IOWA CITY — While the weather forecast calls for temperatures tumbling into the 30s Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium, Iowa football players are preparing for something completely different.
They know 10th-ranked Penn State will bring the heat.
"When you put something on tape that you didn’t pick up, you have to expect another team to bring that at you," Hawkeye center Tyler Linderbaum said.
Even if 17th-ranked Iowa had not surrendered eight sacks in last week’s 10-3 loss at Michigan — the most given up by the Hawkeyes since Jake Christensen was dropped nine times in a 2007 game against Indiana — the Nittany Lions would still have their eyes on the prize.
For the second straight season, Penn State’s defense leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in sacks.
The Nittany Lions have chased down opposing quarterbacks 25 times during their 5-0 start, including 10 times in last weekend’s 35-7 win over Purdue.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is painfully aware of Penn State’s potential.
"They’re going to try to create all sorts of problems," Stanley said. "They like to blitz, they’re aggressive. They like to make it tough on whoever they’re playing. They’re a lot like the defense we just got done dealing with, a lot like Michigan."
The Wolverines provided the Nittany Lions with a roadmap to follow.
Stanley expects Penn State to attempt to search for the same holes Michigan found in the Hawkeye front five.
He expects them to test the blocking abilities of Iowa’s offensive skill players, and he expects to be tested as well.
"The answer has to come from all of us," Stanley said. "We all have a role in fixing what didn’t go right in our last game."
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz sees that as well.
"There’s no one magic answer," Ferentz said. "… The negative yardage plays are always going to affect you. Part of that was our lack of execution and maybe part of that’s Michigan being a really athletic, aggressive defensive team. That being said, we are looking at the same kind of opponent this week."
Ferentz labels the play of the Penn State defense as "disruptive."
The Nittany Lions rank second in the country in fewest points allowed this season, giving up 7.4 per game to sit one spot ahead of the 8.8 Iowa has surrendered on average
Penn State, which also leads the nation with 52 tackles for a loss, is using those sacks to allow just 50.6 rushing yards per game and has held three of its opponents to fewer than 10 first downs.
Defensive ends Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney rank in the top five in the Big Ten in sacks, combining for 10.5 of the sacks that 14 Nittany Lions have had a hand in so far this season.
"It’s a very talented defense, and we know we have to get the detail stuff down," Linderbaum said. "That (Michigan) film was tough to watch, but we can learn from it, too. It can help us moving forward."
Stanley, who had been sacked just six times in the Hawkeyes’ first four games before being chased down eight times last week, includes himself in creating a collaborative solution to Iowa’s protection issues.
"There were situations where I could have tried to get the ball off quicker, throw it away if needed, and avoid giving up the sack," he said.
Running back Toren Young said last week’s experience magnified the need for Iowa players to pay closer attention to detail work.
"You need to do the little things," Young said. "Eliminate penalties, get your hands in the right place blocking."
Ferentz believes that will lead to the cohesion he saw earlier in the season that didn’t make the trip to Michigan.
"We are going to hopefully have a little tighter plan maybe and be little bit tighter with our technique," Ferentz said. "With that, be a little better, a little more cohesive in our play."
Young said Penn State won’t give Iowa much of a choice.
"Their defensive line sticks out. They’re big, they’re fast and they’re physical," he said. "They’ll bring different blitzes and pressure. We’ll have to be locked in on those things."
Stanley agrees, viewing the struggles at Michigan as an eye-opening experience but one that will test the Hawkeyes again as they work deeper into their Big Ten schedule.
"We have to get back on the horse and prepare and get ready to play," he said. "Nobody’s going to take it easy on us."