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Staff Predictions: Iowa at Penn State

[Two preliminary notes.  First, my friends from The Big Dirty will be playing their brand of funk outside of Medlar Field at 4 p.m.  Stop by and say hello, they're quite good.  Second, there are NINE open threads scheduled for tomorrow.  Times are 8 a.m., noon, 3:30 p.m., 5:15 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 8:45 p.m., 9:30p.m., 10:15 p.m., and 11:00 p.m.  If the threads are getting too slow, someone pull Rambler's batteries for a half hour or so.  I'll try to check in from the game, but that depends on AT&T's crappy coverage and whether I'm willing to risk a drenched iPhone.]

Look, you're going to see this replayed approximately 15-20 times tomorrow, so let's just get this over with in the slowest, most painful and trite way possible.


Sorry.  It's for your own good. 

BSD Mike:  Like I said yesterday, I think this game is going to come down to turnovers and field position. Whoever controls it wins the game. Penn State's defense should contain the Iowa offense which has struggled to run the ball consistently without Shonn Greene. The question in my mind is if the Penn State offense is up to the task against the Hawkeye defense. I think the Nittany Lions will have trouble running the ball against the front seven of Iowa, and a soggy field with a wet ball may slow down the passing attack and effectively ground the Spread HD. I think there will be some frustrating three-and-outs for Penn State, but they will make up for it with some big plays to set up some scores.
The key for Penn State is to score touchdowns in the redzone. Iowa is very good at stopping teams near the goal line, and last year Penn State had to settle for three field goals while another drive ended in an interception. If Penn State has to settle for field goals, or even worse comes up empty in the redzone, I don't like their chances. 
Ultimately, I think this team realizes it's time to pick up the lunch pail and go to work. The energy of the whiteout under the lights and on primetime national television will have them focused. And the memory of what happened last year will make them determined.
Penn State 24, Iowa 13


RUTS:  Not sure what to think about the rain in the forecast, other than I trust Evan Royster carrying the ball in those conditions far more than I trust Stephfon Green or either of Iowa's tailbacks.  Given the field conditions (although Penn State's field drains quite well, I'm sure), I like having the straight-line speed of Devon Smith and Chaz Powell on our side.  The game will come down to mistakes and the ability of Iowa's offense to function in a boisterous environment.  Night wins by visiting teams are rare instances in Beaver Stadium -- at least during non-Dark Years -- usually reserved for truly elite teams who find themselves in the national championship race by late October.  Think Miami '01 (12-0), Michigan '06 (11-2), and Ohio State '07 (11-2).  Iowa is not such a team. 

I still don't believe this Penn State squad is any kind of world-beating juggernaut, but it'll be enough to win tomorrow night provided they can thwart Kirk Ferentz's ball control plans.  Look for Odrick and Ogbu to have monster games against the interior of Iowa's offensive line.  Joe Paterno has been tweaking guys like Stefen Wisniewski and Nathan Stupar in the press this week, questioning their leadership and toughness, respectively.  Paterno knows that he'll need those guys to have big games (doesn't say much for Lee's chances to play, if you want to read further into that). 

They'll respond.  Bloodlust carries the night.

Penn State 27, Iowa 17.


Kevin HD:  I’m going to be honest here: I’m terrified of this game.  Lee, out. Stupar, hurt.  Bowman, rusty at best, not 100% at worst.  The rain will hurt the passing game, Iowa can run, and Penn State has been sleep walking for three weeks now.  Clark has been so torn up over last year’s loss (the one we’ve been watching on ESPN replay for three days now) that I’m afraid he might come out throwing like a guy on too much Red Bull.

And there is more.  The red zone offense ranks 101st nationally, there has been zero pressure on the placekicker and we have a 1st year starter.  All I can think about is that week one shank.  I’m worried we’ll rely too much on the 1st down run and end up in too many 3rd and longs.

Depressed yet?  There is good news, I guess: Royster is averaging over 5 yards per carry and broke a 7 yard average last week.  Iowa is giving up a very mediocre 4.6 per carry.  Clark is healthy.  Iowa is losing a offensive lineman and maybe a tight end.  The PSU linebacking corps is in pieces but they’re still pretty good.  It’s a whiteout,
that’s gotta count for something.

In the end I’m completely torn.  I predicted a seven-point loss on Wednesday and I’ve spent the rest of the week trying to talk myself out of it.  Everyone from Vegas to Phil Steele to the guys at BHGP think I was wrong, and so I’ll give a little.  But know that if things go like I think they will even a win is likely to be painful:

Penn State 14, Iowa 13