It's back - Iowa week - the game that for whatever reason has given Penn State fits each and every season for the last decade.
Nobody will forget the 2008 game in Kinnick Stadium where the Hawkeyes crushed Penn State's hopes and dreams of an undefeated regular season and a potential spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Then, last season in Beaver Stadium, it was supposed to be the Nittany Lions that were going to get their revenge. But as 109,316 rain-drenched people watched in disbelief, Iowa's Adrian Clayborn blocked Jeremy Boone's fourth quarter punt, scooped up the football and took it to the house to steal all the momentum and Penn State's chances of winning.
And nobody can talk about Iowa-Penn State without making a joke about the 2004 game in Beaver Stadium. You remember, right? That was the sorry attempt at a football game that the Hawkeyes won 6-4 after intentionally giving the Lions two safeties. In all, the program from the Midwest has won seven times in its last eight games against Penn State - the lone exception being a 26-14 loss in Beaver Stadium to the Anthony Morelli-led Nittany Lions of 2006.
Why is a Kirk Ferentz-coached football team so hard to play against? The answer is easy - and it's one that has been a trademark of Penn State for a long time. Iowa is physical, it plays with heart over talent and it will not make mistakes while waiting to pounce on its oppositions. The problem for the Lions is that Iowa is simply doing it better than they are when on the same field and it's been that way for a decade.
Joe Paterno alluded to that at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
"You've got to beat them. They don't beat themselves," Paterno said. "Last year, we thought we had them licked and we made one or two mistakes and they took advantage of it. They blocked the punt at midfield and scored, and then they came back and intercepted a pass, took it to the 24-yard line. And the year before that, out there, they scored on a field goal on the last play of the ball game. Great job on the last drive. They're a good football team, well-coached, that's what it's all about, I suppose."
Is this the Iowa week where Penn State finally gets a much-needed win against the Hawkeyes?
We'll see - and hope - but I'm not holding my breath.
Clayborn, who is one of the most feared defensive linemen in the country, is back again this season for Iowa. If that's not a big enough problem for the offensive line to think about, Penn State will be without starting right tackle Lou Eliades after a season-ending knee injury against Temple last week.
Eliades' job will now go to ChimA Okoli, a redshirt freshman out of Virginia Beach. What an assignment for your first collegiate start, huh?
"I think Okoli deserves an opportunity to go in there as starting right tackle," Paterno said. "He's certainly going to have some problems. And we can't overreact. But our tackles are going to have their hands full with pass protection. We've got to throw the football some, because obviously we're not going to take the football and jam it down their throat. Nobody's done that."
While throwing the ball may and should be refreshing to hear for many Penn State fans, the running game is starting to come together a little bit. Evan Royster went off for 187 yards last week against a very solid Temple run defense. It was a much-needed shot in the arm for Royster and the entire offense. That's something that must continue against a Big Ten Conference that shows every indication of being very, very good.
If you read Internet message boards, some of you may have seen the reports that freshman wide receiver Shawney Kersey missed practice all week leading up to the Temple game and had plans to transfer.
He is, however, back with the squad this week and has participated in practice. Kersey is a very talented wideout with a major upside so it's no small thing to get him back in the fold.
Drew Pellman is a Sentinel sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.