Key Matchup: Iowa's Offensive Line vs. Penn State's Front Seven

By Michael Stanley on October 10, 2019 at 10:00 am
Oct 27, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Ellis Brooks (13) during the fourth quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Iowa 30-24.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State's defense, particularly the defensive line and linebackers, has been absolutely menacing this season. They are the best in the nation in sacks per game and tackles-for-loss per game. With havoc like that, it should be difficult for any offense to get going and score points in bunches.

One issue facing the Nittany Lions, though, is their quality of opponents thus far. While they have dominated that competition, it has still hindered many media members' perceptions of them to a certain extent. A road matchup against a ranked Iowa team comes at a perfect time and provides an opportunity to silence the naysayers.

To beat the Hawkeyes, the Lions' front seven will have to get through a talented offensive line. When teams are able to disrupt Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, the Hawkeyes come to a grinding halt. Getting through that offensive line, though, will be a challenge.

Iowa sports one of the best tackle duos in the country with Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. They've both warranted first-round consideration at one point or another. In order for Iowa's offense to be successful, Stanley needs time in the pocket and the running backs need sizable holes to run through. Unfortunately, the offensive line is going to have to control the best defensive front seven groups they'll face possibly all season.

Penn State sports one of the fastest, most athletic, and most disruptive group of linemen and linebackers in the country. Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney are one the best pass-rushing duos in the country and Micah Parsons is a budding superstar. This helps the secondary tremendously because opposing quarterbacks rarely have enough time to sit in the pocket and pick apart Lions' defense.

If Penn State can get into the backfield to shut down the run game like they have all year and disrupt Stanley, a quarterback who is notoriously statuesque in the pocket, the Hawkeyes will have trouble putting up any significant amount of points. No matter how good the Iowa defense is, it won't matter if their offense can't score points. And for this Penn State team, it all starts with the Wild Dogs upfront.