Saturday, November 5, 2016, 4:30 p.m. Pacific time
Barney’s Beanery (3 locations: Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, and Pasadena)
IOWA VS PENN STATE
Well, so much for a cupcake schedule…Iowa suddenly finds itself searching for bowl eligibility in the home stretch, going on the road facing 12th ranked Penn State. The Nittany Lions propelled themselves up the rankings after shocking playoff contenders Ohio State. The Hawkeyes face top 25 teams 4 of the last 5 weeks of the season.
The Nittany Lions have exceeded expectations, and are riding a confidence high; putting up 62 points against Purdue. The talent is blossoming in State College and the timing couldn’t be better for Head Coach James Franklin. After disappointing seasons, Franklin was feeling the heat from frustrated fans to get things moving in the right direction. Confidence starts with your quarterback and Trace McSorely gives them the right balance, with just three interceptions on the season; and impressive accuracy on the long ball. McSorely has completed passes of over 40, 50, 70 and 80 yards consistently. The offense is built on taking risk and taking shots down the field, and whenever that isn’t working; McSorely takes things into his own hands with his lightening quick feet. While knocking off the Buckeyes, the world was also introduced to tailback Saquon Barkley. Barkley considers himself a perfectionist and currently leads the Big 10 in rushing yards. After putting up 207 yards against Purdue, he’ll be a nightmare for any defender trying to wrap up.
The Hawkeyes are hoping for a big road win and their 6th win of the season. This is familiar territory for Iowa, and the “White Out” isn’t likely to rattle them. The Jekyll and Hyde show has actually been more effective on the road, so there’s a bit of odd confidence rolling in. Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis is getting plenty of attention in the media these days, as questions regarding offensive production are at an all-time high. Nine points was never going to beat Wisconsin, so if you’re asking the defense to keep opponent totals under 10, you’re likely to lose. The coaching staff had a week off to fix the glaring holes and we’ll have to wait and see what they came up with. When the offense is working, the O-line is creating gaps for the tailbacks to break through. The recent trend slowing the Hawkeyes, are opponents stacking the box; daring Iowa to beat them through the air. The dare is paying off, as LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley are facing a wall of defenders. Coach Davis will need to reach deep into his bag of imagination and find ways to keep the Nittany Lions guessing as to what’s coming next.
The Iowa D faced a tough Wisconsin offense and played pretty well despite the loss. It’s not going to get easier this week and may actually prove to be more difficult to maintain a dual threat QB. Overall, there has been a lot of growth from the front line; they are getting into the backfield forcing plays. The linebacker/secondary has to keep fundamentals at a premium. Shoulder bumps instead of wrap up tackles have allowed short gains to turn into impact plays against Iowa. Until the offense can find their way, the defense will need to come to the rescue. Can Desmond King channel 2009 Adrian Clayborn and put up 6 points of his own?
Iowa’s opening possession will say a lot about how this game will go. One first down can set the tone, avoid the 3 and out and you build the confidence that the offense can get the job done. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would be just fine grabbing the headlines for one night upsetting Penn State at home! Let’s Go Hawks!