The Nittany Lions should benefit from the extra week of rest it got after the Ohio State game, a bruising affair that saw quarterback Daryll Clark get knocked out with a mild concussion. Clark practiced this week, and Paterno expects him to be ready for this weekend.
In the eyes of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, Clark’s ascension from backup to Maxwell Award semifinalist has been the difference maker for Penn State.
Ferentz figured the Nittany Lions would be a handful this year if they got strong play from their quarterback. Clark has come through, leading Penn State to its best start since 1999, and that’s a big reason why Ferentz believes this Nittany Lions team is better than that ’99 edition, which won in Iowa City 31-7.
“I don’t know if we’ve faced a squad quite as good as this one. In fact, I’m pretty sure we haven’t,” Ferentz said. “This is a much stronger team.”
If Iowa has any hope of springing the upset, it must protect the football. That’s something the Hawkeyes and sophomore quarterback Ricky Stanzi are struggling with.
The Hawkeyes might feel a bit cursed, having dropped three Big Ten games by five points or less while winning two by an average of 29 points. But the reality is this: when they turn the ball over, they lose. When they don’t, they don’t.
Last week’s 27-24 loss at Illinois was a perfect example. Stanzi threw a pair of picks, and the Illini forced a fumble deep in Iowa territory and returned it for a crucial second-half touchdown.
Stanzi, who replaced junior Jake Christensen after four games, was turnover-free in wins over Indiana and Wisconsin.
“The challenge for us is for us to be at our absolute best in every area, every phase,” Ferentz said. “All that being said, we’ll still need to have some things, some breaks, whatever, happen.”