Difference <25 in National Rank = Push
Difference >25 in National Rank =
Difference >50 in National Rank =
Difference >75 in National Rank =
Differences >100 in National Rank =
Note: The Redzone TD% and Redzone TD% Defense are calculated by me and not ranked by the NCAA. Determining who has the advantage in these categories is strictly my arbitrary judgement.
Disclaimer: Yes, I realize Penn State has played Akron, Temple, and Syracuse while Iowa has played Northern Iowa, Iowa State, and Arizona. In a sense we're comparing apples and oranges here. There is no need to point that out in the comments. This is just a fun exercise based on the information we have available at this time. It is by no means a 100% fool-proof prediction.
More analysis after the jump.
The Penn State offense and Iowa Hawkeye defense are pretty evenly matched. This will be an exciting chess match to watch every time Penn State gets the ball.
Iowa sucks at returning kickoffs more than we suck at covering them. (But not as bad as we are at returning them.) Something will have to give on Saturday night.
Iowa Hawkeye Advantages
The glaring advantage for Iowa is on special teams. It's not that their special teams are out of this world, it's more like Penn State's special teams are awful as we all know.
It's interesting to see that Iowa's defensive numbers are better than average, but not great. That is until you look their defensive points per game allowed which drops to an impressive 12 points. Yet when you look at their redzone defense percentage you can see they are at the bottom of the NCAA list. Every opponent that has entered the redzone against Iowa has come away with points. It seems like they shouldn't be that great at scoring defense, but when you break down the redzone efficiency further into what percentage of trips to the endzone yielded touchdowns, Iowa comes away with a very impressive 33% TD rate on defense. This is Bend-But-Don't-Suck defense at it's best, ladies and gentlemen.
Penn State should be able to move the ball against this defense. But when they get into the redzone they have to come away with touchdowns rather than field goals. This was the major failure of the first half of the game in Iowa City last year.
Iowa also has a decided advantage on turnover margin. Penn State has not been good at protecting the ball this season, and that will have to change.
Penn State Nittany Lion Advantages
The Penn State defense should have a decided advantage over Iowa's offense. Iowa has struggled to run the ball while Penn State's front four has been a brick wall. Penn State's defense should keep them in the game.
Penn State also has a decided advantage in the pass rush and getting to the quarterback. Ricky Stanzi should go down a few times and find himself rushed into some throws at other times.
Outlook for the Game
It sounds cliche, but this game is going to come down to turnovers and field position. The Iowa defense is pretty well matched with the Penn State offense. The Penn State defense has a decent advantage over the Iowa offense, but that advantage could be neutralized by Iowa's advantage (or perhaps we should call it Penn State's disadvantage) on special teams. It's great to have a defense that can force your opponent into a three-and-out, but when your kickoff coverage allows them to start their drive at the 50-yard line, your offense is going to be in the hole all day.
My overall analysis is that this game will be a lot closer than many people think. But if Penn State can protect the ball and play solid special teams they should win the game.