Game Preview: Penn State vs. Iowa
Brian McLaughlin, Andrew Destin, Jack Flanagan and Matt White preview Iowa vs. Penn State:
Fresh off a 23-0 thrashing of Maryland, the No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes travel to State College, PA to face the No. 17 Penn State Nittany Lions, a team that barely escaped Bloomington, IN with a 33-28 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers.
Iowa enters this contest with a 6-1 record and a three-game win streak with its only loss coming on a heartbreaking last-second loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. The Hawkeyes pose a well-balanced attack on offense, but their leader is junior quarterback Nathan Stanley. Stanley has thrown for over 300 yards in three games this season, although his past outing against Maryland was his worst to date, completing 11 of 22 passes for only 86 yards.
While the passing attack may have had a down game, the Hawkeyes’ rushing attack proved quite the opposite, being paced by sophomore running back Ivory Kelly-Martin's 98 yards on 24 carries. Iowa totaled 224 rushing yards on the day with six different players rushing for double digit yardage totals.
Iowa’s stingy defense also came to play in the shutout as it has all season, holding the Terrapins to only 115 yards of total offense. The dominant performance should come as no surprise with Iowa’s defense being ranked fifth in the country in both total yardage and points allowed per game. Senior linebacker Tre Watson and junior linebacker Isaiah Davis continue to impress, as they combined to lead the Hawkeyes with 29 tackles against Maryland. Iowa's defense should pose quite the threat to a Penn State team that has struggled on offense lately.
Meanwhile, Penn State comes into Saturday’s game reeling on the heels of two heartbreaking defeats to Ohio State and Michigan State respectively, as well as the most recent nail-biter against Indiana. The Nittany Lions were lucky to escape with a victory, as Indiana possessed the ball at midfield after a successful onside kick, giving the Hoosiers a chance with 42 seconds to go.
Penn State’s defense bailed them out with redshirt sophomore defensive end Shaka Toney contributing a key sack of Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey. Toney had four sacks for the game. There were several bright spots to Penn State’s defense with sophomore defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos chipping in two more sacks, giving the Nittany Lions six on the day. However, Penn State’s defense still allowed 554 yards to a less than stellar Indiana team, including a whopping 138 yards to freshman running back Stevie Scott.
Offensively, the Nittany Lions fared slightly better with quarterback Trace McSorley rushing for over 100 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Yet, McSorley also saw his vaunted 34 game passing touchdown streak come to a close. Penn State’s passing attack remains plagued by drops, as receivers Mac Hippenhammer and Brandon Polk were some of the notable culprits. Still, Penn State did manage 243 passing yards and fed running back Miles Sanders consistently, giving him another touchdown early in the first quarter.
With two teams that are neck and neck with each other in the AP rankings (Penn State at 17 and Iowa at 18), it’s hard to imagine that this game will be anything other than a hard fought, classic Big Ten matchup with two teams that possess New Year’s Six aspirations, and in the case of Iowa, fringe College Football Playoff hopes. In either case, this game will be determined by who can more effectively run the ball, who makes the fewest mistakes and who can be more successful on special teams. From the outside looking in, one must look to an Iowa team that under head coach Kirk Ferentz, is always well disciplined. Senior kicker Miguel Recinos is 10 for 13 on field goals so far this season, whereas freshman kicker Jake Pinegar is only six for 10 on the year.
In a game that features highly recruited versus often overlooked talent, two highly thought of veteran quarterbacks and a youthful team hosting a veteran one, this game has all the makings of a classic in Happy Valley.
With the weather, coaching and personnel in mind, Iowa will prevail in a close one on the road to stay right in the hunt for the Big Ten West title.
Prediction: Iowa 20, Penn State 13
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism