The need to know
What: Iowa vs. Penn State
Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
When: 7:00 PM
Out: Jewel Hampton (torn ACL), Bruce Davis (torn ACL), Jason White (sprained knee)
Questionable: Daniel Murray (hip flexor), Christian Kirksey (undisclosed)
Probable: Paki O'Meara (concussion)
Black and Gold Spirit Day: Remember, today's color scheme is black and gold stripes. If you are going to the game, check the section of your seats and make sure to wear the appropriate color. Students and odd sections - wear black; even sections - wear gold. Yes it is going to be cold during the game (lower 50s at kickoff maybe down into the 40s as the game goes on) so wear layers. If you are going to wear a coat, at least try to keep it off until after kickoff so the striped stadium will look cool for a moment.
Keys to the game
Third downs: Iowa has converted on over half of its 3rd downs and is 14th in the country in that statistic. This has largely been due to Stanzi improved efficiency this year, converting on smart throws that either are for a first or allow the receiver to run for it. Today though, Iowa will be facing a better defense in Penn State who has only allowed opponents to convert on third down 21% of the time.
Special teams: Everything points to Penn State having a decided advantage on special teams. Penn State has been excellent on kickoff returns and Chaz Powell has already taken one to the house. They had tried a few different guys out as the punt returner and found a good one in Devon Smith, who is averaging almost 18 yards a return. Penn State also has a good place kicker in Colin Wagner who has made 10 of 12 field goals this year. I don't think I need to remind you of how bad Iowa's special teams have been, but let's just say they have been no where as near as good as the Nittany Lions.
Quarterbacks: The two starting quarterbacks in this game are on opposite ends of their careers. PSU's Rob Bolden is a true freshman. He has shown his potential at times, but has been inconsistent. He struggled against the only good defense he played (Alabama) and has had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns (5 INTs, 3 TDs). He will be starting in his first ever Big Ten game on the road (though at Alabama was a pretty tough to place too). In addition, his offensive line in front of him will be breaking in a new right tackle on a unit that has been iffy to date. With Iowa's stellar defensive line, Bolden may not have a lot of time to sit back and make good decisions. If Iowa can get to him early and rattle him, then Bolden could be in for a long night.
On the other end of the spectrum is Ricky Stanzi. Senior, proven winner, multi-year starter, 5th in the nation in pass efficiency, etc... Stanzi has struggled some with Penn State's defense the past couple of years but has found a way to win both times. If he continues to play the way he has thus far this year, then he should be able to move the offense down the field and put points on the board.
Most Iowa games you would expect the ground game to be the difference, but I think this one will be won in the passing game. Iowa's defense will prove too much for the young Bolden and Stanzi will continue down his new efficient path.
Final score: Iowa 24 - Penn State 13