#12 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
The Records: Penn State (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten); Iowa (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten).
The Head Coaches: Penn State: James Franklin, third season, 44-29 overall, 20-14 at Penn State; Iowa: Kirk Ferentz, 132-90 record while head coach at Iowa, 144-111 overall.
The Game: Penn State and Iowa square off on the gridiron for the first time in Happy Valley since 2011, which ended with a 13-3 victory for the Nittany Lions.
Iowa comes into the match-up against Penn State following a bye last week, while the Nittany Lions decimated the Purdue Boilermakers 62-24. The Hawkeyes suffered a 17-9 loss to No. 8 Wisconsin in their last game action two weeks ago.
So far this season, Iowa has found itself in a plethora of close games — three of Iowa’s five victories have come with a margin of victory of 14 points or less. On the flipside, the three losses the Hawkeyes have suffered have been within a score, with the largest loss coming by eight points against Wisconsin two weeks ago.
The Hawkeyes are the only team in the Big Ten with two players in the top-10 for rushing yards so far this season in Akrum Wadley (seventh) and LeShun Daniels, Jr. (eighth). With the two-headed monster in the backfield, the Iowa offense has averaged 167.9-yards per game on the ground.
Quarterbacking the Hawkeyes’ offense is C.J. Beathard, who has yet to lose a true road game in his career with the Hawkeyes. The senior signal caller is 9-0 in true road games since stepping foot on the field for Iowa. He’s averaging 180 yards through the air coming into the game against the Nittany Lions.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes are allowing only 18.9 points per game, which helps when their offense is scoring an average of 28.1 points per game. The Iowa defense has been limiting opponents to 377.4 yards per game, with 223.6 yards coming via the pass (compared to 158 yards via the run).
Penn State enters the game averaging nearly 400 yards on offense per game (392 yards). Of those 392 yards, 161.5 have been gained on the ground and 230.5 have been gained through the air. Last week, the Nittany Lions’ offense exploded on both the scoreboard and the stat sheet, scoring 62 points and gaining 511 yards of total offense against Purdue.
In that win, Penn State was catapulted by the performance of running back Saquon Barkley, who wound up with 277 all-purpose yards, 207 of which came on the ground. Barkley also found the endzone twice for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, finding Chris Godwin twice for scores in a little over three quarters of action for the Nittany Lions last Saturday.
The defense allowed 17 early points but gave up a mere seven in the second half to allow the Nittany Lions’ offense to pull away. Benefiting from linebackers Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell being healthy for the second game in a row, the defense forced four turnovers against the Boilermakers.
Against Iowa, Penn State will again be boosted by playing in front of a raucous home crowd — Penn State has won its other five home games, including an upset of then-No. 2 Ohio. Playing at home and in prime-time gives the Nittany Lions the upper hand even before the game starts.
To capitalize on the momentum of playing in front of the home crowd — a crowd that will be witnessing the first ranked Penn State team to play a game at home since 2011 — the Nittany Lions will have to come out firing on the offensive side of the football. Scoring first and keeping the crowd loud will be beneficial to both the offense and defense.
From a player perspective, Penn State needs to get Barkley involved in both facets of the offense: the running game and the passing game. Getting Barkley more involved opens up what the offense is capable of doing with both McSorley’s arm and legs.
The front seven of Brent Pry’s defensive unit will be tasked with keeping the Iowa rushing attack in check, but if the defense brings the performances it has the past two weeks, it should be in good hands.
Saturday night’s game is Military Appreciation Night at Beaver Stadium. Immanuel Iyke, a walk-on defensive lineman, is a former member of the United State’s Marine Corps. Iyke was profiled in this article for GoPSUSports.com.
Time: 7:30 p.m. EDT
Location: Beaver Stadium. State College, PA.
TV/Radio: BTN/Penn State Radio Network
Prugar’s Prediction: Penn State, 42-24
Image credit: Sandra Dukes/USA TODAY Sports