Preview: Penn State (4-2) at Iowa (4-2)

Gerald Hodges (6) in the face of James Vandenberg (16) during Penn State's win over Iowa, 13-3, Oct. 8, 2011. - Mike Pettigano / Black Shoe Diaries

Ask someone who was around back in the '90s, about the whole "pig head" thing in Kinnick Stadium.

Penn St. Nittany Lions (4-2) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-2)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. Kinnick Stadium (70,585), Iowa City, IA
The Line: Iowa -3
TV: BTN Eric Collins (play-by-play), Derek Rackley (analyst), Jon Jansen (sideline)
Weather: 45 degrees. Partly cloudy.

COACHES:

Bill O'Brien:
PENN STATE RECORD: 4-2, 1st year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. IOWA: First Meeting

Kirk Ferentz
IOWA RECORD: 112-90, 14th year
OVERALL RECORD: 112-90
VS. PENN STATE: 8-4

NOW THE FUN PART

Penn State vs Iowa-43

IOWA Offense vs PSU Defense -

James Vandenberg threw two touchdowns to three interceptions... the entire season so far. Sounds like a Penn State offense, doesn't it? Unlike Penn State, though, Iowa's offensive woes usually have to do with bad luck, rather than bad coaching. It's the same this for the Hawkeyes this season, with #AIRBHG swinging his running-back-destroying sword full force, as Mark Weisman was heading toward a fantastic season until twisting an ankle last week at MSU. He's doubtful this week. And in true Iowa fashion, there isn't much behind him but a freshman and a backup coming off an ACL tear.

Last season's Penn State defense did a number on Vandenberg and Iowa. That was when the Iowa offense was decent. This year's Iowa offense makes that one look potent. Ted Roof's blitzes should have little trouble blowing up the pocket and the running lanes, at the same time forcing a few errant throws by Vandenberg. Though the Penn State secondary has been a bit quiet so far this season, I'll call for the unit to have its best outing of the year. The Iowa offense is 98th nationally in scoring offense; Penn State is 15th in scoring defense. An even more significant indicator of Iowa's offensive ineptitude is its 99th-ranked first down average per game; Penn State is 25th in first downs allowed per game. Just for fun, let's also say Sean Stanley gets an interception.

Penn State vs Iowa-33

PSU Offense vs IOWA Defense -

Cringe no more, Penn Staters. The bane of our existence was not, in fact, the Iowa Hawkeyes. Rather, it was the Nittany Lions offensive gameplans against said Iowa Hawkeyes. How do I know this? Look at the series--since the first win over Penn State in 2000, only one time ('02) has Iowa scored more than 26 points against the Nittany Lions. That means Penn State lost 7 games where the other team averaged about 24 points. Somehow, even with a good Iowa defense taking the field tomorrow, Penn State can score at least 26 points.

Key in this game will be for Penn State to play keep-away, just as they did against Northwestern when PSU ran 99 plays. Iowa doesn't have the offense to win a track-meet. I can't believe I'm saying this, but making this game in a shootout would benefit Penn State. O'Brien and his NASCAR offense is probably the scariest thing in the Big Ten right now, mostly because you know that when he brings it out, opposing defense are simply f*cked. Of course, all of this will rely on Matt McGloin to be as lucky smart as the past four games.

Special Teams -

Would you believe it if I said not having a kicker may be the best thing for Penn State? The team has converted a higher percentage of 4th down attempts (65%) than 3rd down attempts (45%). But I somehow feel better about Sam Ficken, now that he's had a week to reset his mind and maybe give us a bit more to cheer about from the kicking game. Iowa has a fantastic kicker in Mike Meyer, so here's hoping--once again--that this game doesn't come down to Iowa making one from beyond the arch.

Prediction -

Penn State now plays with reckless abandon. Ferentz and Co. have never seen a Penn State team play like this one does under O'Brien. Iowa has something to lose this year. They are undefeated at 2-0 in the Big Ten, so a conference title game berth is very real. Meanwhile, Penn State has pretty much nothing to lose. That should scare the crap out of the Hawkeyes. With the emergence of Zach Zwinak at running back, and McGloin firing cannon volleys at the Iowa back seven, Penn State has the opportunity to jump out to another lead before the Hawkeyes know what hit them. Iowa's offense doesn't have the power to score in bunches the way Northwestern did two weeks ago. I could go on about how this will be a dogfight, or how both teams will play a tough game. Nope. I'm going all in this week. Penn State cruises.

Penn State 31 - Iowa 15


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