Building the Ideal Penn State/Iowa Starting Lineup

By Nick Polak on October 9, 2019 at 11:50 am
Oct 27, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes offensive linesmen Tristan Wirfs (74) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Iowa 30-24.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Going forward, to attack our game previews from yet another angle, we're going to try something new. Each week, we'll create an ideal starting lineup from the players on Nittany Lions' roster as well as their opponent's, and further break down the spots where the Penn State starters were bested.

Also to note, I don't pretend to be an expert on Penn State's opponents. I haven't watched enough of them to truly know whether the Nittany Lion offensive linemen hold an edge over them or not. Therefore, the offensive line will be excluded from this exercise.

Fantasy Penn State & Iowa Roster
Position Player School
Quarterback Sean Clifford
Running back Noah Cain
Wide Receiver KJ Hamler
Wide Receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette
Tight end Pat Freiermuth
Defensive End Yetur Gross-Matos
Defensive Tackle Robert Windsor
Defensive Tackle Cedric Lattimore
Defensive End AJ Epenesa
Linebacker Micah Parsons
Linebacker Kristian Welch
Linebacker Djimon Colbert
Cornerback John Reid
Safety Geno Stone
Safety Garrett Taylor
Cornerback DJ Ojemudia
Kicker Keith Duncan
Punter Michael Sleep-Dalton

Penn State Starters: 9

Iowa Starters: 9

With a defense as good as Iowa's, to have these teams be fairly split here is probably expected. Let's dive into it.

While it was tough to not put Penn State's Jahan Dotson in as the second receiver, Smith-Marsette has been pretty awesome for the Hawkeyes. Despite mostly average quarterback play from Nate Stanley, despite what Iowa fans may tell you, he's been able to find consistency, grabbing at least 4 catches in each game, averaging 16.5 yards per catch. He's also rushed the ball five times for 43 yards.

Defensive tackle Cedric Lattimore has been solid on the inside. He's totaled 11 tackles and 1 sack to this point, and while those aren't necessarily eye-catching numbers, the Penn State defensive tackles haven't lit the world on fire statistically, either. PJ Mustipher nearly claimed this spot, though.

Having Yetru Gross-Matos and AJ Epenesa on the same defensive line would be quite the treat. I know Shaka Toney just had a huge game for Penn State and has been impressive, but Epenesa is one of the best defensive ends in the country. Despite getting a ton of attention from opposing offensive lines and seeing a lot of double teams, he's still put up 2 sacks and has 2 passes defended on the young season. With another week like last week's performance though, this could easily be Toney's spot.

Joining Micah Parsons at linebacker are Kristian Welch and Djimon Colbert. So far in 2019, these two have combined for 65 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and an interception. Simply put, they are Iowa linebackers. They're both sure tacklers, seldom make mistakes, and wrap up the guys in front of them. Jan Johnson and Cam Brown have been impressive, but these two have been very good.

Geno Stone and DJ Ojemudia appear in the secondary for Iowa. Stone, the Pennsylvania native who grew up wanting to be a Nittany Lion, is on his way to another All-Big Ten caliber season, already accounting for 20 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and a forced fumble. Ojemudia has also enjoyed a nice start, with 18 tackles and 2 interceptions to go with 3 pass breakups. With Castro-Fields struggling with injuries and the Penn State freshmen still finding their way, he earned this spot.

Finally, Iowa owns the kicking game in this one. Placekicker Keith Duncan has been rock solid, hitting on all 14 of his extra points and missing just one of his 12 field goal attempts. The punter, Michael Sleep-Dalton, has outperformed Blake Gillikin, averaging 43 yards per punt.

Let us know in the comments below, are you surprised by this squad? Do you disagree?

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