On Saturday evening, the No. 17 AP-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes will kickoff their Big Ten conference play against the No. 22 AP-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions at Kinnick Stadium. In their primetime matchup last season, Iowa beat Penn State in Happy Valley 21-10, after Iowa’s defensive end Adrian Clayborn’s blocked punt was returned for a touchdown.
Both teams enter the game with 3-1 records. Last week, Penn St. struggled against Temple, winning 22-13 while the Hawkeyes crushed Ball State, 45-0.
On the quarterback front, Iowa’s senior Ricky Stanzi is ranked fifth in the country for passing efficiency with a good handle so far on his usually large number of interceptions. To date, Stanzi has one interception; in 2009, he incurred 15 for the season (and he was out the last two games). Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine and it will be closely watched during the season.
Penn State’s true freshman quarterback, Robert Bolden, will make his first visit to Iowa City with a quarterback rating of 121.3. He’s completed 68 of 113 with a 60 percent completion rate and has rushed on 16 attempts for 45 yards. I think there’s the potential for him to get rattled on Saturday evening.
Stanzi will begin his final year of Big Ten Conference play with a quarterback rating of 179.41, 66 of 99 completions, 999 total yards and nine touchdowns. He appears to have matured a lot in the offseason and is poised for a great year.
Iowa’s defensive coordinator, the beloved Norm Parker, is still recovering from diabetes complications and will again miss this week’s game. Earlier in the week, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Parker’s making progress but he did not have a return date.
The team’s defense continues to roll and earlier this week, the Hawkeye’s junior defensive lineman Mike Daniels had been named co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. He will be a co-starter at defensive tackle this week.
Looking further at Iowa’s depth chart, Iowa’s senior Paki O’Meara may play on a limited basis at running back so Ferentz named freshman running Marcus Coker as the No. 2 running back behind Adam Robinson. In his inaugural week, Coker had 10 carries for 60 yards.
Ferentz also named freshman Brad Rogers at back-up fullback but he may do some pinchhitting at running back. Last week he had nine carries for 66 yards.
Penn State will bring its star running back Evan Royster to Kinnick on Saturday, who finally woke up for the season last week and is expected to perform well again this week; however, he will be going against a tougher defense than last week’s Temple. For the season, the senior has 57 attempts, 297 yards and one touchdown.
One of Iowa’s other questions this season has been who is the starting kicker. It’s been a week by week concern and once again it was answered by Ferentz on Tuesday when he said freshman Mike Meyer will start; Junior Marvin McNutt and senior Derrell Johnson-Koulianos get the nods at wide receiver. Both continue to perform well.
Adding a new twist to the game will be Iowa’s first-ever Black and Gold Spirit Night. Fans attending the game have been encouraged to wear black or gold to the stadium, depending on where their seats are inside. I will be wearing black regardless of where my seat is as gold is not my color.
And let’s be honest, it’s probably not anyone’s color.
When looking at the record books, Iowa is 4-7 against Penn State in Iowa City. Penn State has not won in Iowa City since 1999 and the Hawkeyes have won in the teams’ last 9 of 11 meetings.
I imagine Iowa is driven to win in redemption for their loss against Arizona two weeks ago; it is also homecoming at the university.
Let’s hope it’s a good game. The 7 p.m. central time game will be televised on ESPN.
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Written by Debbie Baratz