6 Questions with the HN Staff

Each week, Jon Miller, Rob Howe, and Brian Finley talk about that week's matchup. Read what they had to say this week as the Hawks look to pull another upset of a top-5 PSU team.

Which of the two teams do you think is closer to their November 2008 versions when they met in Iowa City?

Jon- I think it's Iowa.  I think Penn State is 30% or so off from what they were a year ago, and I think Iowa is 15-20% off of where they were at the end of last year.  I think the Hawks can be as good, if not better than they were a year ago, while I do not think Penn State can fly that high this year with regards to how they play.  But their schedule is so favorable, 10 wins is still possible.

Rob- Great question. I don't think either is close to what they were in November of last year. That said, I actually think Iowa is closer to where it was for that game. Penn State is overrated at No. 5 in the country and last years Nittany Lions were clearly the class of the Big Ten from start to finish. I don't think they are in that position this year despite the lofty ranking.

Brian- It's tough considering I haven't seen much of Penn State this year, but I'd have to say the Hawkeyes, as it's incredibly difficult to replace three top OL like Penn State is currently working through.

What does it mean if Iowa wins this game, and what does it mean if Iowa loses this game?

Jon- If Iowa wins, some folks might begin to let their minds wander westward a little bit, as in Pasadena.  I know, the road schedule is still a meat grinder, but man, let yourself enjoy the victories in life, be they in your home or on the field.  If they lose, they are still in the race for the Big Ten title as they are only going to improve.  I think Iowa is playing with house money a bit this week, even though none of them would say that.

Rob- If Iowa wins, it moves into the national spotlight as a Big Ten title contender. If the Hawkeyes lose, they move to the back of the bus in terms of national attention. But that could all change when Michigan comes to town in a few weeks. This game definitely is bigger for Penn State in terms of public perception.

Brian- If Iowa wins, it means Iowa's 4-0. If Iowa loses, it means Iowa's 3-1. This team seems to be more mentally tough, especially reacting to some early adversity, than previous years, I don't think the result of this game is going to start a major slide or spike in the performance of this team.

Do you believe Penn State holds an advantage in most of the intangibles (revenge, white out, etc.) for this game?  

Jon- Yes, without question.  However, if the weather comes into play as they are calling for, I think that could dampen the spirits of the crowd, literally and figurately.  However, those intangibles last for the first few series of any game, unless you take advantage of them.  It's like building a fire; you can start it, get it burning, but unless you add more fuel to the pile, it goes out.  Iowa's job is to weather the flames early and to not add to it with offensive mistakes or poor tackling.

Rob- I think the Nittany Lions do hold the intangibles, the revenge factor being the biggest one. I heard Coach Ferentz and some of the Iowa players say that they always want to beat teams that knock them off the year before. I buy that. But I think the get-back stance is greater for Penn State because the Hawkeyes "ruined" what they believed was a march to the title game last year. If Iowa can weather the attack early, it's got an excellent shot in this one. But that's a big if.

Brian- I think yes, but as I said in my previous answer, there's a mental toughness about this team, starting with Ricky Stanzi's ability to shake off just about anything and move on. That includes all these emotional intangibles, etc. As long as Iowa doesn't implode majorly in the first quarter, I think the Hawks can hang in there.

Can Iowa win if Rick Stanzi doesn't have a "great" game?

Jon- I think Stanzi needs to have at least a good game.  To me, that is no cheap or easy turnovers.  If he avoids those mistakes, I think Iowa can still win ugly in this one.  If he plays a ‘great' game, I think Iowa can win by double-digits.

Rob- I'm probably in the minority here, but I don't think Stanzi needs to light the world on fire. I do think he needs to be more efficient than he has been through three weeks. He can't give Penn State points with his mistakes. If he takes care of the football, throws it away when nothing is there and manages the game, Iowa will be in it. He'll also have to make some plays, but he won't need four TD passes like at Iowa State.

Brian- I think if he can keep it to two turnovers or less (assuming neither are in back-breaking situations, like in the red zone or to start off a half, etc.) that's the key. Obviously if he plays lights-out it's going to help the Hawks, but the defense and special teams are going to keep this one close, meaning one or two plays from Ricky might be the deciding factor.

Kirk Ferentz seemed a bit punchy in his media comments this week. Can you ever remember him being so Hayden-like?

Jon- That is a great question and great point.  He has reminded me of Hayden this week, quite a bit, sans the West Texas colloquialisms.  I think he may be po' boying it a bit this week.

Rob- Coach Ferentz always engaged in self-deprecating humor, but he seemed to ratchet it up this week. I think he was trying to deflect the attention from his players, particularity Stanzi, and onto himself by supplying the media and fans something else to talk about on Tuesday.

Brian- I've not really been around long enough to hear many of Kirk's personalities, but I definitely enjoyed reading his comments this week.

Who is your pick to click?

Jon- The easiest bet on the team is Ryan Donahue.  Iowa will need him in Happy Valley the way they needed Jason Baker back in November of 2000 when Iowa emerged with a win in overtime.  Donahue Delivers!

Rob- Ryan Donahue. He actually could take this title (if that's what you'd like to call it) every week. He's been the most consistent member of the team. If Iowa wins in State College, Donahue will see a lot of action and help the Hawkeyes win the battle of field position.

Brian- Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. He grew up in Ohio, natural high school rivalry with a lot of these Penn State players. He had Penn State's number last year, both with the big plays and the clutch catches. He's healthy, he's in sync, and he'll be in the endzone.

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