Joe Paterno is doing his best to separate the past from the present.
With Iowa in town for a matchup of 3-0 teams in the Big Ten opener tonight, it's been difficult.
Not only did Iowa derail the Nittany Lions' unbeaten season last year with a shocking 24-23 victory in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes have been a nuisance to Paterno for the better part of the last decade.
Penn State is just 1-6 in the last seven meetings against the Hawkeyes, and the Lions' losses have often come in sudden or embarrassing fashion and usually at Beaver Stadium.
Twice, Iowa has won in overtime - in 2000 (26-23) and in 2002 (42-35) after the Lions came out flat and fell behind 23-0 before rallying to forget a 35-35 tie, a game in which Paterno chased down lead official Dick Honig to express displeasure.
Of those two losses, the one in '02 stung worse because the Lions were talented, unbeaten at that point and harboring high hopes that ultimately died in a 9-4 season.
Then there was the brutally entertaining 6-4 loss in 2004 - when Iowa took a fourth-quarter safety because it was confident, justifiably so, that Penn State couldn't crawl into field-goal range.
If the Lions weren't going anywhere in '04, they were last year - until the second leg of a back-to-back road trip that started with the win in Columbus, a defensive collapse and the still-woozy performance by Daryll Clark caught up to them.
JoePa has spent at least part of his week attempting to deflect inquiries relative to the pattern the series has traced.
"I don't look back," he said. "The team we're going to play is not the team we played last year or the one we played five years ago. We're not the team we were last year; we're a different team."
Paterno even refused to list the common characteristics with which most Iowa teams under Kirk Ferentz have displayed.
"I honestly couldn't tell you," he said. "I think they're a well-coached team. Kirk does a heck of a job. They're solid; they hustle; they're strong, and they've been tough. Did they beat us last year the same way they beat us three years ago or four years ago? I don't know. I really don't."
Paterno isn't fond of the subject because he's going against a coaching staff that has gotten the better of him. The fact that the games have been close - when coaching is magnified - makes it worse.
Only Lloyd Carr, who beat Penn State nine straight times from 1997 through 2007, has tormented JoePa worse than Ferentz.
Over the past decade, the teams have had pretty equal talent, which is a credit to Ferentz because the Lions have better facilities and are located in more fertile recruiting territory.
In the nine NFL drafts since 2000, Penn State has produced 34 selections, including seven first-rounders and 10 taken in the top two rounds. Iowa has had 31 draftees, including three first-rounders and 10 in the top two rounds.
If the talent has been somewhat even - the Lions do have a big edge in first-round talent - the record has not been.
By further comparison, Michigan can claim 40 draftees, including eight first-rounders, during that time, and if you're looking for a team that should be dominating, based on pro prospects, Ohio State has had a staggering 63 players drafted since 2000, including 14 first-rounders.
When Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, the Lions beat Iowa - then struggling in the latter stages of Hayden Fry's tenure - twice by a combined score of 92-21.
Since then, the gap has closed, and if Iowa wins tonight, Kirk Ferentz will further cement his legacy against Penn State.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.