Saturday, October 8, 2011

The B1G Season begins in Happy Valley for the University of Iowa

Iowa (3-1, 0-0 B1G Legends) @ Penn State (4-1, 1-0 B1G Leaders) on ABC at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, October 8Th. This series typically has been about the visitor, with 14 of the 23 games won by the visitor in this series. Iowa is 7-4 lifetime in Beaver Stadium. Iowa has won eight of the last nine, with the lone loss in Beaver Stadium in 2007. Iowa has won three in a row over the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Kirk Ferentz is 8-2 vs. Joe Paterno, one game behind all-time leader Lloyd Carr, who stands 9-2 over Joe Pa. Will his young Iowa Hawkeyes move him to #1 with Carr?

Wow, who would have thought the Iowa Hawkeyes would do that to the Penn State Nittany Lions over the years? Iowa has won 50 Big Ten games over the past ten seasons, while Penn State has won 45 games over the past ten in the B1G. Iowa leads the series lifetime 12-10.

So, who wins in Happy Valley on Saturday?

Vegas says Penn State. The Computer (Jeff Sagarin) suggests Penn State. The Gazette picks all go for Iowa this week. Our Pick: Iowa 28, Penn State 27

So, what should we look for in Happy Valley? Iowa opens Big Ten season ...

Quarterback play is always extremely important. For Iowa, this will be #16 junior James Vandenberg's third start on the road in his career. For Penn State, they are playing two quarterbacks with #1 sophomore Rob Bolden, who started in last year's 24-3 loss @ Iowa, and #11 junior Matt McGloin. Vandenberg has thrown for 10 TDs and ran for 3 TDs in four games, while the two-headed monster for PSU have five TD passes in five games. Vandenberg has tossed one INT, while Bolden has thrown four picks. Last year in Iowa City, Bolden threw a Pick 6 to Iowa CB Shaun Prater, who is a senior now.

Vandenberg is 0-2 as a road starter for Iowa. Both games were 24-24 games at the end of regulation. In Vandenberg's first start in college in '09, Vandenberg lead Iowa, with a Big Ten title on the line in Columbus to a 27-24 loss in OT. He was only a redshirt freshman, but he made outstanding plays to keep Iowa in a tight game. In the first road game of '11, Vandenberg and the Hawkeyes fell short at Iowa State, in a 44-41 loss in three overtimes. Will the third road start be a charm for Vandenberg? It likely will have to be, if Iowa is going to win for the eighth time in 12 visits in the series.

Will Penn State win on Saturday? Defense typically fuels Penn State, but quarterback play will be extremely important. A quarterback often doesn't have to win the game, but he can't lose the game for his team. Most would believe that McGloin is the one to watch, if a PSU QB is going to shine. The offensive players to keep an eye for Penn State will be #6 senior WR Derek Moye, when the QBs are throwing the ball, but it is Penn State's run game that will test Iowa's rebuilt defensive line. At RB, #25 sophomore Silas Redd leads the Nittany Lions ground attack, but could some reserve RB come out and cause Iowa's defense trouble?

Iowa has typically done a good job slowing Penn State's ground game over the past decade. Iowa sent three linemen to the NFL this off season, so Iowa's top DT #93 senior Mike Daniels and DE #91 senior Broderick Binns, a starter in '09, need to help Iowa new line mates, including former walk on and PA native, DT # 87 senior Thomas Nardo, who is coming off a Big Ten defender of the week game in Week 4.

How much will the bye week slow Iowa? Will the Hawkeyes get off to a quick start?

Over the last five years, we have heard a lot of about Penn State's HD offense, which lost more than won vs. Iowa.

Iowa comes in with a new no-huddle offense. Iowa has three outstanding WRs this season, who have all ten TD passes in Iowa's offense over the past four games. Marvin McNutt, #7 a senior leads the unit with four TDs, with #6 junior Keenan Davis and #11 redshirt freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley, with three each.

Iowa's traditionally strong TE corp can go four deep, but consistency has been lacking, after sending four TEs to the NFL over the past four seasons. Walk-on #85 junior Zach Derby has been the most consistent, but #1 senior TE #39 Brad Herman and #86 sophomore C.J. Fiedorowicz can move the chains, if they are playing well. Inconsistency has moved Iowa to a no-huddle three WR set more in '11.

