A season that started with so much promise for the Pittsburgh Power is at its first crossroads. Win and keep pace with the rest of the teams in the division, lose and run the risk of falling behind to ofar too soon.

I don't like getting in the habit of labeling a game this early in the season a "must-win" but the Power need to get a win under their belts with their full squad. The only win so far was the season opener in Orlando which featured a large amount of replacement players for both Pittsburgh and Orlando.

Pittsburgh (1-2) is coming off a 63-40 blowout in Milwaukee that saw quarterback Bill Stull complete only 13 of his 31 passes for 185 yards and one TD before exiting the game in the third quarter. He also fumbled and was picked off once before leaving. His throws were off the mark the entire game, missing receivers high, low, and wide on almost every throw.

He's now on injured reserve and will miss at least four weeks of action. The onus for the Power offense now falls upon Andrico Hines. Hines was at the helm of that season opener in Orlando, and hopes to continue building the chemistry he started to build in the fourth quarter of the Milwaukee game.

Hines has built a strong rapport with Mike Washington, who he hooked up with on four touchdown passes in the opener. He also developed good chemistry with Lonnell DeWalt and Randy Hymes last week. All of the receivers are hoping that a new signal caller might mean more successful pass completions their way.

Look out for Perry Baker to see some action as he returns from injured reserve this week. Head coach Chris Siegfried mentioned in his press conference how Baker brings a new dimension of speed to the offense.

When all else fails, go with the bull on the ground. Tyre Young is the AFL's leading rusher in per-game yardage with 32, and he already has three rushing touchdowns in two games played. He was the best rusher in the AFL in 2010 and is hopefully going to be a major part of the Power offense moving forward.

The Iowa Barnstormers (1-2) are also coming into this matchup on the heels of a loss, but theirs was a one point overtime loss to the undefeated Chicago Rush. Three year AFL veteran J.J. Raterink will call the signals for a Barnstormer offense that ranks 6th in the AFL in scoring at 59.7 PPG.

Raterink is 72-for-106 on the season (67.9%) for 829 yards and has thrown 17 TD passes to only two interceptions. He has brought stability to an Iowa offense that struggled mightily at times last year.

His favorite target is one of the AFL's best. Jesse Schmidt already has 36 catches for 414 yards and 10 TD's. Schmidt was a first team all-arena wide receiver last year and is well on his way to repeating that feat so far this year.

Defensively the Power boast the number one yardage defense in the league. They only give up 188 YPG through the air, which could be a major factor in how well they do in this matchup. Chris LeFlore has two interceptions already this year and seems to be in position to make a lot of plays for the Power.

One area the Power continue to struggle with is their pass rush. Look for Neil Purvis to have a bigger impact in his second game back from injury.

This matchup comes down to a few key areas.

Keys for Iowa
? Attack the Power downfield. Pittsburgh seems more prone to the downfield ball. The DB's get twisted around a little bit easier on the long ball.
? Withstand the early onslaught. Pittsburgh will want to use the homefield emotion of the Consol Energy Center to their advantage. If Iowa can keep pace early, they could take the crowd out of it.
? Rely on J.J. Raterink's experience. He has the edge over Andrico Hines, and that could be the difference in this game

Keys for Pittsburgh
? PROTECT THE BALL!!! The Power are generating a lot of turnovers on defense, but the offense has been equally as generous the other way. If the Power can limit their turnovers and still keep up the pace on defense, they will see results in the win column.
? Get the ball to "Superman" P.J. Berry. He's been quiet for the most part on offense. Andrico Hines would be well served to get the ball to Berry and get him involved early in the game.
? Get back to basics. Pittsburgh has really lost their rhythm offensively in the last few weeks. They need to get back to what works and forge an identity offensively. They desperately need stability at the quarterback position out of Andrico Hines.

I think Iowa has the better quarterback in J.J. Raterink and top receiver Jesse Schmidt will be the best receiver on the field Friday night. That doesn't mean Iowa is a shoo-in to win. I think Pittsburgh has better talent overall on offense, and I think the defensive edge plus homefield advantage should play into Pittsburgh's hand in this one.

Posted in College Sports

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