simultaneously extinguish the creeping apathy in the Penn State fanbase. Make no mistake, it's a tipping point. It's not the most high-profile game, but it's probably the most important game Penn State has played since the Rose Bowl against USC. The consequences of losing this game, to this opponent, are substantial.
Strong On Strong, Weak On Weak. Penn State's defense against Iowa's offense will be a battle of each team's strengths, while the PSU offense against the Iowa defense will be...something less than that, but also where this game likely turns. Will Penn State try to go all MANBALL on Iowa, despite PSU's inability to push around its weaker, previous opponents and Iowa's relatively shaky secondary (although, see the last paragraph below on this topic)?
Murky Red Zone Stats. Iowa Offense (12th of 120 nationally; 17-for-18, 12 TD, 5 FG, 66% TD rate) vs. PSU Defense (115th of 120; 10-for-10, 6 TD, 4 FG, 60% TD rate). PSU Offense (95th of 120; 14-of-19, 10 TD, 4 FG, 53% TD rate) vs. Iowa Defense (15th of 120; 12-for-17, 10 TD, 2 FG, 59% TD rate).
But That's Dumb, Why Not Points Per Red Zone Possession? Agreed. Penn State scores 4.3 points and gives up 4.8 points per red zone possession. Iowa scores 4.8 points and gives up only 3.8 points per red zone possession.
When The Well Runs Dry. At what point will Penn State's relatively thin defense show signs of wear? D'Anton Lynn is listed as "possible" (aren't we all?) for Saturday's game. Stephon Morris should play, but had an ankle injury against Indiana. With Mike Mauti already gone for the season, Penn State can't afford any more attrition on a defense that is tasked with carrying the team until the offense awakens. Also, Iowa is probably not the ideal matchup for Penn State, given the injuries to the back seven. James Vandenberg has a 10:1 TD:INT ratio and a 63% completion percentage. Big numbers for a guy with three very good receivers, and going against a passive defense that will allow easy yards on the edges.
Angry Penn State Hybrid Wide Receiver / Running Back Hating God. Well, that makes a crappy acronym, but Joe Paterno said this week to not expect much from either Bill Belton or Curtis Drake. Brandon Beachum should return, and it'll be interesting to see what happens to the running game when Silas Redd needs a rest. Will it be Beachum or Curtis Dukes?
Sweet, Sweet Canz. Meanwhile, there's a new name to learn in Iowa's backfield: Jordan Canzeri. Iowa has the opposite change of pace scenario from Penn State -- a bruising starting running back (Marcus Coker) who is spelled by a 5'9", 179 pound speedster.
Sweet, sweet can(dy).
What To Hope For. Take advantage of Iowa's weaknesses, for God's sake. They're 89th in passing defense (253 ypg, 66% completion pct). Soften them up through the air and hope that allows space for the anemic Penn State rushing attack. Also, no blatant special teams gaffes (Penn State's punt team has been suspicious as hell in protecting Anthony Fera).
If Penn State Wins. We'll breathe a sigh of relief and rejoice in a football season still swimming with potential.
If Penn State Loses. The internet will not be a place for the weak-hearted, and there will be 70,000 people at the Purdue game. The latter might happen, anyway.
Prediction In GIF Form?
Penn State has a very real opportunity to gain momentum with a win. They are favored, after all. Purdue is on tap for next weekend, and a 3-0 conference start would erase a lot of doubts around here. Sadly, history is impossible to deny in this matchup. Even when Iowa has what is generally considered to be a less talented team than Penn State, they find a way to win. Ferentz, Ken O'Keefe, and Norm Parker have a proven formula against Penn State. Take a few punches, hang around, eventually frustrate the Penn State offense, and wear down the PSU defense with the fourth quarter running game. The combination of recent history and Iowa having an extra week to prepare for the worst Penn State offense since 2004 (we're not close to that level yet, but the point stands) is beyond troublesome.
Oh, And One More Thing. Meant to put this in the preview last night and spaced on it. Iowa moved Micah Hyde from safety back to corner in Week 3. This puts Hyde and Prater, two of the conferences better corners, on Derek Moye and (presumably) Justin Brown. Considering that the Penn State quarterbacks' reads tend to be "(1) look for Derek Moye, (2) look for Derek Moye, (3) look for Justin Brown, (4) throw into ground", don't be surprised to see Hyde and Prater reading the QB's eyes instead of the receivers. Big play possibilities, in both directions.
Iowa 23, Penn State 13.