Do or Die Weekend versus Hawkeyes

Story posted October 7, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Jared Abbott

It’s do-or-die time for the Penn State Nittany Lions this weekend as the first half of the season will conclude after the showdown with Iowa. Will Joe Paterno finally find a way to beat Kirk Ferentz?

Ferentz is in his 13th year as the head coach of Iowa. The Hawkeyes have won the last three meetings against the Nittany Lions. Penn State must break the spell this week or risk losing the entire season.

Penn State faces a tough Big Ten schedule in the second half of the season. They finish with three ranked opponents in the last four games. The only unranked team in the bunch is Ohio State, but traveling to The Horseshoe in November is no easy task. 

Iowa always seems to be a trip-up game for the blue and white. Paterno knows that Iowa is well coached and they aren’t afraid to come into Beaver Stadium. The game will not be pretty; it will be a ground-it-out effort to find a winner.

After Iowa, the Nittany Lions face Purdue at home. The Boilermakers are 2-2 this season but will struggle facing tougher competition in Big Ten play. If Penn State can find a way to cage the Hawkeyes and burn the Boilermakers they will roll into the Northwestern matchup with momentum.

Northwestern is a good football team with Dan Persa under center. He is a duel-threat quarterback who knows how to maximize his attributes. Last week was Persa’s first game back and he almost led the Wildcats to an upset over the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Persa has been bitten by the injury bug going back to last season. He spent some of the game last week on the sideline due to a slight injury as well. Persa’s greatest weakness seems to be his body. He is a tremendous athlete but he is finding it hard to stay healthy.

If Persa gets injured by the time Penn State rolls into town, the Wildcats could be in trouble.

These next three games will make or break the season with this weekend’s contest being the most crucial. If Penn State can get by Iowa they will have momentum to carry them through the Boilermakers and then they travel to Northwestern. If Persa is injured, or gets injured during the game, Penn State will have a great shot at winning on the road.

If those pieces fall into place, suddenly this Penn State squad will stand at 7-1 and 4-0 in Big Ten play, with the Illini coming to town. Despite the gruesome gauntlet Penn State will go through to finish the season, the blue and white could be in a favorable position.

Illinois is currently ranked 19th and is the definite favorite to reach 6-0 this weekend at Indiana. Penn State will be looking for redemption after last year’s embarrassing 33-13 shellacking in Happy Valley. Revenge mixed with momentum could be a potent combination come Halloween weekend when the Illini make the visit.

Hopefully, the blue and white remember last season’s affair with the Illini and will be fired up for this year’s matchup. If the Nittany Lions get a revenge win over Illinois they could be looking at an 8-4 or 9-3 season.

Few people would’ve thought that entering the season Penn State had a shot at a nine win season. There seemed to be too many issues with the quarterback situation and the offensive line. This weekend will be crucial for Penn State to finally name a number one quarterback.

In order to have any success through the heart of their Bit Ten schedule the Nittany Lions will need one leader to step up under the helm. The favorite appears to be Matt McGloin, who led Penn State to the Outback Bowl last season.

With one leader on offense and a suffocating defense, Linebacker U could ride the momentum wave through conference play with a victory over the Hawkeyes on Saturday.

If the quarterback situation remains as an issue and the offense is sputtering they will have a tough time to win six games this season. If Penn State loses to Iowa, they have a bounce-back game with Purdue, which most likely would be a win.

But, after Purdue, Penn State would be standing with five wins and the toughest stretch of their schedule still to come. It’s possible Penn State could finish 5-7 and miss out on going bowling. Going to a bowl game and having a successful season all hinges on the quarterback play.

This weekend is the most crucial game of the season. In order for Penn State to win, the offense must be running functionally and under the direction of a single signal-caller.

If both of those occur the Nittany Lions will gain momentum and certainly go to a bowl game. But, if neither of those occur, Penn State will finish 5-7 and spend Christmas at home this year.

Jared Abbott is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology. To contact him, email: jda5104@psu.edu.