If Iowa’s football team realized anything from its day off Saturday, it’s that it has a very favorable Big Ten schedule.
Nebraska’s 48-17 loss at Wisconsin was a vivid reminder to the Hawkeyes that it’s a good year to not to play the Badgers for the first season since 1994.
And it’s a good year for you if your Legends Division’s preseason favorite, Nebraska, opens the Big Ten season at Wisconsin. It’s not that hard in the Big Ten every week, Cornhuskers. In fact, nothing you encounter this season is to approach it.
Who is it a good year to play from the Leaders if you’re in the Legends (it still hurts to type those dopey division names)? Indiana and Purdue. Iowa plays both. Nebraska plays neither.
Although, if ever a good year existed to play Ohio State, this is it. And the Hawkeyes are missing out on it. But they also miss Illinois, which is resembling the 2009 Hawkeyes with white-knuckle wins every week.
But that’s all just jibber-jabber if Iowa opens its own Big Ten campaign with a loss at Penn State Saturday. The Nittany Lions won at Indiana Saturday, 16-10. In style points, it was a scoreless tie.
Indiana, mind you, has lost to Ball State and North Texas. Yes, a Big Ten team has lost to Ball State and North Texas. Just like a Big Ten team (Minnesota) has lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State.
But back to Penn State. In five trips into the red zone Saturday, the Nittany Lions didn’t score a single touchdown against the Hoosiers. Three field goals, two turnovers. That sounds pretty close to dysfunction.
Last year, limping to victory in Bloomington was a pretty clear sign that all was not well with the Hawkeyes. The same may apply in Happy Valley.
Penn State is going with two quarterbacks, Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden. You know the old saying that when you have two quarterbacks you have none. Texas, based on its 37-14 win at Iowa State Saturday night rotating quarterbacks, might disagree. But a lot of Penn State fans wouldn’t.
McGloin has publicly expressed disappointment he isn’t starting. Maybe he will against Iowa, since he outplayed Bolden. But I liked what Indiana’s radio announcers said Saturday, that neither Penn State quarterback is playing well enough to be doing any talking.
McGloin and starter Bolden both failed to complete half of their passes at Indiana. The Lions had just six points by late in the third quarter. Passes were dropped, three turnovers were committed, and penalties bogged things down though PSU piled up 464 yards.
“When your offense is struggling like ours did, you have something to fall back on,” said Penn State receiver Derek Moye, whose 74-yard touchdown catch of a McGloin pass ate in the third quarter held up as the game-winning score. “But we can’t rely on the defense all season. Sooner or later, we are going to need to do something.”
Penn State has been a foot wipe for the Hawkeyes. That sounds bizarre, but it’s true. Iowa has won nine of its last 11 games against the Lions. Iowa scored memorable comeback wins in 2008 and 2009. Last year, the Hawkeyes outgained PSU 148 yards to 1 in the first quarter in a 24-3 win, Iowa’s most one-sided in the series.
What does any of that have to do with Saturday? Not much. Iowa isn’t as good right now as it was in early October the last two seasons. And this is a road game at a place where 107,000 fans and the home team ought to be starved for a victory over the Hawkeyes.
If Iowa doesn’t play its best game of this season so far, it will probably lose. The same applies for Penn State.