Happy October, folks!
There ain’t no “I” in Hawkeye, just an eye. They’ve got a well rounded team out there in I-oh-Way, and they’ve been particularly troublesome for the Nittany Lions through the years. This week, #22 Penn State (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) opens up its Big Ten season against #17 Iowa (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) in Kinnick Stadium.
We’re finished with the so-called tests. In this Turkey’s opinion, the Nittany Lions haven’t passed those test games with flying colors. By the time the Big Ten season opens, we should know whether the boys have the talent, the desire, and the moxie to navigate the perilous straits of intra-conference competition, to be able to hang with the best of them. I think that from what we’ve seen thus far, this Turkey can conclude that this will not be a memorable Big Ten season. At the beginning of the season, I picked the Lions to finish regular season play 7-5. That means four losses in league play. I see no reason why I should deviate from that prediction now.
The pieces just haven’t come together.
The offensive line improved a little from the beginning of the season, but it took a big hit last week when RT Lou Eliades was lost for the season. Chima Okoli was moved over from the defense and will take Eliades’ place. Although he is reportedly doing well in practice, he and the rest of this line are going up against a very dominant Iowa defensive line.
The rushing game came together, apparently after some motivational speaking between head coach Joe Paterno and Evan Royster, who had a career day against Temple. However, this is not Temple, and the aforementioned defensive line will not be as kind to Royster as was Temple’s. In fact, Iowa ranks #3 nationally in rushing defense. Penn State ranks a dismal #61 in rushing offense. Royster has been held to 3.7 yards per carry by Iowa during the past two seasons.
Our freshman quarterback sensation, Rob Bolden, should be settling down a bit at this point, having already played in that tough road game in front of a hostile crowd at Alabama. However, a couple of our fabled receivers have not done very much this season. And, notably, with the loss of Andrew Szczerba, there has been but a single throw to a tight end this season. No doubt, our coaches are being cautious due to the youth and inexperience of his replacements, Garry Gilliam and Kevin Haplea, who are also needed for pass blocking against the fierce Iowa pass rush. I would expect a little more production out of the tight ends in this game, and I would also hope that Bolden can spread the ball around to take advantage of some mismatches as he spots them. Penn State’s passing offense ranks #72 nationally, and it will have to overcome Iowa’s strong pass efficiency defense, ranked #16.
Ricky Stanzi, the senior quarterback for Iowa, has developed into a serious threat this year. Last week, against Ball State, he completed 19 of 25 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He is taking care of the ball much better than in prior years’ campaigns, and his quarterback rating thus far is 179.41. The Hawkeyes’ passing offense is ranked #32 against Penn State’s #44 ranked pass efficiency defense.
The well rounded offense includes a rushing offense ranked #38 nationally. Penn State’s rushing defense is ranked #39. Iowa ran for a mere 29 yards against Arizona. Both teams are going to have to pass.
Iowa’s overall defense is currently ranked #1 in the FBS, allowing a stingy 227.5 total yards per game. Senior DE Adrian Clayborn is back and is well remember by Nittany Lions fans for his punt block last year, which he returned for a touchdown and the win. Broderick Binns, the other starting DE, is no slouch, either. The Hawkeyes have forced 14 turnovers in the past four games with PSU. This year, they’re tied for #17 in turnover margin (vs. Penn State’s #80). This will be a tough day for Bolden and for the offensive line. It is going to be difficult to neutralize both Clayborn and Binns, especially with a new RT.
“He’s about as good as anyone there is,” said Paterno about Clayborn.
Iowa’s only loss was a September 11 road game at Arizona, in which they were beaten 34-27, somewhat of an upset. The score is somewhat deceptive, because two of Arizona’s scores were on big plays.
Of course, Penn State lost to Alabama, which everybody expected.
The gameday weather will be clear and cold, with a high of 60 and a low of 35. As kickoff is 8:05 PM, you can expect temperatures to be in the low 40s around game time. They’re trying to create black and gold stripes around the stadium (like a schizophrenic white-out) by telling people how to dress based on which sections they sit in. Sounds like great fun. I always liked the Hawkeyes because they wear Steelers uniforms.
Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz seems to have Paterno’s number. Since the 2000 season, he is 7-1 against the elder coach, including a uniquely Penn State – Iowa 6-4 game in 2004. Typically, Penn State has been favored in this rivalry, but not this year. Paterno is going to have to be less predictable than is his typical game on the road, which is characterized by the following quote:
Pardon my French, but [he] is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you’d have a diamond.
And that witticism brings us to the weekly feature you’ve all been waiting for, the Official, Infallible, Obnoxiously Inimitable Turkey Poop Prediction! But first, folks, I have to thank you readers for putting up with this Turkey’s insane ramblings. You really deserve the credit for keeping me going, even if you tell me that I’m completely full of shit. But I digress. Playing in their home stadium, the betting line currently favors the Hawkeyes by 7, with an over/under of 40. This suggests a potential final score of about 24-17. This Turkey doesn’t see that much offense coming from the Lions, whom I don’t believe will beat the spread. In spite of the past, with wonders like the 6-4 final score in 2004, the over/under looks about right, because Stanzi will provide some offense this year. So I’ll go with Iowa 27, Penn State 13.