College Football Preview – Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

The most important game of the week will pit the Iowa Hawkeyes against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Both these Big Ten teams are in the top four of the current AP Poll, and the winner will become the favorite to win the conference. Penn State has won six of the last seven games in this series, but Iowa hammered the Nittany Lions by 20 points in Happy Valley last season.

Iowa will welcome Penn State to Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, October 9, 2021, at 4 p.m. ET on FOX.

College Football Betting Odds

Penn State +1.5

Iowa -1.5

Total 41

The Hawkeyes were very impressive in their first two games. Iowa hammered Indiana in its season opener and then bested Iowa State in Ames. They knocked off Kent State and Colorado State too before dismantling Maryland in College Park last Friday night.

Penn State was fortunate to beat Wisconsin in its season opener and had to hang on late to get past Auburn. The Nittany Lions are 5-0 though, and they are proving that 2020 was a fluke. They are coming off a 24-0 shutout of Indiana last week, and they are hoping to avenge last year’s loss to Iowa.

When Iowa Has the Ball

This offense hasn’t needed to do much to win games. Spencer Petras has been the definition of a game manager at quarterback. He is completing 62% of his passes for 943 yards with seven touchdowns and an interception. Tight end Sam LaPorta has been his top target, continuing an Iowa tradition that has seen tight ends thrive.

Tyler Goodson is averaging 4.3 YPC as the top running back in this offense. Goodson was seen as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate at the start of the year, but his only big game came against Kent State.

The Nittany Lions rank second in scoring defense, allowing 10.8 PPG. This secondary has been superb, allowing a scant 5.1 YPA, and the front seven has been solid too. Opponents are scoring on less than half their red zone possessions against Penn State.

When Penn State Has the Ball

Sean Clifford is having his best year yet with the Nittany Lions. Clifford is completing 67.3% of his passes for 1,336 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. The offensive line has only allowed him to be sacked seven times, but they will be tested on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions have not had much success running the ball. They are averaging just 3.8 YPC, so they will turn to the air a lot. Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington have had a lot of success, and Dotson could be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Iowa has a superb defense. The Hawkeyes rank third in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. They have bottled up opponents’ run games, but their real strength has been their ability to force quarterbacks to make mistakes. They lead the nation in turnover margin and takeaways, as they have 12 interceptions through five games.

Prediction

Penn State has a more competent offense, and a lot of Iowa’s success is predicated on forcing turnovers. The Nittany Lions will proceed to pull off the slight upset as Clifford won’t make too many mistakes.

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