Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"EYE"-ing up the Hawks

Iowa has inched up to a three point favorite for the upcoming prime time clash in Iowa City Saturday night.  Why?  I have no idea.  So let's explore this thing called the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Here is their season to date. 

They are 4-2 with uninspired losses to teams they probably should have beaten or would normally, in a season not known as 2012, have beaten.  In that respect, they are not unlike the Nittany Lions, although one might be able to spend some quality time arguing whether Ohio and Virginia are higher quality losses than Iowa State and Central Michigan.  Their marquee victory, last weeks double OT tilt over the Spartans, is probably not any more significant than Penn State's come from behind win over Northwestern.  MSU obviously started the season ranked and even made it into the top 10 before watching thie season crash and burn with losses to ND, OSU and Iowa.  Northwestern has a better record, but not the strength of schedule that the Spartans boast.
So let's just call the 4-2 seasons between Penn State and Iowa a tie.  Let's look at some stats, shall we?  I post the NCAA stats for these two teams in table form, with blue indicating an edge for PSU and yellow an advantage for the Hawks.

As you can see, PSU has a slight edge over all.  There are 19 blue categories and 17 yellow ones.  It's like a damned Electoral College map of the US.  Turnover margin remained neutral.

Neither offense is prolific.  Neither defense is oppressive.

The three point spread basically amounts to home field advantage as the odds makers seem to think this is a pretty closely matched game.

In the end, this may come down to intangibles. 

The overall record, not taking into account any vacations, is 12-12.  Penn state won the last meeting in State College last year, 13-3.

Since 2000, the Lions have beaten Iowa only twice (2007, 2011) and have had such monumentally CRapp-tastic(*) efforts as a 6-4 loss in 2004 and an epic fail in 2008 when we were ranked 3rd behind the guidance of Daryll Clark.  With a few exceptions, these match-ups tend to be low scoring, defensive struggles, or more correctly, games where the offenses struggle.

But this is not Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions anymore.  This is O'Brien's Lions, and is a much different creature than Captain Kirk has faced before.

The Lions are on a roll, winning four in a row.  I feel they have shown improvement each week, with the exception of special teams, and it has been a long time since I've been able to say that about a Penn State team.  I have only been blogging since the mid-nineties, and I don't think we've ever seen a team continue to develop game to game like we have seen this season.

And while a new coach like O'Brien adds a degree of uncertainty to the mix (and certainly that is an advantage offensively), given that Ferentz and Co. have to actually look at game tape this year, we must keep in mind that the converse is true as well.  O'Brien has probably never given Iowa a thought before this past week.  Why would he?  He was too busy trying to prepare for the Steelers and the Ravens, although I suspect Hawkeye tastes much like Raven, if prepared properly.  And in a certain light, those Hawkeye uniforms look like Steelers.  I hope he doesn't have bad flashbacks!

In fact, what O'Brien has achieved is phenomenal.  How many teams would be 6-2 with a new coach, new system, NCAA sanctions, and losing 10-11 players before the season starts, especially at key positions such as starting RB, WR and place kicker?  NOT MANY.  At any level of play.

Penn State has not won at Iowa City since 1999.  But this weekend, the Lions are going to party like it's 1999.  I think we will see an inspired game plan that old Ferentz is unaccustomed to.  I think the Iowa D will be exposed just as we exposed the supposedly good front line of the Illini.  Mark Weisman is listed on ESPN as doubtful.  The bye week gives us a chance to nurse some injuries and to continue to innovate on offense.  Have you noticed that we see new plays each game?  I know!  What is up with that!?

That said, it will be a cold October night in Iowa.  Last time, we didn't bring the heaters.  I hope to God we bring the heaters.  No need to give your opponent any more advantage than they might already have.  I don't know if we would have won in 2008 with sideline heaters, but in my little blue and white world, I have convinced myself that we would have prevailed in that game.  But I digress.

It will be cold in Iowa.  At night.  Before a hostile, loud crowd.  Even with my Kool Aid drinking offensive wet dreams, I still think this will be a close, relatively low scoring affair.  That is just the nature of this particular beast.  I just hope it doesn't come down to a field goal!
Need a Blue and White verision of this!

(*) CRapp = Cedar Rapids (Iowa) App.


Carolyn Todd said...

Will be taking the Hawkeye Express to the game this year. Will try to bring home a win. Nice article!

Pay per Head said...

You have to put new alternatives and should keep the offense on the field to continue with that pace to get a good score the next game.