The Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-0 B1G) host the Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-0) at Beaver Stadium today, and this Turkey wants to see what this Penn State team is made of. Yeah, there have been “tests” and I’d say our boys have flunked them. This is yet another test against a nemesis which has beaten PSU eight of the past ten times they’ve met. It doesn’t seem to make a difference whether the games are at home or away. Iowa has Penn State’s number.
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 45-17 win over Louisiana-Monroe — that was two weeks ago, as last week was a bye. The only marquis opponent they’ve faced thus far has been Pittsburgh, who they beat in a 31-27 shootout.
This year, the Hawkeyes have struggled a bit trying to find an offense, having lost their guiding light and starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi to graduation. His replacement, junior James Vandenberg, has steadily improved. Against Pitt, he was 31-48 for 399 yards, 3 TDs and an INT. Sophomore running back Marcus Coker has been erratic. Against Pitt, he ran the ball 23 times for 86 yards with a long run of 14 yards. Expect to see the ‘eyes come out throwing. Receivers Keenan Davis and Marvin McNutt are competent.
Their defense has been suspect, too, as they yielded 44 points to perennial Big 12 patsy Iowa State in an overtime loss and 27 points to Pitt. They rank #73 in overall defense. With just two sacks and five tackles for loss all season, Penn State could find some offense against this group. In pass efficiency defense, they rank #87. I’m thinking that if McGloin, the more accurate passer, can pick apart the secondary to set up the run, PSU will put some damn points on the board, for a change.
Where Iowa has shone most consistently through the years Penn State has been in the Big Ten is in its coaching. Kirk Ferentz has been brilliant in winning consistently against the Lions. Paterno is his bitch.
Offense has been Penn State’s big problem thus far. Ineptitude is rampant at the skill positions. Penalties, turnovers, and the quarterback tag team have conspired to daunt many scoring chances. The Nittany Lions’ usual problems inside the opponent’s 30 yard line are still there, only worse. I’d say that the offense could get a slug of confidence against the Iowa defense, but I thought that would happen in the Indiana game, too. It didn’t. If they keep on screwing up, any Big Ten defense will be sufficient to shut them down. Penn State’s scoring offense ranks #93 nationally, prompting this Turkey to give them the IS (it sucks) rating.
Meanwhile, Penn State’s defense numbers look great. Two caveats there: 1) Alabama played its vanilla offense against PSU, not wanting to show its full range of tricks to the SEC, and 2) Mike Mauti’s absence means a helluva lot. Nevertheless, they rank #7 in scoring defense and #5 in total defense. Against the run, they are #24. Perhaps Coker will get the ball more often for Iowa.
What I would like to see is McGloin getting most of the snaps. It would be great if he could start and there could be some continuity during the damn game, for the other players’ sake and to establish some rhythm. Passing success will open up the field for the running game, which should be up to the task, with Silas Redd being joined by the entrepreneurial Stephfon Green, who, according to Joe Paterno, is back. Receivers will have to catch balls that are thrown reasonably well, and the offensive line will have to improve its performance, but this game is winnable if the mistakes abate. I want to see some enthusiasm, some motivation on the part of the players. It doesn’t make me happy to see guys not even charged up in the first set of downs. The fire is lacking in all but a few players. Winning attitudes win games.
This game will lack some of the demotivating features we have come to know and love. It is a home game, and a 3:30 start. (Thank you ABC/ESPN, for thinking at the beginning of the season that this would be a consequential game.) The weather is perfect, mostly sunny with a high of 75°. Winds will be calm. No excuses!
I’m about to fall asleep, so it better damn well be time for the Official Turkey Poop Forecast for today’s game. First, let me thank you for your patience — I know how late I have been in getting this published. Well, the gambling line favors Penn State by 4.5 and the over/under is 45.5. My inclination, due to the poor offense on both sides coupled with Penn State’s credible defense, would be to take the under. As for the rest of the prediction, I’m bein’ a homey this week (I said homey not homo), but thinking that the game will be decided by a field goal, and Penn State will once again fail to cover the spread. Let’s call it Penn State 18, Iowa 15.