(Sports Network) Nationally-ranked foes in the Big Ten square off at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday night, as No. 22 Penn State comes calling on No. 17 Iowa.
Penn State is 3-1 on the season, having disposed of visitors Youngstown State (44-14), Kent State (24-0) and Temple (22-13), while losing on the road at top-ranked Alabama (24-3).
The Nittany Lions open their 18th season of Big Ten competition, and they are 7-10 in previous league openers all-time. PSU was 4-0 in Big Ten road games last year, and coach Joe Paterno's team will also play at Minnesota (Oct. 23) and Ohio State (Nov. 13) while heading to Washington, D.C. to take on Indiana (Nov. 20).
Iowa is also 3-1, posting home wins over Eastern Illinois (37-7), Iowa State (35-7) and Ball State (45-0), while dropping a tough decision at Arizona (34-27).
Iowa has won 18 of its last 21 games, and 20 of its last 24. Home cooking has served the Hawkeyes well since 2202, as they have won 47 of their last 56 home games.
The series between these two storied programs is knotted at 11-11, with Iowa having won seven of the last eight meetings. The most recent encounter took place in Happy Valley last season with the Hawkeyes prevailing in a 21-10 final. Six of the last 10 meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Evan Royster ran for a career-high 187 yards, and Collin Wagner tied the school record by booting five FGs in the Nittany Lions' 22-13 win over Temple last Saturday. Penn State, which also got 223 passing yards from freshman QB Rob Bolden, posted season-highs with 216 rushing yards and 439 yards of total offense. Brett Brackett and Justin Brown combined for nine catches and 146 yards to lead the PSU receiving corps.
The win didn't come without a price however, as starting OT Lou Eliades will miss the remainder of the season with a serious knee injury.
Royster, who tied his career-high with 26 carries against Temple, produced the 13th 100-yard rushing game of his career, moving him within 184 yards of Curt Warner's school record (3,398 yards). The Nittany Lions are 13-0 when Royster gains at least 100 yards.
There were some who felt Royster may have hit a wall as his production this season hadn't been on par with that of years past.
Paterno shared a recent exchange with his running back, "Forget about what everyone is talking about. Just play your game and we'll see what happens." The legendary coach continued, "I thought he played very well today, he got some yards, outside of the fumble which hurt us earlier in the game. But I thought he played very well."
As for Bolden, the rookie signal-caller is averaging 205.8 passing ypg for the year, and he has thrown three TD passes against five INTs. Derek Moye and Brackett pace the receivers with 15 catches apiece.
The Nittany Lions limited the Owls to 202 total yards, a season-best for fewest yards allowed, and came up with a season-high four turnovers, including three INTs. Temple only completed eight passes for 46 yards and converted just one of its 11 third-down attempts.
Temple gained 131 yards in the first half, but was limited to just 71 yards in the second half. Nick Sukay came away with a pair of INTs, while Michael Mauti, Nate Stupar and Chris Colasanti each logged seven tackles in the win.
Stupar knows that while the non-conference portion of the schedule was difficult, the Lions have their work cut out for them against their Big Ten brethren, starting with this week's game. "Iowa, they're a great team. They're a good, tough team. We have something to prove. They've beat us the past couple times. It's going to be a great game."
The Hawkeyes bounced back from their first loss of the season by blanking Ball State last weekend, 45-0. Iowa, which has posted two shutouts in its last four home games, piled up 562 total yards compared to 112 yards for the Cardinals. QB Ricky Stanzi completed 19-of-25 passes for 288 yards and three TDs, while RB Adam Robinson rushed for 115 yards and a pair of scores. WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos finished with 87 yards and two TDs for the Hawkeyes, who saw their season scoring average climb to 36 ppg.
Robinson has rushed for 385 yards and six TDs this year, while Stanzi has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 249.8 ypg with nine TDs and only one INT.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was happy to come out of the BSU game with a victory, but knows his team has a ways to go if it going to accomplish its goals. "It was great to get the win and it was even better to get out clean on the injury front. We did a lot of things well today, but we were a little sloppy in the first half, so there will be plenty to work on."
Mike Daniels led the UI defensive stand with six tackles, and was generally a thorn in the Cardinals' side all afternoon. "He's really been disruptive," Ferentz said. "He has great acceleration off the ball and he keeps his foot on the gas pedal."
Through the first four games, the Hawkeyes are yielding just 12.0 ppg, and the opposition has found it particularly difficult to run the ball, doing so for only 65.5 ypg. Iowa has yet to allow a rushing TD this season.
Jeff Tarpinian is the club's leading tackler at the moment, checking in with 32 stops -- 11 more than his closest teammate (Jeremiha Turner). Daniels paces the team with three sacks.
Big Ten bouts are almost always battles, a fact that doesn't evade Iowa's players and coaches alike. "It amps up a little bit now with Penn State coming to town," Ferentz said. "If that doesn't get your motor going, you shouldn't be playing."
This should be a war between two teams that are evenly matched. The home field advantage can't be minimized so expect the Hawkeyes to earn the hard-fought victory.