10. Em-Bolden-ed. This is not your father's Daryll Clark. Penn State's quarterback, freshman Rob Bolden, brings zero baggage into Kinnick. Although Penn State is about a touchdown underdog they might just have the edge by starting a quarterback who is not tied in the least to a recent past of squandered chances against the Hawkeyes. Expect Bolden to play very well under pressure by reminding his team...of nothing.
9. Role Reversal. Lost in the enthusiasm of the Hawkeyes dominant win over the Ball State Cardinals on Saturday was the fact that Iowa has yet to show it can beat a team with a winning record, and, more importantly, that it can win a tight contest. Last year Iowa stood strong in close games but the Arizona debacle suggests things might be turning. Since joining the Big Ten no Iowa opponent has suffered the wrath of Hawkeye close game luck more than Penn State. Twice Penn State has lost to Iowa by one point, once by two, and once by three. But as the old saying goes: "turnabout is fair play." In nearly every Iowa win over this period, Iowa was the underdog. This week Penn State is the dog, and every dog has his day.
8. Throwback. Penn State is taking throwback to a whole new, borderline all-or-nothing, motivational level. The Nittany Lions will enter Kinnick Stadium this Saturday wearing throwback uniforms from the 1940s or perhaps even older, and have asked their head coach from 1966 to stand on the sidelines for good luck. Shit...that's a lot of motivational karma.
7. Beavers. Penn State might be the Nittany Lions but for some reason they seem to also be associated with the beaver. They play in Beaver Stadium so maybe that's it. In any event, the beaver is a primarily nocturnal, semi-aquatic rodent. This game will be played at night and forecast calls for a 10% chance of rain. This is ominous....especially if you buy the flimsy beaver premise to begin with, and believe 10% is a statistical probability worth worrying about.
6. Color Blind. For the Penn State game the Iowa Athletic Department has asked fans to "check the map, then check your closet." When your athletic department becomes focused on color coordination, there might be trouble looming. It was just a year ago that we were all giggling at those Penn State fans who had hilariously chalked up a win for their Nittany Lions simply because they learned the game would be a White Out game. How'd that go?
5. Running Away With It. Penn State is often called Linebacker U, but it could just as easily be called Running Back U, thanks to a list that includes Lenny Moore, Lydell Mitchell, Franco Harris, Heisman winner John Cappelletti, Curt Warner, Ki-Jana Carter, Larry Johnson and now...Evan Royster. You may be shocked to know that Evan Royster is, despite all that sensational company, on the doorstep of becoming Penn State's leader in career rushing yards. He'll come into Kinnick Stadium needing a mere 185 yards to own the record outright. Expect the Penn State coaching staff to eschew their normal game plan so they can send a big "Fuck You Iowa" by having Royster lead them to victory while securing the most hallowed of Penn State milestones on Iowa soil.
4. A Leg To Stand On? The Iowa kicking game, at this point, is on the shoulders of a true freshman kicker. Mike Meyer passed up a partial scholarship at Northern Iowa and a walk-on opportunity at Iowa State to be a preferred walk-on with the Hawkeyes. He clearly made the right choice. But did Iowa? As a senior in high school, Meyer's numbers were gaudy; he drilled a 56-yard field goal (setting a conference record), was 8 of 9 on field goals inside 50 yards (including six from more than 40 yards out), and twenty eight of his 30 kickoffs went for touchbacks. One problem, he did all that using a tee, and he played an abnormal number of his high school games indoors. Meyer made one of two FG attempts in the low stress environment of the Ball State game to begin his scoring career. Well now autumn is in full, and that's when the wind begins to blow in Kinnick. Expect, on meaningful field goals at least, for Meyer to blow too.
3. Pygmalion. Fullback Joe Suhey is a fourth-generation Nittany Lion hailing from what might be the first family of Penn State football. His father, Matt, was a standout running back at Penn State who later starred for the Chicago Bears. His great-grandfather, Bob Higgins, was Penn State's second ever All-American, in fact his family has an astonishing 94 years of involvement with the Penn State program. Because Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the U.S. and the top state for pork exports, expect the Suhey to be treated like royalty by Iowa's defense on Saturday.
2. The Coin Toss. Under Kirk Ferentz when Iowa has won the coin toss they have elected to receive on nearly every occasion. Ferentz is unlike the vast majority of college coaches who instead choose to defer. Why? Well, there's the theory that Ferentz operates like an NFL coach, a league that until 2008 had no defer option and is filled with dudes who act still as if one does not exist. But there is also the theory that beginning on offense gives you a potential extra possession and allows you to dictate field position right away. A closer look though explains exactly why Ferentz elects to receive. Under Ferentz, Iowa is 63-17 when scoring first; 67-10 when leading at halftime; and 4-1 when tied at half. So when the coin is tossed high in the air on Saturday night know this: the statistical odds that Iowa will win the toss, elect to receive, and subsequently go on to score given the way this series has been going recently, have to be against them...just based on probablility and chance. Bottom line, when it comes to the coin toss the winner stands to win....everything.
1. Bob Davie. Need I say more?