Maybe playing Iowa isn’t the nightmare Penn State has always thought.

Penn State hasn’t won at Iowa since 1999. Let’s face it, the Nittany Lions haven’t had great success against the Hawkeyes at home either.

Under normal circumstances, we would be talking about what a nightmare it is for Penn State to be playing at Kinnick Stadium at night. Make no mistake, it’s not going to be easy.

“Well, it is; it’s a very difficult place to play,” said coach Bill O’Brien. “It’s going to be an electric atmosphere. The crowd noise is definitely going to be a factor, so we’ve got to make sure that we deal with that in the right way. We’ve got to practice with crowd noise and make sure that our players do a great job of communicating on offense, defense and special teams. But again, it’s not going to be anything like what it’s like on Saturday night, so hopefully we can just give them a picture of it, and then when they get there Saturday night, they have a better understanding of how to deal with those things.”

Difficult, yes, but a nightmare?

There have been some tough times at Iowa and against Iowa but what has happened on the field there is nothing compared to what happened off the field in the last year.

THAT was a nightmare.

The point is, this group of Penn State football players has been through a lot – more than any other group has ever gone through. What typically might be an intimidating or threatening week against a perennial nemesis probably isn’t quite as big of a deal now.

At this point, no outside noise means much to this team. That not only includes the history at Iowa but also all the coach of the year talk and the awards talk and everything else positive that seemed to surround the team during the off week.

O’Brien alluded to it during his weekly press conference.

“Yeah… we just try to focus on the task at hand,” O’Brien said. “You’re 4-2. You’ve done some decent things. We think we’ve improved as a football team, but like I said last week, this is the meat of the schedule and this is a very, very tough schedule starting with an excellent Iowa football team that plays a physical brand of football that our players need to be ready for, no question about it.

“So we believe that the players, led again by a really good, strong senior class, that these guys are focused on the game this week, and we really don’t listen to all that.”

You hear a lot of coaches and players talk about those things. But no other team has ever had to focus more because no other program has ever been subjected to what this one has.

So while many previous Penn State football teams have had trouble playing at Iowa, none has had the focus or the ability to block out outside disturbances like this one.

Iowa may be a tough place to play, but it’s not a nightmare to these players. They’ve actually lived through a real one.

Marty Valania covers football for Follow @EastRecruiting on Twitter.

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