Penn State is coming into Saturday’s match-up in Iowa City favored by only 8 points, leaving some Penn State fans wondering why the Vegas predictions are so close. Here are two reasons: Iowa’s defense and running back Shonn Green. These two factors alone have helped to keep Iowa a relatively decent team, and despite their underwhelming 5-4 record, they are still Big Ten football team (Big Ten inter-conference play is still way more competitive than people give it credit for). Iowa has lost by a combined total of only 12 points, which tells me something must be going on with this team.
Shonn Green is averaging 6.3 yards per rush and is just shy of 140 yards per games (3rd in the nation). This, however, may be the only offensive weapon that Iowa has to offer, as QB Ricky Stanzi has thrown for only 6 TDs to 9 picks. This kind of stale, one-dimensional offense will not fare well against Penn State’s defense, ranked 11th nationally against the run. The power running game offense utilized by Big Ten teams of the past no longer has a future against the coming storm of the spread offense.
But wait! (Editor’s note: Ohmigod, ok, I’m waiting!) Iowa has another trick up it’s sleeve! (Editor’s note: I’m super excited to find out what it is!) Their defense is ranked 7th nationally in points allowed and 12th against the run. Sounds to me more like an Anthony Morelli led Penn State team than 2008 Iowa (solid ground game; tough defense; shitty quarterback and ho-hum offense that will lose the game for you). Penn State’s running attack will probably encounter some trouble in this game and will have to rely upon Darryl Clark to get them by, as long as he can avoid getting his clock cleaned. (Editor’s note: I’ve been looking for a good clock cleaner around the city – my clocks at home are super gross. Anybody know a place?)
Honestly! (Editor’s note: Who throws a shoe? That really hurt, man.) I’m all about Darryl Clark, but he has gotten DECKED in just about every single game this year. It’s hard to tell a running quarterback (though you should remember from my previous Penn State article that I truly support that Clark is a true passer) to watch out more often, but Clark doesn’t seem to avoid big hits very well. And even though he may be tough, I wouldn’t label Clark as the next coming of Marion Barber.
Penn State will likely have to open up the passing game against Iowa to get down the field. Hopefully all of the cobwebs have cleared during the bye week, as Clark suffered a mild concussion against Ohio State. We’d all like to see…er…check that, all of us Penn State fans would like to see a 42 point win to get some style points factored in with our bullshit BCS computer-equation, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen.
I see Penn State winning this game because they will shut down Shonn Green like they did P.J. Hill and the similarly one-dimensional Badgers. I see Penn State wearing down Iowa’s defense in the first half and then beating the tired defenders in the second when they can no longer keep up with the Spread HD.
Hawkeyes players spent the last two weeks having Penn State’s national title implications spoon fed to them; and believe me, they’ve gotta be sick of it. (Editor’s note: Vrrrrrroooooommmmmm. Here comes the BCS…vrrrrrroooooommmmmm. Open wide, now, little Hawkeyes). They’re going to be chomping at the bit, but I’m finished fretting over the mental and physical readiness of this Penn State team. They know what they need to do and they’re going to take care of business just like they have all season.
My Pick: Penn State 24 Iowa 14; with the last Iowa touchdown scored when the game has already gotten out of reach in the fourth quarter.
NCAA Football Notes:
– Last Saturday against Texas Tech, Colt McCoy went 20 for 34. That was the first time he threw more than 7 incompletions in one game since his 9 incompletion outing against UTEP in the second game of the season. Fucking incredible. He has still completed 79.0% of his 276 attempts.
NFL Crystal Ball Prediction: Kid will be playing on Sundays.
– Sam Bradford has thrown for 34 TDs and helped the Sooners hang up 42 offensive points in the first half; his play is Godlike. (Editor’s note: After I read that last, Godlike bit, I was struck by lightning. On my couch. In my house.) I think Oklahoma is magnetically attracted to the end zone or something. Somebody will soon discover that Bradford is actually part cyborg and drop him and his team out of the Heisman and national title races.
NFL Crystal Ball Prediction: Cyborg may be playing on Sundays if Roger Goodell approves league rules recognizing and protecting cyborg players. (Editor’s Note: Is “roughing the cyborg” a fair penalty? Is lubricating oil considered a performance-enhancing substance?)
– I hate USC. But dammit, they are going through the same thing as Penn State right now (except with one loss under their belts, of course). Both teams play in a poorly rated conference yet both continue to play outstanding football. Both teams rank in either the top 10 or top 25 nationally in every significant offensive and defensive stat category. And if you ask me, this is the way you should be dominating a softer schedule if you want to be considered a national contender. But then we both get burned in the BCS rankings while simultaneously stirring BCS doomsday talk. What BCS doomsday talk, you say? Why, quite simply that both teams would be denied a national title birth if other schools ranked above them win out due to their weaker schedules. And yet another case is made for D1-A football playoffs. Hooray!
– So everybody loves offense but they say defense wins championships, right? But offenses sell tickets and TV ratings, so defense kinda gets left in the dust. Everybody is busy hyping the Big 12 as the best offensive conference and most fun to watch in college football. Everybody is also busy getting together and bashing the Big Ten as a very weak conference. But hold on a second, folks. I see the Big Ten as one of the best DEFENSIVE conferences right now, which is something people aren’t giving the conference credit for. The Big Ten has three teams ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense (Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa) and 5 in the top 25 (including Minnesota and Northwestern). Now the SEC is right there with the Big Ten in ranked defenses, but I don’t know how hard those southerners can hit in colder weather. How about some love and respect for hard hitting defensive, cold weather rivalries in the Big Ten? (Editor’s note: Of course, this begs the question – does the Big Ten have great defenses because their offenses leave much to be desired, and similarily, does the Big 12 have “poor” defenses because their offenses are sooooo damn good. Or do the offenses seem so good because the defenses are lacking? If an offense scores 68 points per game in a forest, but there isn’t a defense in their way, did the tree really fall?)
– Gameday: #1 Alabama at #15 LSU. Game to watch, indeed. Upset potential for sure. But I’m not biting on this one. LSU isn’t the team they were last year, mostly because of their defense (I’m not gonna get into the whole QB situation). Alabama is just the better team; and even though LSU fans will want to hang Nick Saban from the flagpole Saturday night, the Tide are going to come into Baton Rouge and prove that. I’m not going to say it will be a domination, but Alabama will win by at least a touchdown. I’d put my eyes back on Lubbock, Texas again to see the dark upset clouds brewing there, instead. Oklahoma State is a solid team (perhaps the only big 12 team that has a defense who can hang around with it‘s offense) and they’re going to beat Texas Tech on the road. Last week’s Texas Tech win was certainly no fluke, but I don’t think that Tech’s program has the balls to hang around with all of the big boys. Sorry Mike Leech, but your team runs out of gas in a tough game on Saturday and clears the way for my Penn State Nittany Lions.