Tag Archives: Iowa Hawkeyes

D-Day looms for BCS

If you’re like me, you can’t wait for that Sunday in March, ‘Selection Sunday,’ where the NCAA Tournament brackets are revealed.

We now have a new selection Sunday, this coming one, where the Bowl Championship Series will make it’s selections for the four games, plus the given national title game (unless Texas somehow screws up the Big 12 title game)…

The looming issue for the BCS, what to do with a second Big Ten team. Many are lobbying for Iowa to be that team because afterall they played in the de facto conference title game against Ohio State and they beat PSU head-to-head.

Iowa deserves the nod, there’s no question. If the BCS wants to have any shred of credibility, they won’t stoop to the level of picking the marketable PSU over Iowa.

But they don’t and they won’t.

So Penn State, I feel, is headed to a BCS bowl, the Fiesta, where they will get Boise State or TCU in what should be three things. First, the highest rated of the non-title games, second, wildly entertaining and third, a huge cash cow for the BCS.

Every year we can point out problems with the bowl system. In fact all this talk that FSU might play West Virginia in a Bowden-farewell bowl is disgusting.

The BCS is nothing more than a business and Penn State is good for bowl business. All this nonsense about economy and people not traveling is just that, nonsense. People who say they have sources that tell them this or that about bowls, don’t.

Don’t buy it.

Do buy that when push comes to shove, Penn State is good for business, they draw, they always will, they have Joe Paterno, they have stars in Daryll Clark and Navorro Bowman, and if the Big Ten wants to shed it’s terrible image with the big games, PSU is the safest of the two picks.

Whether or not they deserve it, you can keep debating that until you’re blue in the face. But they’re going to be there.

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Midweek rumblings

Since when did anyone say Daryll Clark isn’t the right guy for Penn State, or isn’t a good quarterback?

All of a sudden there’s this “Daryll isn’t getting as much credit” push from Penn State.

Again, I ask, since when?

 

Daryll Clark

No one doubts that Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark is among the best quarterbacks in the country/Morning Call Photo

He’s been the face of the football team since his first collegiate start in 2008. The only time anyone on the beat ever doubted Clark was back when he was battling Pat Devlin…and that’s only because no one had any idea what was in store for either going into 2008.

 

We all found out quickly.

Still, some feel it’s necessary to state the obvious when it comes to Clark and make it out as if those on the beat have shunned him all the while yet someone is now championing his cause.

Please, we haven’t shunned him.

Anyone who’s read beat writers such as myself, Rich Scarcella, Jeff Rice, Cory Giger or (now Philly Inq Eagles writer) Jeff McLane, just to name a few over the last two years, knows we love the kid.

Dare I say some of us (me included in this argument) root for him to do well, which is supposed to be a no-no in our profession, but I will fully admit to being a fan of DC and maybe that’s come through in my work over the last two years and maybe it hasn’t. Either way I don’t care. He’s a good story, a better kid, and a great leader and we’ve all noticed.

Some just need to open their eyes and read a little more.

That doesn’t mean he is immune from stating the other obvious though. Penn State may end up two games away from back-to-back perfect seasons, both losses to Iowa in which Clark does share some of the blame. He probably still takes too much of it for this year’s loss. But he did not produce in last year’s loss, and outside of two drives, the offense stalled against them this year.

Those are facts. As tough as they are to digest, there is good and bad with everyone and everything. And those who get paid to be objective are supposed to point those out.

FIVE THINGS I THINK I THINK GOING INTO WEEK 9

1. Iowa cannot survive without Adam Robinson: Or can they? Is there a team that is better suited to handle adversity than the Hawkeyes right now? Let’s see, go on the road and win at Penn State. Check. Win at Wisconsin, check. Win in the final seconds on the road at Michigan State? Check. Is there a more charmed life in the Big Ten? I’m going against the grain here and will say they survive and win out.

2. Northwestern is not a trap game for Penn State: Sure it’s sandwiched in between Michigan and Ohio State, but because the Nittany Lions won at the ‘Shoe last year, there is no pressure to look ahead. If either team does, it will be Ohio State, but they will not come close to struggling with New Mexico State.

3. Speaking of the Buckeyes… Jim Tressel is feeling the heat when it comes to Terrelle Pryor, whether he wants to admit it or not. Tressel got a touch snippy with me on the Big Ten call yesterday and you can tell he is sick and tired of answering questions about Pryor’s development and confidence. They are, however, fair questions.

4. Going to East Lansing? Yeah, good luck. Especially with the season winding down. I’d say two teams in the conference, if they got do-overs for some tough losses would rip through those opponents now. One of them is Penn State, the other is Michigan State.

5. If you can’t run, you won’t win: More obvious than anything here. But two teams in the conference, Northwestern and Ohio State, have used their quarterbacks as primary rushers the last couple of weeks. Memo to both teams, stop. Yeah, Terrelle Pryor needs to run because he is a freak and it’s part of his arsenal, so I almost give Ohio State a pass there, but Mike Kafka? Hey Coach Fitz, are you trying to get him killed?

