10. Irrelevance. After they way Iowa utterly embarrassed the conference in week one it only stands to reason that they've been shipped off permanently to football rankings Siberia. So superfluous is this Iowa team at this point, that at his Tuesday press conference the Brooklyn-born Paterno responded to a question about his upcoming opponent by correcting a reporter as to the proper pronunciation of Iowa. Said Paterno, "Anyone here from Brooklyn? In Brooklyn we pronounce it O-hi-o!" Paterno went on to declare his team "ready for the Vandals."
9. Linebacker U. Penn State (as they are known to their fans) is a veritable linebacker factory that has produced players that correspond somewhat favorably to the likes of Ray Lewis, Michael Barrow, Jessie Armstead, Nate Webster, Dan Morgan, and Jonathan Vilma...or Junior Seau, Willie McGinest, Jack Del Rio...you get the picture. So expect Penn State's linebackers to not only wreak havoc on Iowa's offense, but also to call the coin toss, lead the team in rushing and passing, and play the tubas and Glockenspiel at halftime.
8. Dangerous Liaisons. Revenge is a dish best served cold. And from the instant Daniel Murray completed his flamboyantly effete knee slide at midfield in Kinnick last year, Penn State has been wrathfully plotting their reprisal. Expect the Nittany Lions to apply a cold, detached surgical extraction of Hawkeye hearts. If the Hawks continue to arrive at opponent campuses in their customary jungle fatigues, flashing gangster signs to Ferentz's favored tune, N.W.A.'s "Fuck the Police," then you can expect more teams to make use of the revenge stratagem in preparation for the Hawks.
7. "Ward, go easy on the Beaver." The Nittany Lions play in the largest football stadium in North America, and third largest in the world. Beaver Stadium as it is called, is not named after a semi-aquatic rodent or even after the beloved TV character made famous by Jerry Mathers. It is apparently named for former Pennsylvania governor and one-time interim University President, James "Sugar Walls" Beaver who was known as Ole Pink Eye by his closest acquaintances. When those fans, considered the 107,282nd man by players and coaches, collectively recite their message of dread with the famous cheer "We are...Penn State" directed squarely at the opposition, it is nothing short of...a patently obvious claim that seems truthful and accurate.
6. Grassy Knoll. Most cite the 100,000+ fans in all white going hoarse in support of their Nittany Lions as the reason for Penn State's well regarded home field advantage. But hard-core football aficionados know better. Penn State's true home field advantage is actually the field itself. PSU has the preeminent Turfgrass Management program in the country and they deploy their top turf scientists to the grass field at Beaver Stadium, under a top-secret project called, Operation Cheating Bastards. Of course, some argue there is no conflict of ethics in exploiting such knowledge and insight in order to gain a competitive advantage. But make no mistake, they leverage their expertise to perfect surface hardness, manipulate traction, you name it, all in an effort to uneven the playing field. Expect the surface on Saturday to be a cross between a Peruvian jungle and a lunar landscape, or look something like this. Iowa trainers would be wise to bring metal golf spikes, Chuck Taylor high-tops, and a machete if they want give the Hawkeyes any chance at moving the ball downfield.
5. Evan Royster. Royster is most certainly not your garden-variety tailback; he is a Renaissance athlete. Case in point, despite a prolific high school football career, Royster came within a lion's whisker of focusing his athletic energies exclusively on lacrosse. This is just one way in which Royster is reminiscent of another homo universalis, football star Jim Brown. The Syracuse All-American's lacrosse exploits would ultimately earn him entrance to the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Other similarities Royster shares with Brown include a passion for art, civil rights issues and thinking he is faster than Franco Harris.
4. Joe Paterno. The man, the myth, the Methuselah. Since the turn of the century (not this century, but last century) every Pennsylvania schoolboy has at one time or another dreamed of one day playing for Joe Pa, and no one has had a sharper eye for in-state talent than Paterno. He saw Jim Kelly's enormous potential as a linebacker (when no one else did!), and he correctly envisioned success for an assortment of Keystone QBs like George Blanda, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Dan Marino, and Joe Montana--just not at Penn State.
3. A team only Hawkeye Pierce would love! While most of Iowa's best players are in the M*A*S*H* unit receiving treatment for mystery ailments, what's left is a threadbare assemblage of recruiting busts, gray shirts, and walk-ons. Expect something akin to the Huron massacre at Fort William Henry.
2. Big 10 Dominance. Since joining the Big Ten in 1993 the Nittany Lions have run roughshod over the conference. Bringing their long, proud tradition of winning football to the down trodden Big Ten has not only raised the conference's profile but produced numerous National Championship opportunities, for other Big Ten teams. Penn State has feasted in particular on the lowly Hawkeyes as evidenced by their head-to-head record against Kirk Ferentz-led Iowa teams. Look for them to bring all that history and success to bear on Saturday.
1. QB guru, Jay Paterno. Need I say more?