I really only see 2 scenarios this week: either a nailbiter to the end or a complete washout. If Penn State can get out to an early lead and makes Iowa chase it, that’s doesn’t play into their strengths at all, but the Nittany Lion offense wasn’t all that impressive the last couple of weeks you say as if they didn’t just put it in neutral and coast once they got a comfortable lead. Obviously, not turning the ball over is the key and letting Jordan Stout bomb it on punts and kickoffs will play a big role too. That said, while I’m sure I’ll get more nervous on Saturday, I really don’t have any jitters about the game at this point.
Penn State 31, Iowa 17
I am legitimately terrified of this game. Horrified. Panicked. I look at Iowa and I see a team that is absolutely not going to beat you straight up, but rather drag you down into the mud, and then convince you to beat yourself. Iowa feasts off of turnovers and short fields, which doesn’t seem sustainable, except for the fact that THEY’VE SUSTAINED IT FOR FIVE STRAIGHT WEEKS. Penn State has a better defense than anything Iowa has faced, so even if the offense poops its pants, I don’t expect Iowa to put up a ton of points. I just have enough lingering doubts about the offense - lack of a consistent run game, some continuing concerns about Clifford and turnovers, the OL (particularly the interior) having issues - that I don’t think Penn State is going to put up a ton either.
Iowa does what Iowa does, and makes this a rock fight. The offense struggles and commits a couple of turnovers, which the defense valiantly attempts to stop, but ultimately the Hawkeyes break through. A late pick on a potential game-winning drive seals it.
Iowa 17, Penn State 14
For all the talk about how great Iowa’s defense is and how Penn State’s interior offensive line has issues, I haven’t seen nearly as much talk about how ferocious PSU’s defense is and how the Hawkeyes have similar IOL issues. The key to this game is the pass protection that has been solid overall continues to be solid this weekend and give Cliff time to work through his progressions and take off an run, as a last resort. That, and Cliff continuing to have great decision-making (brain fart INT against Indiana aside).
Perhaps it’s over-confidence on my part, but I can’t shake the feeling that PSU will take care of the ball well enough to the point they only turn it over once, and Jordan Stout’s punting will flip field position and force Iowa’s offense to have to consistently march 70-plus yards downfield to score TD’s. Jahan Dotson will do his usual thing and keep his TD streak alive, while Iowa keying in on him opens up opportunities for Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Brenton Strange, and Theo Johnson to do work. It will be a rock fight, but PSU is more capable of throwing haymakers, so give me the good guys on the road.
Penn State 20, Iowa 16
This is truly a toss-up game. I think Penn State is the better team, but Iowa’s penchant for turnovers and the overall magic of Kinnick means that the Nittany Lions have a small window for mistakes. Because of that I’m leaning toward a loss, but one that hopefully Penn State will get back in December.
Iowa 21, Penn State 20
Well, here we go, a top 4 matchup at Kinnick Stadium the place where undefeated top 10 teams go to die. Well, that is, unless your coach is James Franklin who is 2-0 while coaching an undefeated top 10 squad at Kinnick.
Iowa lives on turnovers. Their offense is dead last in the B1G in YPG and toward the bottom of the FBS in yards per play and plays per drive. It’s simple take care of the ball and the Hawkeyes will struggle to move the ball and score.
This will be the biggest test yet for the new and improved Sean Clifford if he can avoid the happy feet and bad decisions that have plagued him in big road environments like this in the past the Nittany Lions should be just fine. Cliff will do just that as the Nittany Lion defense, led by a defensive line that should be able to have success against an undersized Iowa offensive line, harasses Spencer Petras all afternoon long as Penn State moves to 6-0.
Penn State 23, Iowa 17
I’m super nervous, guys. Iowa’s defense is opportunistic, and although Sean Clifford has been pretty efficient, I wonder if he’s due for a tough day. (This should go without saying, but I hope he doesn’t do that). Since Clifford seems to become super accurate when he’s on the run, maybe the pass rush will enable him to pick apart the defense?
Anyway, I think Kinnick and Clifford are a bad combo.
Iowa 24, Penn State 21 (please be wrong please be wrong please be wrong)
For about two weeks, I was telling everyone how I didn’t think Iowa is that good and how I think Mike Yurcich will pick the Hawkeyes apart defensively. I still don’t think Iowa is that good, but last week made me feel a little uneasy about Penn State offensively. Sean Clifford made some icky throws and while the run game posted good numbers, Penn State couldn’t run in obvious run scenarios. I think this game ends up close, but give me Iowa in an ugly one.
Iowa 17, Penn State 14
I was prepared to call a 13-10 game, but both teams will likely have a momentum-shifting big play at some point. I’ll go with Tyler Goodson slicing his way for six on a screen, as well as Jahan Dotson breaking free on a punt return. Although, a pick-six is also a real possibility for either defense.
Other than that, I’m expecting a total slobberknocker for four quarters. We’ll see plenty of great defense, hard hits, and two teams leaving it all on the field. While Penn State’s struggles in the run game on short yardage situations gives me great pause, the Nittany Lions seem to have a slight advantage thanks to the playmakers on offense.
Jaquan Brisker shines under the bright spotlight once again with a performance that includes a game-sealing interception that puts him on the shortlist for the Thorpe Award. Ellis Brooks gives a masterful performance in the middle with 10 tackles, while PJ Mustipher helps thwart the run game with three negative tackles and impacting plays throughout the afternoon. On offense, Parker Washington comes up big to lead the team in receiving yards, while Clifford makes a huge impact with his legs to produce several key runs that give the offense a spark at the right moment.
Let’s do this.
Penn State 20, Iowa 17