By Courtney Baumann
The first week of Big Ten play is finally here, and Iowa is starting off the conference season with a tough foe — Penn State.
The Nittany Lions, which have moved up in the rankings to No. 4, are 3-0 and have scored a combined 141 points to their opponents’ 14.
It will be the second time in two years that the two teams have faced off, with Penn State earning the home victory in 2016, 41-14.
Penn State head coach James Franklin does not take Iowa lightly, though. In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, the second-year head coach said he has been going over and above researching and getting into contact with people who can give him insight as to what the Kinnick atmosphere will be like.
“You’re talking about a blue-collar team that takes a lot of pride in their fundamentals, and their techniques, and being sound, and how hard they play,” Franklin said. “I remember watching it last year and they upset Michigan, who I think was No. 5, at their place. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge, there’s no doubt about it, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Franklin noted the atmosphere as a challenge for Penn State, with its being a prime-time night game, the field having tight sidelines, and a loud band complemented by loud fans.
Another thing he is trying to ease his players’ minds about — Iowa’s pink visitor locker room.
“I’m not going to make a big deal out of it with our guys,” Franklin said, before making a joke. “I’m actually going to talk to our guys about it being a really, really nice gesture by the University of Iowa to welcome Penn State, since our original school colors are pink and black, and how wonderful it is and what a wonderful gesture it is that they painted their locker room pink for us.“
Mark Dantonio and his Spartans had an ear
ly bye week, and thus will be one of the only Big Ten teams not starting their conference season just yet.
Instead, Michigan State will play at home against Notre Dame in a night game, right around the same time as Iowa/Penn State.
After a dismal 3-9 season in 2016, the Spartans look as if there has been improvement in the program, and they have started the season with a 2-0 record, with wins over Bowling Green and Western Michigan.
Dantonio, who is in his 11th season as Michigan State’s head coach, said his team has proved to be a fun and competitive team so far this season.
“You know what I’ve learned about our football team is that we’ll compete. We’re a very excitable group,” he said. “We have fun. We have a lot of fun. They enjoy practice. They enjoy playing. They enjoy getting ready for a football game.”
For the first time in 11 games, Rutgers finally walked off the football field with a victory.
The Scarlet Knights defeated Morgan State, 65-0, on Sept. 16 — they scored just 2 points fewer than they could muster over the course of their last six games from last season to this one.
The win, although over a program that has not played a Power-5 team in recent years, could give Rutgers some confidence heading into Lincoln to take on the Huskers this week.
Rutgers head coach Chris Ash said Nebraska’s loss on Sept. 16 reminded him a lot of Rutgers’ stumble against Eastern Michigan.
“They had opportunities to win the game and didn’t make them. They had several plays that were there that could have changed that game and give them a chance to win it,” Ash said on Monday. “They are a big, physical football team up front on both sides of the ball. They have got good skill players, and they have got good schemes. Again, they just didn’t make the plays like I’m sure they wanted to in that game. It’s probably what they are feeling, too.”