Game Preview: No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions at No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes

By Matthew Filipovits on October 11, 2019 at 9:00 am
Oct 5, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) passes during the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
© Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions return to Kinnick Stadium for the first time since their walk-off winner in 2017. They'll be met by a defensive-minded Hawkeye squad looking to snap a five-game losing streak to Penn State.

  Penn State Iowa
2019 Record 5-0 (2-0 in Big Ten) 4-1 (1-1 in Big Ten)
Head Coaches James Franklin (74-36, 50-21 with Penn State) Kirk Ferentz (168-123, 156-102 with Iowa)
Kickoff 7:30 PM ET 
Television ABC
Stream WatchESPN
spread Penn State -3.5

Two top Defenses

The Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes boast two of the country's top defenses, ranking No. 2 and No. 3 nationally in scoring defense. Both units do an exceptionally good job at stopping the run, with both allowing under 90 yards on the ground per game.

The Nittany Lions have moved the ball with relative ease will season, but this will be the best defense they've seen so far. On the flip side, the Hawkeyes have yet to play on offense as potent as the Nittany Lions. Something has to give. 

Iowa offensive Line Woes

The Hawkeyes' offensive line could not give Nate Stanley anything resembling a clean pocket against Michigan. The senior signal-caller was sacked eight times and ended up throwing three interceptions before it was all said and done. 

If there's one thing you don't want to have while facing this Penn State defense, it's a shaky offensive line. Brent Pry's unit put up a whopping ten sacks last week against Purdue, and if trends from the previous week hold for both teams, we could see a repeat performance.

Kinnick voodoo

For the past few years, Kinnick Stadium has been where seasons go to die. The Hawkeyes took down Michigan on a last-second field goal back in 2016 (which paved the way for Penn State to win the East), ended Ohio State's playoff hopes with a dominant performance in 2017, and would have derailed Penn State's 2017 season if not for Trace McSorley and Juwan Johnson.

Kinnick is a terrifying place to play, especially if you're a ranked team during a night game. The Nittany Lions passed their first road test with flying colors, but the stadium won't be empty by halftime in this one. This is going to be the most hostile environment this young team has played in so far. If they want to escape with a win, they'll need to get those jitters out quickly.

Start making your gameday signs if...

  • Penn State's defensive line continues to get pressure. We saw what Nate Stanley looks like when he's rattled. If this defensive line plays half the game they did a week ago, the Hawkeye quarterback is in for a long night.
  • Sean Clifford establishes himself as one of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks. Iowa's run defense is stifling, so the Nittany Lions will have to air it out to get into the endzone. He's taken major steps forward in the past two weeks, but this could be the game where he stakes his claim as one of the conference's best.
  • The secondary catches up with the rest of the defense. Three of the four touchdowns Penn State has allowed this year have come through the air, while the lone rushing one was set up by a big passing play. The starters have done their job, but the younger reserves have struggled to limit the chunk plays. Nate Stanley can make some good throws if you let him get into a rhythm, so the corners and safeties need to smother receivers all night.

Visit a witch doctor to reverse the Iowa curse if...

  • The woes we saw from Penn State's offense last week continue. The Nittany Lions were moving the ball with ease to start the but went dark for the better part of three quarters. Maybe it was the staff playing their cards close to the chest but if it wasn't, we could be in for a frustrating evening.
  • Iowa's run defense shuts down Penn State's rushing attack. The Hawkeyes are allowing just 85.6 rushing yards per game, good for No. 11 in the country. It's a big challenge for a Penn State running back room full of underclassmen. Ja'Juan Seider's guys need to be smart with the ball and make every carry count.
  • Kinnick Stadium proves too overwhelming for a young team. We recently saw a senior-laden Nittany Lion team need every last second to get out of Iowa City with a win. James Franklin knows what he needs to do to get his guys ready to play in this type of environment, but nothing can emulate the real thing.

Prediction in gif form

It won't be pretty, but the job will ultimately get done.

The Penn State defense will look to set the tone early and throw some creative blitzes at Nate Stanley. They do their job and Penn State forces a three-and-out to start. The offense will look to get things going early and get points on the board before the Iowa defense settles in. Clifford connects with Hamler on a big play, before we finally see Justin Shorter find the endzone to open the scoring. The defense continues to play lights out and Penn State goes into the half up 10-0.

The offense struggles out of halftime but the defense finally creates a turnover that gives Ricky Rahne and Co. great field position. With running backs still having fresh legs, the rushing attack starts to wear down and we see Noah Cain have one of his signature late-game drives. The Hawkeye offense gets into the endzone, but it's too little, too late. The Nittany Lions hang on for a 20-8 win.

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