October 1, 2010

LBU Staff Predictions: Penn State at Iowa

Penn State travels to Iowa City tomorrow to face the Pig-Head-Chucking, Helmet-Stealing torrent in Kinnick Stadium. You don't think Iowa fans are salivating for this game? With a Penn State offensive line probably worse than last season's unit, and a bit of both history and luck on Iowa's side, this one shouldn't be any real toss-up. But is it? We'll tell you.. RIGHT NOW!

Just overthrown...
Penn State could come close, but beating Iowa seems to be just out of reach this year...

Full Game Preview

*Yeah, we're a bit late this Friday with out predictions. But it's only because we knew most of you aren't going to the game, meaning there are at least 100,000 more Penn State fans reading the internet tonight and tomorrow.


I don’t know if it’s the crisp autumn air, the promise of a new conference season, or the shots of tequila I had last night but I’m feeling optimistic. Last year the difference was special teams even though Penn State was out-manned by a strong defense. Fast forward to this year and you have pretty much the same scenario: Penn State will be out-manned on the line, the defense will hold their own, and turnovers will be key. The difference this year is Penn State’s special teams is light years better than last year and it may be the first time in a while that they are better than Iowa. Penn State is sitting with the 8th best kickoff return team in the nation and they have one of the better punt averages in the conference (4th to Iowa’s 7th). It made a difference for Iowa last season look for it to make a difference for Penn State this year. By the way, here’s a little fun fact for you; Penn State and Iowa are tied for Sacks (both 72nd) and Tackles for Loss (both 76th). Considering the defensive lines for each respective team were supposed to be a strong point that’s a tad on the shocking side. Oh by the way, Penn State is first in the nation in sacks allowed. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

Penn State 16 – Iowa 13


My Alabama pick must have jinxed the team somehow. So I'm not getting tricky, or cute, with this pick. Iowa, even with its embarrassingly sloppy loss at Arizona, is still the better, more experienced team. This probably isn't the Nittany Lions' year, but it was supposed to be Iowa's. The Hawkeyes' defense is just too good, going up against a Penn State offense that remains too unproven. Penn State might be able to play its heart out on special teams and defense, but if you can't score, you can't win. I won't say the Nittany Lions won't be able to score. They will. It just might come from a big special teams play or defensive play.

This game plays out two ways. 1) Penn State hangs tough through the first few quarters, giving Nittany Lions fans false hope for way longer than is legally humane. But Iowa nails the coffin shut in the fourth quarter. 2) Iowa jumps out to a huge lead early, say 14-0. Penn State crawls its way back, only to run out of juice before the comeback can be completed.

Either way, I'm ready for another heart-crushing loss. At least this year Penn State isn't undefeated.

Iowa 21 - Penn State 16


If the offense put something together during the extra time spent practicing red zone scenarios this week the defense doesn't relive the tackling amnesia it suffered against Alabama then I'm sunny about Penn St.'s chances this Saturday. I think the special teams will keep them in the game with Iowa (imagine that!), but ultimately the Hawkeye defense maybe too much to overcome. If Arizona didn't upset them, I might have said Iowa could be overconfident coming in and be primed for the loss, but this team is out to prove that game was a fluke.

Iowa 27 - Penn St. 23


With Lou Eliades, I think I would have gone with the Lions. But Penn State is about to clash with one of the best defensive lines in America, and they are doing it without their second best offensive lineman. The running game will run into a brick wall tomorrow night, and Galen Hall and company will not put the trust in their freshman quarterback to win the game. Penn State's offense is going to struggle mightily to score points and I see no reason to believe that their red zone scoring will improve from last week's performance.

Defensively, they catch a big break in the lack of depth that Iowa now has at the running back position. Starter Adam Robinson now has to lug the lion's share of carries after the injury to Jewel Hampton and the departure of Brandon Wegher. Robinson is still a top flight back, and the defensive linemen will have their work cut out for them.

To me it comes down to the pass rush for the Nittany Lions. The supposed starters in Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore have botth failed to live up to preseason expectations so far, and Iowa's offensive line proved to be vulnerable in pass protection against Arizona. In the end, Iowa finds a way to score more points than Penn State, which is all you need to win a game last I checked.

Iowa 17 - Penn State 6


Believe me guys, I really, really, really, want to pick Penn State in this contest. I really do. Until the O-line can show me however, that they can block well for most of the game, and not just in the 4th quarter when the opposing D-line is tiring out, and until I see the coaches open up the playbook more for Robo One (i.e. Rob Bolden) by having him take snaps out of the shotgun and give him the green light to sling the ball all over Iowa's secondary, I'll just have to go with the Hawkeyes in a close one. I really can't emphasize the importance of opening up the passing game on Iowa, as this is how Arizona was able to move the ball given how the Hawkeyes stuffed the Wildcats' rushing attack. This is not to say I don't want Evan Royster carrying the ball a lot but if it's becoming clear early on that Clayborn and Co. are focused on shutting down the run and making Robo One beat them, then the coaching staff should allow Bolden to deliver their death wish.

With that being said, I foresee the staff trying to stubbornly establish a ground game and play it safe with the passing. I'm not even sure we'll see Kevin Newsome come out as a wildcat QB. At least special teams play should be a hell of a lot better. Still, it won't be enough (cue 'Debbie Downer' music).

Iowa 24 - Penn State 17


Stay tuned later tonight for our weekly 11th Hour Depth Charting.

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