Pre-Season Countdown: #5

At this point, things change dramatically.  The last seven games (#12 thru #6) are very winnable games.  Penn State should win them.  That doesn’t mean they will, but on paper, that should be seven wins.  As such, we would be bowl eligible.  Toilet Bowl eligible.

But these next five games . . . these will separate the wheat from the chaff.  The contenders from the pretenders. 

Our nominees for #5 include:  Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.  This is a formidable group, and if the 2011 Penn State team doesn’t show some major improvement over the 2010 version, we will be staring down the barrel of five losses here.  All but Iowa are ranked in various pre-season polls.

So is it any surprise that the #5 honor goes to . . . .

IOWA.

It’s a four-letter word.  So is Ohio.  And Bama.  And Corn.  Wisk?

What can you say about Iowa?  It’s the cornfield that separates Minnesota from Missouri.

For whatever reasons, there are just some coaches that Paterno cannot figure out.  Bear Bryant.  John Cooper.  Lloyd Carr.  And among the worst . . . Pennsylvania native Kirk Ferentz.

Seriously, in the annuls of college football, Iowa shouldn’t be in the same chapter as Alabama, Ohio State or THEM.  No offense, Iowa.  You are what you are.  There’s the Iowa Caucuses, so you’ve got that going for you.

Yet, this is a team that despite not being able to win anything significant, always seems to be able to beat Penn State.  This is a team that can stumble its way to a loss against the Pittsburgh Panthers, but then play like the freaking Pittsburgh Steelers when they face us.  (They did that in 2008 and have a chance to repeat that feat this season, although I doubt we will be ranked 3rd when we play them.)  Perhaps we should be honored that they save their best game for us.  Perhaps they should be honored that we always find a way to lose this game.

Iowa will return only 11 starters from a squad that went 8-5 last season, beating Missouri in a bowl.  They only lost to the Badgers by a point, to the Buckeyes by 3, but then lost to Minnesota.  Michigan State pwned them, much the same way Iowa has pwned this series.

Gone forever is the Stanzi Scheme.  I’m doing jazz hands just thinking about it.  The offensive line will largely be intact and solid.  But will there be anything to protect? Coker looked good at RB in the Insight Bowl (219 yards + MVP), and with a veteran line, should take some pressure off new quarterback, junior James Vandenberg, who threw only 8 passes last year.  WR McNutt is 5 receptions away from tying Iowa’s career record holder, so there’s someone to throw to.

But there is a lot of rebuilding on the defensive line, and to make matters worse, special teams have been less than special.  They cost the Hawks a couple of games last year.

All in all, they are a team on par with Penn State.  I think Penn State is better on paper, and paper beats rock, but I have no idea how that means anything here.  Questions at QB. A couple good skill players here and there.  Offensive line is their strength.  Defensive line may be ours.

Given this is a home game for PSU, that ought to amount for something.  Well forget that.  White Out was a fizz out.  We play Iowa no better at home than any other damned place in the world.  I still can’t get the nightmare of 6-4 out of my mind.

Prediction:  For the sake of my sanity and all that is holy, PENN STATE MUST WIN THIS GAME.  This Iowa team will probably be no weaker in the near future than they are this season.  We must strike while the oven is hot and pop the corn while we can.  The game will be close because for the life of me, there isn’t enough Kool Aid in the world to make me think we could defeat these guys.  I know how the Buffalo Bills feel about Super Bowls.  It defies all explanation.  I’d rather have corn stuck in my teeth for the next year than lose another game to Iowa.

Cpl. Radar O’Ferentz of Ottumwa, Iowa
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Filed under analysis, Big Ten, football, Iowa, Penn State, Pre-season, prediction

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