Heading into Beaver Stadium on Saturday ... how much will Iowa use the run game on offense? Will it be the pass setting up the run or will Iowa stick to the tradition of using the run to set up play action and the Hawkeye bread and butter over the past decade? Iowa is lead on the ground by #34 sophomore Marcus Coker. After losing true freshman Mika'll McCall to a season ending injury in the opener, Iowa has finally brought in #33 true freshman Jordan Canzeri in Week 4. He is a small 5-9 180 pounds out of Troy, NY. Other running backs for Iowa are walk-on #3 junior Jason White and #28 true freshman Damon Bullock out of Texas. Look for both to come out and be in the slot on passing plays in Iowa's offense.

While we have heard about the offense so far, both Iowa and Penn State are built traditionally on solid 4-3 defense schemes that look to have the linebackers make plays on the field. Iowa will likely play a little 3-4 on defense, especially, if PSU wants to attack Iowa with the short passing game. In the 3-4, Iowa will likely blitz more. Otherwise, Iowa likes to establish line play with the four defensive linemen.

Iowa has two of the leading tacklers in the B1G right now, with sophomores #44 James Morris and #20 Christian Kirksey. Iowa's leadership at LB is #45 senior Tyler Nielsen. Iowa's fourth LB is another sophomore in #31 Anthony Hitchens. Iowa is lean on numbers, but this is a good group developing for the Hawkeyes.

For Penn State, will MLB #40 sophomore Glenn Carson off the field talking lead to success on the field for the Nittany Lions vs. Iowa? B1G fans will be disappointed again to not see Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti this season, due to an early ACL injury. The leadership now turns to OLBs #6 junior Gerald Hodges and #34 senior Nate Stupar.

The Penn State secondary is banged up, but everyone who starts is a junior or senior. Iowa's secondary has two of the better CBs in the B1G with #28 Prater and #18 junior Micah Hyde. Iowa was second to Florida over the past three seasons in forcing interceptions. Iowa has new starting safeties, since the Pitt game, with #4 senior SS Jordan Bernstine, who missed ISU game, and #5 sophomore Tanner Miller, who played as a true last season, but missed the Spring coming off a shoulder surgery. Bernstine has emerged as a leader. Both should be strong in run support.

Special teams often play a huge role in the outcome of the Iowa-Penn State series. Iowa's young kickoff return coverage team will have identify #2 senior Chaz Powell, who already has one return for a TD this season. Iowa could be very solid in the kicking game, as former walk-on PK #96 Michael Meyer continues to grow into the job, after arriving in Iowa City last season only to win the placekicking job. His long is 50 yards.

Iowa lost four year starting punter Ryan Donahue, who is now with the Detroit Lions, after beating out a veteran punter as a free agent. However, a 6-6 245 fifth year senior, #6 Eric Guthrie has filled the position well, so far, and Iowa leads the conference in net punting (43.1).

We have seen some very exciting games over the years in this series. Many of the game have come down to the wire. Two games in Happy Valley (2000, 2002) finished in overtime. The 2011 game should be very similar.

Keys to the game:

  • Controlling the line of scrimmage

  • Field position

  • Special teams

  • Big plays

  • Turnovers
The team that plays the better game will likely win this game. The 1983 and 2002 wins in Happy Valley were shout outs, with Iowa winning 42-34 and 42-35 OT, respectively. On the flip side, we saw a 6-4 game in 2004, another Iowa win. PSU typically beats Iowa with a strong one-sided game, as the 27-7 win in 2007 shows.

Look for a close game on Saturday, which should give Iowa, the underdog, a good opportunity to win on the road. We shall see.
Three great games on ABC today (Central Time):

  • Red River Rivalry in Dallas: Oklahoma vs. Texas at 11 a.m.

  • Iowa @ Penn State at 2:30 p.m.

  • Ohio State @ Nebraska at 7 p.m.

Other B1G games on Saturday:

  • Minnesota @ Purdue at 11 a.m. on ESPN

  • Illinois @ Indiana at 1:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network

  • Michigan @ Northwestern at 6 p.m. on Big Ten Network

  • Bye weeks for Michigan State and Wisconsin

Some other games on TV to consider:

  • Louisville @ North Carolina at 11 a.m. on ESPN2

  • Mississippi State @ UAB at 11 a.m. on Comcast

  • Florida @ LSU at 2:30 p.m. on CBS

  • Air Force @ Notre Dame at 2:30 p.m. on NBC

  • Miami-FL @ Virginia Tech at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN

  • Arizona State @ Utah at 2:30 p.m. on Comcast

  • Auburn @ Arkansas at 6 p.m. on ESPN

  • Georgia @ Tennessee at 6 p.m. on ESPN2

  • Iowa State @ Baylor at 6 p.m. on FSN

  • Texas A&M @ Texas Tech at 6 p.m. on FX

  • Colorado @ Stanford at 6:30 p.m. on Versus

  • Washington State @ UCLA at 11 p.m. on Comcast

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