Penn State-Iowa: Keys to the game

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Football weather is here, folks. No snow yet at Kinnick Stadium, but the conditions are brutally cold.

Here are some points of emphasis for No. 3 Penn State and Iowa as they lock horns later today.


Run to the edges -- Despite having the Big Ten's top center in A.Q. Shipley, the Nittany Lions might struggle to run between the tackles against Iowa standouts Mitch King and Matt Kroul. Primary running back Evan Royster prefers to run up the middle but would be better served on the edges. Penn State also should use Stephfon Green more and pressure Iowa's linebackers with the option.

Stack the box -- Shonn Greene has been Iowa's only consistent weapon on offense. The Lions need to make quarterback Ricky Stanzi beat them down the field. Expect eight and even nine men in the box to contain Greene, the nation's third-leading rusher (139.6) and a player defenders hate to tackle alone.

Make smart decisions in the passing game -- Daryll Clark comes off a concussion and enters a hostile environment with less-than favorable weather conditions. You can bet Iowa will key on Penn State's rushing attack. But the Lions have superior receivers and if there's a weakness to Iowa's defense, it's the secondary. Clark must recognizing downfield passing opportunities when they're available and use senior wideouts Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood.


Go Greene -- Keeping Greene on the field and the Penn State offense off it it is paramount for the Hawkeyes. No defense has consistently slowed down the 235-pound junior running back. Iowa needs to control the clock and pound Penn State's front seven with Greene and freshman Jewel Hampton, limiting third-and-long situations.

Red zone execution -- The Hawkeyes are tied for ninth in the Big Ten in red zone offense, scoring only 20 touchdowns on 40 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line. They won't get many chances today, so better execution is critical. Greene needs to be more of a weapon near the goal line, and Stanzi must make better decisions.

Win the field-position battle -- Iowa has been in every game this season, and the poor weather could keep the scoring down today. Punter Ryan Donahue needs to have a good day, pinning Penn State deep, so the crowd can get involved. The Hawkeyes have forced a decent amount of turnovers this season (20), and putting Clark in pressure situations is extremely important.