10. Two and Half Men. While most teams frantically search during fall camp to find a reliable starting quarterback to start their season, often with the same mania as a crack addict rummaging between sofa cushions to find quarters to fund his fix, the Penn State Nittany Lions have no such concerns. They've taken a trip to bountiful and returned with two impressive, although very dissimilar quarterbacks. They also have a 5-star QB recruit sitting on the bench for good measure. Most teams would blush at such riches, but the Nittany Lions and their fans are hardly shy about their glee. Expect Penn State to find ways to get them all in the game on Saturday as Iowa is confounded to the point of bemusement.
9. Charm School. Penn State linebacker Glenn Carson was asked during the week to assess the Hawkeyes and decided on describing them this way, "Iowa's a wrestling school. Penn State is a football school. We have to take it to 'em." While it is true Iowa silenced the Nittany Lions on the road before a sellout crowd in their most recent wrestling dual meet, nothing enrages an Iowa fan more than to have their university unfairly labeled a "wrestling school." Okay, so Iowa wrestling has won 23 National Championships since 1975, while Penn State football has won two, but that's the kind of low blow that is so offensive and unnerving it crosses the line and is guaranteed to distract the sensitive Hawkeyes. Because everyone knows the Hawkeyes often play before sparse crowds at Kinnick while the wrestling teams packs to standing room only at Carver Hawkeye, and football players routinely lose out on downtown bouncer jobs to wrestling back-ups and walk-ons, so it only stands to reason they're a little insecure about this whole football experiment thingy.
8. Mind The Gap. Penn State coach Joe Paterno is a child of the depression, which is to say he is self-sufficiency meets parsimony meets constancy. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, meanwhile, is a child of one of the most affluent periods in American history, the 1950s. These two coaches are separated by arguably the most extreme generational gap of all time, and thus could not be more dissimilar. While Paterno is the embodiment of tried and true block and tackle football and is deeply committed to ground and pound, unadorned uniforms without names displayed on the back, and a preference for players in the senior year, Ferentz's football entitlement program is about as stable as the Romanian tax code (trust me on that one). Ferentz's latest taste in offenses is the uptempo, no-huddle, shotgun passing attack that is in such fashion. He also is in the habit of tossing aside upperclassmen in favor of exciting but unproven true freshmen in an obsession with youth that is only rivaled by Elton John. So don't blink on Saturday because after he activates his new iPhone 4S, Ferentz may just install a wishbone version of the Wildcat with spread formation principles during pre-game drills as the Hawkeyes reveal a new uniform and Ferentz's latest fashion obsession, figure flattering denim. Expect Ferentz's Hawkeyes to arrive fashionably too late this Saturday.
7. Moye Money. Penn State co-captain and wide receiver, Derek Moye continued his climb into the Top 5 on the Nittany Lion receiving charts by delivering a career-high 158 yards on six catches in the win at Indiana. Moye is a massive 6' 5" target who was a Phil Steele preseason first team All-Big Ten selection. Look for the Nittany Lions wide out to be targeted early and often on his way to pulling in 28 receptions this Saturday which will tie him with Jordan Norwood for 4th all-time in receptions. Yep, the very rare air that is Jordan Norwood.
6. Quarterback U. Since 2000 Penn State has brought in two 5-star quarterback recruits and three 4-star recruits. Proving that super talented high school signal-callers know where they need to go, to go to the next level. The depth and breadth of talent at Penn State each year is staggering, and quarterbacks know from the moment they hit campus to bring their "A" games or they will find themselves fighting for snaps against walk-ons---who flock to the home of QB development. While haters will point out that not since George Bush (not this one, but this one) was president has a Penn State quarterback found his way on to an NFL final roster, the Nittany Lions will tell you, pointedly, that's their loss.
5. Fit To Be Tied. Penn State and Iowa have met 14 times as Big Ten competitors, with five of the last 10 games between the two teams being decided by seven points or less. When you consider the fact the Nittany Lions have played in only five overtime games all-time, and the Hawkeyes were involved in two of the contests, including Penn State's first ever overtime game on Nov. 4, 2000, it's a stunning reminder of just how closely matched are these two teams. Sure, the Hawkeyes won that 2000 overtime contest, 26-23, in double overtime, and then again on Sept. 28, 2002 the Hawkeyes captured the other overtime win, 42-35. And yes, both wins came in Beaver Stadium. But you have to believe the odds of flipping a coin 15 times and it landing on Hawkeyes yet again are enormously long. Right?
4. Still The One. Devon Still is a 6' 5", 310-pound behemoth of a man. One would think a human that large could not possibly go unnoticed, but for many Big Ten teams he has done just that. Still flew under the radar thanks to a string of misfortune, such as a torn ACL, broken ankle, but mostly for being slotted behind future first round NFL pick Jared Odrick. But last year Still began to emerge and was chosen Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. By the end of the season Still had arrived. In the Outback Bowl, playing heads up against Florida's Mike Pouncy, arguably the best offensive lineman in college football last year, Still would go on to have the best game of his collegiate career. Still would finish the Outback Bowl with seven tackles, including 3.5 for a loss. This Saturday he will be playing heads up against Iowa's version of Mike Pouncy, Riley Reiff. Uh oh.
3. Elite Models. While all the talk this summer was about Nebraska joining the Big Ten and allowing the conference to create divisions, develop new rivalries, and introduce a Championship Game, it's easy to forget that all this was made possible by the Penn State Nittany Lions some 20 years ago. Nebraska should read the history books on Penn State's immensely successful transition to the Big Ten. Their model was simple, show these Big Ten folk what real football is all about by being the rising tide that lifts all dinghies. And, since joining in 1993 the Nittany Lions have run through the conference like moldy cheese through a toddler. Bringing their long, proud tradition of winning football to the downtrodden Big Ten, Penn State raised the level of competition, uplifted the conference's profile, and improved the bottom line on the Big Ten's bank account. All things Nebraska should aspire to do. No one has been more grateful for the Nittany Lions than the low profile Iowa Hawkeyes, who have been elevated just by their very presence. This Saturday expect the Nittany Lions to mentor the Hawkeyes on how to lose with class and grace.
2. Hoo-Hah Stadium. The Nittany Lions tee it up for every home game in the second largest football stadium in North America, and fourth 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. [yes, this is a reprint but I just luv it.]
1. A. J. Derby. Need I say more?