STILL ALIVE

No, not about the Big Ten, but my prediction of Oregon to the Rose Bowl is still very much alive and well, and while I love watching USC and would root for them if I wasn’t such a Miami nut or bandwagon-driving Notre Dame apologist now, I have to pull for the Ducks on Saturday night because being right and saying I told you so is better than, well anything else sometimes.

NOTRE DAME BANDWAGON FACTOR

Yes, I still believe they will win out and go to the BCS. Call the Bandwagon factor +9 right now.

Enjoy the rest of your week, Yankees in six.

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Big Ten Picks: Haunted ‘House’ edition

Two huge games on tap this week. Both with conference title implications, well really any game Iowa, PSU and Ohio State play from this point on has implications.

Let’s get to it.

Last Week: 5-1

For the Season: 43-13

THE UNDERCARD

INDIANA at NORTHWESTERN, Noon Big Ten Network

Hoosiers keep climbing, and sure, they should have beaten lifeless Illinois last week…everyone should beat Illinois. But this quirky IU offense, the pistol, causes all kinds of problems for teams.

Northwestern must find an answer for the ground game. If quarterback Mike Kafka keeps having to run the ball they cannot win and he isn’t going to survive the remainder of the season.

The Pick: Indiana 30, Northwestern 20

ILLINOIS at PURDUE, Noon ESPN2

Purdue has to be riding that emotional high of the Ohio State win last week and look, they’ve been close on a lot of games this year. They play tough, they are more balanced than in past years.

Illinois can’t get out of its own way. Enough said about them.

The Pick: Purdue 27, Illinois 10

MINNESOTA at OHIO STATE, Noon, ESPN

Minnesota proved once again last week they are too one-dimensional and when you take away that dimension, they can do nothing.

Terrelle Pryor is out to prove his crying fit last week was nothing more than just frustration in the moment, and this Buckeyes team, after yet another mid-season conference setback, has a lot to prove again.

The Pick: Ohio State 37, Minnesota 7

THE MAIN EVENTS

IOWA at MICHIGAN STATE, 7pm, Big Ten Network

Can the Hawkeyes survive another road test in conference? And if they can’t how does that bode for the future date with Ohio State? I believe in Iowa right now, you have to. They are solid, they play relatively mistake free football and they are, still, as I’ve been saying, headstrong.

Michigan State has the quarterback situation figured out finally…they are at home and playing well. Close. Very close game.

The Pick: Iowa 21, Michigan State 17

PENN STATE at MICHIGAN, 3:30 ABC/ESPN

Here we go again. Another road game for Penn State. But anyone who’s followed this series knows this is no ordinary road game for the Nittany Lions.

The Big House in Ann Arbor messes with them mentally. It really didn’t used to be that way until things went haywire in 2002. The ’05 happened, then ’07.

If you want to debate which team was better in 2002, go ahead. I’m all ears and I could go either way. In 2005 same deal. If Michigan was fully healthy in 2007, it might have been much worse than it was, however they weren’t and Penn State still looked like they had no clue what was going on.

Remember what that 2007 Michigan team ended up doing to Florida, by the way.

So here we are this year, Penn State, to me, is better, they should be favored and  they should be favored the remainder of the season. I believe they are better than any team remaining on their schedule.

In this instance, I can see where Joe Paterno believes he can win this game rushing the football and playing defense. I wouldn’t be stunned to see Chaz Powell in the backfield and I think the offensive line is playing well enough to at least slow down Brandon Graham.

If Tate Forcier scrambles, does he make enough plays vs. the No. 5 ranked defense in the country?

The first series is key on both sides of the ball for both teams. Happy paint swapping gentlemen.

The Pick: Penn State 27, Michigan 13

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Who’s alive, who’s hanging on

Five games remain in the Big Ten season. After yesterday’s action, here’s a quick look at how the race shakes down through seven weeks.

ALIVE AND WELL

Iowa: The Hawkeyes control their own destiny. Win out they win the crown, go BCS’ing in Pasadena, or maybe better, depending on how the rest of the country goes. It’s quite possible they could run the table but a one-loss team beats them out for a title game slot and it’s possible they may be the only unbeaten left when all is said and done.

What’s left: Road dates at both Michigan State this coming week, which will not be easy, and one at Columbus in four weeks. Though with wins already in Happy Valley and now Madison (both after being down 10), why can’t they win at these two places?

Penn State: They need to win out and have Ohio State (or someone) trip up Iowa, twice to win this thing outright and once to force a split and decision by the BCS on where they go bowling.

What’s left: Two tricky road games against Michigan and Northwestern in the next two weeks, that looming home date with Ohio State and a roadie at Michigan State. Iowa’s a little safer in my book, but Penn State should be favored in all these games and really the only team that can beat Penn State is Penn State.

Ohio State: Yeah, yesterday hurt, but beat Iowa and Penn State, and win out, The Vest and his boys can sashay their pretty little selves back to a BCS game. Even though they struggle they are still a draw.

