Two teams enter Beaver Stadium undefeated for a White Out showdown.
(#7)Penn State (3-0, 1-0) vs. Iowa (3-0, 0-0)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
TV: CBS, 7:30 p.m. - Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst), Jenny Dell (sideline)
Weather: A cool day with a high of 63 and showers expected throughout the day.
PENN STATE RECORD: 81-36, 10th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 105-51, 13th Year
VS. IOWA: 4-2
IOWA RECORD: 189-115, 25th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 201-136, 28th Year
VS. PENN STATE: 9-8
Penn State leads the all-time series with Iowa 17-14, but are 11-11 since joining the Big Ten...the Nittany Lions have scored 30 or more points in the past 10 games, the longest streak in the nation...Penn State also leads the nation with 9.69 points per game off of turnovers...this will be the first CBS broadcast from Beaver Stadium since 1990...Penn State is 10-3 all-time in games played on September 23, including a 38-0 victory over Mansfield in 1899...the last Penn State game played on Sept. 23 was a 21-19 victory over Iowa in 2017 when Juwan Johnson ended the game with a walk-off touchdown reception from Trace McSorley.
IOWA OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE
There are three main storylines for the Iowa offense heading into week four - injury woes, a new quarterback, and more of the same productivity issues.
The Hawkeyes will be without their biggest weapon following tight end Luke Lachey’s leg injury last week that may cost him the season. Lachey leads the team with 10 catches and 131 yards, and was expected to follow Iowa’s recent trend of early draft picks at the position. Iowa is also expected to be without starting running back Kaleb Johnson and his primary backup, Jaziun Patterson.
Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, they have some quality depth at those positions. Tight end Erik All, who scored the game-winning touchdown for Michigan against the Nittany Lions in 2021, will take on a larger role and likely be the new primary pass catcher. Backup running back Leshon Williams will elevate to the starting role, and is coming off a big day against Western Michigan with 164 rushing yards on 19 carries and 205 yards from scrimmage.
Former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara is Iowa’s new starting quarterback for the 2023 season. McNamara led the Wolverines to a Big Ten crown and playoff berth in 2021, but has been off to a pedestrian start for the Hawkeyes, completing 53.4 percent of passes with four touchdowns and three interceptions and is averaging just 139 yards through the air per game. McNamara is a pure pocket passer and rarely scrambles.
Despite adding an experienced, Big Ten champion quarterback to the mix, Iowa’s productivity woes have continued into 2023. Iowa is 121st in the nation in passing offense and 114th in pass efficiency. Their rushing numbers are much better in comparison, but still only 72nd in the nation with 151.3 yards per game. Iowa’s competition should only stiffen from here after wrapping up its non-conference slate of Utah State, Iowa State and Western Michigan, which have a combined 0 wins against FBS opponents after three weeks.
Unless McNamara is able to connect on a downfield pass or two early, expect Penn State to stack the box and use its speed to play downhill to shut down Iowa’s ground attack. If they succeed in stopping the run, they can very likely force some bad decisions by McNamara.
PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. IOWA DEFENSE
Iowa doesn’t make any secrets regarding their defensive philosophy — get pressure from the four man front, and flood the zone with defenders. This has allowed them to rely on the defense to produce short fields for the offense, or sometimes even get to the end zone themselves.
The Hawkeyes defensive front has not been as tenacious in recent years, producing just three sacks thus far into the season, with no player getting more than one after three weeks. They do have 11 QB hurries and 14 TFLs with a young set of players upfront who should become more productive as the season goes on.
Senior linebacker Jay Higgins has been the most active memebr of the defense after week three, leading the team with 32 tackles (putting him on pace for a 128 tackle season), a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. Iowa’s defense, which relies heavily on turnovers, has produced two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
We may be experiencing a soggy Saturday in State College, which could impact Penn State’s gameplan moreso than the Hawkeyes. Penn State should have no problem turning to Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, who have been playing well this season but have yet to break a run longer than 18 yards. More explosive runs should be coming for the duo, especially Singleton, but that may wait another week against a different defense.
Expect Iowa to throw everything they can at Drew Allar to try to disrupt the passing game. Allar is coming off his first average performance against Illinois, but if you factor in drops from the receivers and smart throwaways due to coverage, his 49% completion rate wasn’t as bad as it appeared. If Penn State’s offensive line can keep Iowa’s front four at bay, Allar should be able to find success finding the open receiver against the Hawkeyes zone.
Penn State walk-on Alex Felkins seems to have locked up the starting kicker spot after going three-of-four on field goal attempts against Illinois, with the one miss being a 52-yarder that was blocked. He’s four-of-five on the season and has made all 14 extra points after initially starting the season as a backup to Sandar Sahaydak.
Iowa kicker Drew Stevens is back for his second season with the Hawkeyes and has connected on 20 of 23 field goal attempts with a long of 54 yards. Punter Tory Taylor has been among the best in the nation during his four years at Iowa, and boasts a 46.1 yard average this season.
Penn State-28, Iowa-10
The match-up with Iowa will always make me nervous. I’ve had too many experiences where I was confident about the Nittany Lions chances only to see the Hawkeyes find ways to keep things close before making a play or two at the end to come out on top. Perhaps I’ll be fooled again, but I don’t see Iowa being able to keep up much in this one.
I don’t see the Iowa offense being able to produce much without a big day from McNamara. There are no signs pointing to that happening on Saturday, and even if he finds some early success, I’d like the eventual outcome of him regularly dropping back against this Penn State defense.
Iowa will do a good job of getting the Nittany Lion offense frustrated at times and take away big plays, but Penn State’s balanced attack will produce enough methodical drives to keep control of the game for four quarters.