Big Ten Football 2010: Comparing Iowa's Kirk Ferentz to Penn State's Joe Paterno

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Big Ten Football 2010: Comparing Iowa's Kirk Ferentz to Penn State's Joe Paterno
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Kirk Ferentz grew up playing football in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and like all high school football players in that area of the country, he dreamed of playing football for Joe Paterno and his Penn State Nittany Lions.

Unfortunately for Ferentz, Paterno "wasn't interested in undersized linebackers."

But he eventually rose up through the coaching ranks and now has consistently defeated the man he grew up idolizing.

Iowa's recent domination of the Nittany Lions has been well-documented.

The Hawkeyes ruined Penn State's chances of a National Championship in Iowa City in 2008 and derailed those same dreams in 2009 before they could even begin, this time in State College.

Besides those two wins, Iowa has only lost to Penn State one time this decade, and the Nittany Lions haven't won in Iowa City since 1999.

So why does Ferentz have Paterno's number?

He probably couldn't even tell you. But ironically he has adopted a very similar coaching style to PSU's living legend.

Like Paterno did at Penn State, Ferentz has brought a tough, hard-nosed brand of football to Iowa. The stereotypical Iowa team has a big, tough offensive line filled with farm boys and a defensive line that is typically among the nation's best.

That is not unlike the Nittany Lions, who typically boast a strong offensive line and a very disruptive defensive front.

Penn State, which has been considered "Linebacker U" for decades, has been challenged for that title by the Hawkeyes. Last year, PSU boasted one of the best linebacker units in the country, thanks to talented starters Navorro Bowman, Josh Hull, and Sean Lee.

But Iowa's unit, led by All-American Pat Angerer, was arguably even better.

Both teams incorporate a bend, don't break style of defense and typically are in the top 15 nationally in scoring defense.

On offense, Paterno and Ferentz employ very similar styles as well; both have had historically good rushing offenses, but have had very good quarterbacks recently in Daryll Clark and Ricky Stanzi.

While the on-field similarities are very obvious, the off-field similarities between Ferentz and Paterno are very apparent as well.

Both exemplify the typical Big Ten coach—respectful and competitive.

They recruit players that they can coach up at their programs and are always classy, win or lose.

Both have been at their respective schools longer than any other Big Ten coaches, although Paterno beats Ferentz by a longshot in that category. But Ferentz has had continuity on his staff ever since arriving at Iowa in 1999—his offensive and defensive coordinators have stayed the same since his arrival—and he recently signed an extension to stay in Iowa City through 2020.

Both coaches are proven winners, but win with class and help bring respect to their programs.

Although they will be standing on opposite sidelines Saturday, Kirk Ferentz and Joe Paterno are much more similar than what may meet the eye.

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