What’s Left: Everything. They get Penn State and Iowa back to back. Can Terrelle Pryor rally the troops after crying on the sideline yesterday? We find out.

Michigan State: They are the super sleeper in the mix. They host PSU to close things out, and they get Iowa next week to make noise. And it looks like they have the quarterback problem finally figured out. They also avoid Ohio State.

What’s Left: They are eliminated with a loss vs. Iowa this week, so it’s make or break. After that it’s PSU in East Lansing to close things out…we’ve seen that story before.

HANGING ON

Wisconsin: They needed to win yesterday bad, they didn’t, this was after getting de-pantsed by Ohio State. So yeah, things are now bleak, but this is a tough football team who can run the ball, so you never want to count them out until they are really out.

What’s Left: They really have an easy road, unless you consider Purdue tough since they shocked Ohio State. But they host Purdue, and travel to Indiana and Northwestern. IU could clip them.

Michigan: They need a win over PSU to get the wheels running again. And you just never know with the Nits in Ann Arbor. Michigan is in better shape than the other 1-2 (in-conference record) conference teams.

What’s Left: Host PSU, at Wisconsin, host Ohio State. Not impossible, but not friendly either.

WHO’S ELIMINATED, BUT NOT REALLY ELIMINATED

IU, Northwestern, Purdue and Minnesota all need some help. I can’t buy into any of these teams even though Purdue did Ohio State yesterday. All these teams can bounce back into the middle of the pack and the race with wins.

WHO’S REALLY ELIMINATED

Illinois. They are a total train wreck.

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The Day After: Iowa Edition

Here’s your bottom line coming out of last night’s 21-10 victory by Iowa over (then) No. 5 Penn State.

The Nittany Lions weren’t the fifth best team in the country anyway. And that’s not one of those “because they lost that game” type of statements. That’s been the rap surrounding this team since an uninspiring opening performance against Akron.

Granted, sometimes in first games, you don’t expect to see the team you will see in November, but you expect to see improvement in week two, never happened. You expect to see kinks worked out by week three, didn’t occur and you surely start to see a team that is going to compete for any title start to peak by week four.

Nope.

My biggest issue with this Nittany Lions team going into last night was it didn’t have an identity.

It does now and it’s not one anyone wearing blue and white probably wants to hear, unless you like the plain and simple truth. They aren’t very good.

And Big Ten destiny is now pretty much out of their hands seeing as Iowa, no the sexy frontrunner in the Big Ten, has games at Ohio State and Wisconsin.

A further bottom line? Kirk Ferentz is the best coach in the Big Ten. Hands down. He’s better in big games than Jim Tressel, he simply owns Penn State, and his ability to rally teams in the midst of seasons in which things begin to head south is remarkable. Look at what he did in 2008.

If Iowa did one thing Saturday night they proved that the Big Ten road might just go through Iowa City and if that’s the case they are a nasty, nasty bunch and I wouldn’t want to tangle with them later this season.

Their brand of football is simple, blue collar, they don’t panic, they don’t let hype get to them, they aren’t bothered by 109,316 fans screaming in their ear either.

They just play Hawkeyes football and its effective.

There are three things I take away from that loss.

1. Penn State has no offensive line. None.  There’s potential, but the problem is for this team to anywhere near championship material, it needs to materialize in the next five days and start showing next week at Illinois.

2. (And this is by extension) There is no offensive player that just scares you right now. No offensive line means no running game, meaning Evan Royster is neutralized before he even gets a carry, and it means Daryll Clark throws awful interceptions like he did last night with no one blocking for him. Sure some of those throws were Clark’s fault but I can’t help but think that if he had protection, better time to let routes develop, he doesn’t make some of those mistakes.

3. There’s no pass rush. And that’s hurt by the injuries to the linebackers, yes, so when that unit is healthy it will take some pressure off Crawford and Lattimore and Hayes. I thought Lattimore played pretty well last night, but Crawford was a no-show save for one 0.5 sack. Penn State did have eight tackles for losses, Crawford and Lattimore had one each, but lack of pass rush has killed this team.

Correct those areas in a hurry, things can get better. Don’t and he’s San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl.

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Live updates from Beaver Stadium

Follow me over on Twitter for the updates from tonight’s game between Iowa and No. 5 Penn State.

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Source: Lee won’t play

A source close to the team has told me that linebacker Sean Lee will not play Saturday against Iowa.

Lee told reporters yesterday that the medical staff will make a determination on his sprained knee, but I have been told to not expect him on the field come Saturday. He suffered the injury in the second half last Saturday against Temple.

Middle linebacker Josh Hull told reporters during his conference call that Lee has been doing what he can to make sure he plays.

The same source has told me what we all expected and knew earlier this week that linebacker Navorro Bowman will be on the field against the Hawkeyes.

Don’t forget Nittany Lion Hotline is later tonight, no question head coach Joe Paterno will be asked about this.

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