Wine Online: The Hard Stuff Awaits

Sept. 26, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Four non-conference games are history, and Iowa’s football team now faces a Big Ten schedule that looks like the toughest slate of league games the Hawkeyes have played in years.

It starts with Penn State at Kinnick Stadium Saturday night. Then comes Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State. All four of those October opponents are ranked in the Top 25 and considered to be contenders for the Big Ten championship.

Ohio State, ranked No. 2 in the nation and favored to win another league title, visits Kinnick in November, a month in which Iowa also plays Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota — all on the road.

The Hawkeyes don’t get a shot at Purdue and Illinois this season, which may be unfortunate. As of now, both look like second-division teams.

Iowa came out of its non-conference games with three lop-sided victories and a loss at Arizona that was largely self-inflicted. The Hawkeyes were expected to be good this season, and they have been. They look very much like a contender as the Big Ten race begins.

The defense has been as good as advertised. The No. 1 unit has given up only 27 points in four games. It has not yielded a rushing touchdown.

Some analysts believe the front four of Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns is the best in college football, and the dynamic play of Mike Daniels has made this unit even stronger. It has shut down opponents’ ground games, yielding an average of only 65 yards rushing.

Overall, Iowa has many more positives than negatives on the eve of its Big Ten opener. The outlook is much brighter than last year, when the Hawkeyes barely beat Northern Iowa and Arkansas State in September, then went on to post a record of 11-2.

Ricky Stanzi is leading and performing like a fifth-year quarterback. He has thrown for 999 yards and nine touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, only one of his passes has been intercepted, and that was a tipped ball. Stanzi has many capable receivers, led by big-play makers Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt.

Not long ago running back looked like Iowa’s deepest position, but Adam Robinson is the lone remaining veteran. He is a tough, hard-nosed sophomore who might now get relief from freshmen Brad Rogers and Marcus Coker, who looked good in their first action against Ball State.

The restructured offensive line, with three new starters, has generally performed well. Depth at most positions looks more promising after reserves played major minutes in the three Iowa victories.

The biggest concern is special teams, specifically kickoff coverage and who will handle field goals and extra points. Freshman Michael Meyer has been doing a generally good job on kickoffs. He also booted placements last Saturday, making six extra points and one field goal in two attempts.

Overall, Iowa has many more positives than negatives on the eve of its Big Ten opener. The outlook is much brighter than last year, when the Hawkeyes barely beat Northern Iowa and Arkansas State in September, then went on to post a record of 11-2.

But there are eight challenging Big Ten games ahead. To borrow a Hayden Fry expression, “Now the bullets start flying.” Enjoy the action, but keep your head down.


In the 17 seasons Penn State has competed for the Big Ten football championship, Iowa and the Nittany Lions have played two games that were decided in overtime, two games by one point, one game by two points, and one game by six points.

That’s a total of six very close games, and the Hawkeyes won them all.

In a rain storm at Penn State in 1996, Tim Dwight’s punt return for a touchdown highlighted a 21-20 Iowa victory.

The first big road win for Coach Kirk Ferentz came in 2000 when his Hawkeyes pulled off a 26-23 upset in double overtime at Penn State.

At Happy Valley in 2002, on its way to an outright Big Ten championship, Iowa survived a furious Penn State rally to win 42-35 in overtime.

In 2004, again at Penn State, Iowa’s defense turned in a brilliant performance and the visitors won by a baseball-like score of 6-4. That victory was critical in securing a share of the Big Ten title and a berth in the Capitol One Bowl, where Iowa beat LSU on the last play of the game.

Two years ago in 2008, Daniel Murray’s field goal in the final seconds gave Iowa a 24-23 victory, knocked Penn State out of national championship contention and cost it an outright Big Ten title.

Iowa’s 24-18 triumph in 2001 was a big factor in securing in a berth in the Alamo Bowl, where the Hawkeyes beat Texas Tech to give Ferentz his first post-season victory.

Under Ferentz, Iowa has won seven of nine games against Penn State. Five wins have been at Happy Valley, including last year’s 21-10 decision that put the Hawkeyes in the Orange Bowl, where it decisively thumped Georgia Tech.

This has become an exciting series with lots of entertainment, especially for Hawkeye fans. The all-time series couldn’t be closer . The teams have played 22 times since 1930, and each has 11 victories.