Each week, HHR's Southern Gents, Rusty and Rev. Shaw Moore, will steal a page from NASCAR.com and go Head2Head and argue the winners of one of the week's upcoming marquee games.
Rev Picks the Nittany Lions.
You think Penn State will be fired up for the Hawkeyes come Saturday? Just one year ago, the Nittany Lions were riding high in the middle of the season after going into Columbus and beating Ohio State. Penn State was undefeated, atop the Big Ten, and squarely in the conversation for the national title hunt. Then, an ill fated trip to Iowa City …
Iowa, 5-4 entering last year’s game, upset previously undefeated Penn State 24-23 on a late field goal, dooming the Lions to a share of the Big Ten title and a beatdown at the hands of USC in the Rose Bowl. Though Penn State lost last year’s game, the numbers indicate they didn’t play too terribly. PSU won the time of possession battle, outgained the Hawkeyes for the game, and tied the turnover battle at two apiece. The only problem: they walked away with only field goals on multiple trips into the red zone. They had the chance to put Iowa away for good, and they didn’t do it.
Fast forward to this year. We don’t know much about either team: The Lions are the #5 team in the country and 3-0, but those wins have come against softies Akron, Syracuse and Temple – all of whom are outside the top 100. Likewise, Iowa comes in with a 3-0 record – but that’s because they barely snuck by Northern Iowa in week one, blocking not one but two No. Iowa field goal attempts at the end of the game.
What we do know is this: super QB Darryl Clark and RB Evan Royster are back for Penn State. There’s arguably not another offensive tandem as important to their team’s success in all of college football. Clark has played well so far this year, with 8 TDs and an 11.6 per completion average. Royster has been consistently good too, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 3 TDs to his credit.
Iowa will not be able to counter with offensive superstars of Clark and Royster’s caliber. Departed Hawkeye RB Shonn Greene, who ran for over 100 yards in Iowa’s win last year, is in the NFL. QB Ricky Stanzi and freshman RB Adam Robinson will have to pick up the slack. They’ve played very well in the early season, but the always stout Penn State D promises a much sterner test than they’ve faced thus far.
With revenge on their mind, you can bet the Lions and the 100,000+ fans that will pack Beaver Stadium will be ready to go on Saturday. Expect Penn State to roll, 24-13.
Rusty Picks the Hawkeyes.
Revenge, white-out, national title spoiler; these are words the Hawkeyes could care less about, in fact they actually may work in their favor. Iowa is the clear underdog in this week’s game against #5 Penn State, but don’t tell that to the boys in black and gold. Since beating Penn State last year, thereby spoiling the Nittany Lions national title hopes and an undefeated season, Iowa has not lost. They came close to start the season, but the football gods smiled and they prevailed.
So much is being made in State College and nationally about Penn State seeking revenge for last year. The Hawkeyes will let them talk about revenge all they want. Meanwhile, they’ll focus on playing good football, which is what they’ve been doing of late.
If Iowa’s to upset Penn State for the second straight year, they’ll need to rely on their secondary to stop Daryll Clark. Sophomore cornerback Tyler Sash is one of the best in the country. Already this year, he has 4 interceptions, gaining over 100 yards on the ground after the pick. Add that to the fact that the Iowa secondary is the best in the nation, limiting opposing quarterbacks to a measly 48% passing efficiency, and you can see how throwing the ball is not going to be easy for Penn State.
The weather should further add to Iowa’s chances for success. The forecast is calling for cool showers at kickoff. This means running the ball is going to be key. With two backs both averaging over 4 yards a carry and multiple TD’s, the Hawkeyes have found a running game, which was a question mark coming into the season having lost last year’s feature back to the NFL.
So, with a stingy secondary and a strong rushing attack, Iowa’s got the tools to win in raucous Beaver stadium. However, if they cannot contain Clark or have to rely on their own passing game to come-from-behind, it could get ugly for the visiting team.
A quick glance at the statistical categories shows a relatively even match-up. Neither team is a stand-out on either offense or defense. This bodes well for an underdog. Penn State relies more on passing the ball, Iowa on running the ball. My sense is that this will be a hard fought game in the trenches, an old style Big 10 battle with a score that reflects that. Rusty says, 13-10 Hawkeyes.