There are few people that could have predicted that this matchup would be as pivotal and as intense as it is, as both Penn State and Iowa will head into this weekend as two of the Top Four teams in the country.
But this could very well be the best game that we have ever received in this matchup that does have a great history of iconic games, but none with quite the magnitude of this one. Iowa (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) and Penn State (5-0, 2-0) are two top-four teams looking to remain unbeaten and maintain their inside track to the Big Ten Championship Game, which could help them birth a trip to the College Football Playoff.
Iowa will play host to Penn State in this matchup, and oddly enough, both teams have fared well in recent memory on the road when against each other.
The game will kick off at 4 PM from Kinnick Stadium in Iowa and will be televised nationally on Fox.
Penn State Overview
A new revitalized Sean Clifford has helped the Nittany Lions offense look much more confident and fluent this football season. He has only thrown three interceptions to this point in the season and has confidently found his receivers when needed.
They have struggled to run the ball, but that is not without trying. They continue to try to pound the rock against opposing defenses, and that is likely the same strategy they will take in this matchup against one of the stingiest secondaries in all of college football.
Receiving the ball, Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington are sure to be factors, but it will be key for Clifford to spread the ball around to other weapons, including the tight ends, in order to keep the back end of Iowa’s defense busy.
Defensively, teams have been able to expose Penn State on the ground, but when things have hit the fan, they have abandoned it and relied on the passing game, which has led to each team’s demise against the Nittany Lions.
Penn State will want to make sure that they close the gaps against a strong running back like Tyler Goodson.
Iowa will not wow you with their offense, but they have done a relatively decent job at capitalizing on the opportunities given to them by their defense that continues to create turnovers.
However, the key will be turning more of those opportunities into touchdowns. Their redzone conversion rates and overall conversion rates when passing mid-field are not where you would expect them to be for a team ranked in the Top Four. They have only scored ten touchdowns on 19 trips to the red zone.
Leading the way offensively will be Tyler Goodson, who has tallied 430 yards on 4.3 yards per carry and five touchdowns. He will be key against the questionable Penn State rushing defense.
Where this team lacks firepower on the offensive end, they more than make up for it defensively. Iowa currently leads the nation in interceptions with 12, and overall are a turnover-hungry team.
Granted, six of those interceptions came last week in their absolute route of Maryland; they still would’ve had six in the first three games for an average of two per game.
The secondary flies around and creates plenty of chances for their offense; it is just up to them to capitalize.
Iowa is ranked 7th nationally, only allowing 271.4 yards per game, and they rank 4th, allowing 4.11 yards per play. If they can succeed in neutralizing the deep threats in Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington, this game could tip in Iowa’s favor.
This game is sure to be a defensive showdown, and if we are basing this game purely off of the defenses and how they stack up against one another, you have to take Iowa.
Iowa is the favorite heading into Saturday by a spread of -2 on most books. There is a good shot this game comes down to the wire, and a field goal could decide it.
While Penn State has been the better team offensively throughout the season, I have some worries that Iowa could provide them with a difficult time moving the ball downfield, especially coming off of such a dominant win last week.
Iowa looks hungry for success, and this win will surely give them the boost they need to build a strong argument for the CFP.
Betting Pick: Iowa -2 (-110)
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