Iowa City, Ia. — Second division, eh?
That still could happen, but at 7 p.m. Saturday, Penn State and Iowa play a Big Ten Conference football game at Kinnick Stadium, both with an opportunity to make a divisional statement.
For Iowa, it’s a chance to be 3-0 in the conference for only the third time since Kirk Ferentz replaced Hayden Fry after the 1999 season.
For Penn State, it’s an opportunity to continue winning after NCAA sanctions included allowing players a restriction-free transfer opportunity that cost the team top running back Silas Redd, among others.
“Both teams have a point to prove,” said Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde. “For both of us, it’s a big game.”
They’re both 4-2 overall and 2-0 in their respective divisions, however the Hawkeyes can participate in postseason games, and the Nittany Lions cannot.
They’re defensive-oriented teams – especially Penn State, which hasn’t allowed a first-quarter point this season. The Nittany Lions are such an early surprise, that there’s Coach of the Year buzz around first-year coach Bill O’Brien.
“We definitely appreciate the respect people have shown our program, but it’s just halftime,” O’Brien said. “We’ve only played six games. We’re only halfway through the season. In reality, we haven’t done anything yet.
Still, what happens Saturday night has Statement Game written all over it.
Statement: Greg Garmon
The true freshman tailback from Erie, Pa., who Penn State did not offer a scholarship, gets the starting call – unless Mark Weisman’s sprained right ankle made a miracle recovery.
“Greg has progressed every week,” quarterback James Vandenberg said.
Garmon and Jordan Canzeri, the other tailback listed on Iowa’s depth chart, have a combined 149 career rushing yards, including 35 by Garmon. Their Hawkeye totals are just 21 yards more than what Penn State allows each game on the ground.
“It looks like Penn State’s defense from the late 1960s,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, then added:
“I’m trying to remember a Penn State defense not looking pretty good. That front seven is as good as you’re going to find anywhere, and they’re athletic in the back end.”
Statement: Mike Mauti
He verbalized his feelings on NCAA sanctions during Big Ten Conference Media Days in Chicago. Now, he’s speaking in another way.
The senior is one of the top linebackers in the nation, with 57 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“If he’s not one of the top five linebackers in the country, I’m not sure who is,” O’Brien said.
Last July, Mauti spoke out against sanctions that were imposed against his school, especially the one allowing players to transfer and become eligible immediately.
“For the NCAA to say that they’re doing us a service by allowing us to transfer . . .is a joke,” Mauti told reporters.
Statement: James Vandenberg
Inexperienced running backs against a team that stuffs the run seems like an opportunity for the Hawkeyes’ quarterback to have an impactful game.
Of 11 touchdowns scored by offenses against Penn State, seven have been through the air. However, of 12 Iowa offensive touchdowns, only two have been via Vandenberg passes.
“We’ve been trying, and we’ll continue to try,” coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Keenan Davis has combined for 18 receptions and 203 yards during the past three games. “Keenan’s playing his best – the best football since he’s been here,” Ferentz said of the senior. “He’ll be part of our evolution offensively. He’ll be right in the center of that.”
Especially Iowa, when the Nittany Lions go for it on fourth down. That could happen a lot, considering Penn State has done it 20 times – three behind national fourth-down risk leader Army.
The Nittany Lions have been successful 13 times, nationally behind only Louisiana-Monroe’s 14.
“You have to be alert after a third-down play,” said Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who leads the nation in tackles. “You’ve got to be ready for a quick play.”
“I don’t think there’s a lot of mysteries in our two football teams,” Iowa center James Ferentz said. “You watch both of us on tape, and you know what we’re going to do. We know what each other are all about.”
Lights, Camera, Action
Iowa has a 3-1 record in 7 p.m., games at Kinnick Stadium.
2010 – Iowa 24, Penn State 3
2009 – Iowa 30, Michigan 28
2007 – Iowa 35, Syracuse 0
2006 – Ohio State 38, Iowa 17
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football