"That's the one thing that stood out in my mind and why this game is so important. Iowa is a wrestling school and Penn State is a football school, so we've got to take it to them," Penn State linebacker Glen Carson said. Carson, a former New Jersey State Champion at 215 pounds later mentioned that his comments were all in good fun. But it was too late, the bulletin board material was already there.
For Penn State and Iowa, this weekend marks the start of a stretch of games that will make or break both of their seasons. For Iowa, a new quarterback, revamped defense, and a rather unheard of collection of players makes this squad one of the more theoretically weaker Iowa teams Penn State has played. That being said, Iowa's tradition of solid defense and disciplined offense doesn't mean the Hawkeyes should be taken lightly. If anything, Iowa's tendency to make more out of less and play better when little is expected of them ought to be enough to earn Penn State's attention.
Iowa's 3-1 record includes an overtime loss to Iowa State, but they have scored over 30 points per game -- good enough for a Top 20 scoring offense. A victory in Happy Valley, a place that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he "isn't as star-struck" about, would not only give Iowa a 1-0 record in Big Ten play but their 4th straight win over the Nittany Lions.
"The Iowa crowd was definitely hostile. I think it's time we make them feel a little more humble," Carson said at today's weekly press conference. Carson, who mentioned various remarks made by Iowa fans to the Nittany Lion bench last season says it has only added fuel to the fire. "It didn't get under my skin, it's kind of a thing I kept in the back of my mind. Incentive to beat these guys," Carson said.
Carson, who may later regret his words, has in the very least given a somewhat underwhelming Penn State-Iowa storyline a spark; and may have even infused a bit of swagger into a Nittany Lion roster that has been devoid of real emotion.
For Penn State fans, the importance of this weekend's clash against Iowa can't be overstated. A victory against Iowa, who has become the unbeatable Michigan team of the 2000's would not only be a mental boost for Penn State, but would improve the Nittany Lions' record to 2-0 in the Big Ten play. While Penn State's performance on the field hasn't been to almost anyone's liking, at 4-1 (1-0) and with the rest of the Big Ten struggling, Penn State's season is far from decided.
Win or lose, this weekend ought to provide a lot of insight as to the remainder of Penn State's season. A victory could once again spark hope that early season struggles are being corrected. A loss could signal the start of an even longer and bumpier road.