The stadiums at Ohio State and Michigan may be larger by more than 30,000 and 40,000 seats, respectively. But for 10th-ranked Penn State, there’s no place louder on the road in the Big Ten than Kinnick Stadium, where they will be visiting on Saturday night to take on Iowa.
Opened in 1929, Kinnick Stadium is just one level all the way around with 79 rows rising from either sideline, and a capacity of 69,250. It is built right into the ground and its sidelines seats are so close to the team benches that one could literally reach out and touch a player.
And as for the noise, former Penn State safety Nick Scott once said, “I think Iowa is probably the hardest stadium I’ve played in personally, just because the fans are literally yelling right on top of you.”
Head coach James Franklin acknowledged Tuesday at his weekly media teleconference that playing at Kinnick will be a challenge.
“It’s a combination,” he said. “The place will be sold out. It will be loud. They are right on top of you the way the stadium’s built. It’s not one of those old-school stadiums that used to have a track around it. They are right on top of you. I think the fact that they don’t have pro sports teams there, they are the show.
“They feed off of their crowd. We hope to prepare our guys in a way that we can feed off the energy in the stadium. This is why you come to Penn State, to play in games like this and in these types of environments.”
The Nittany Lions (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) have more to worry about than just the noise against the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-1), where Kirk Ferentz, the dean of FBS head coaches, is in his 21st season.
Iowa is coming off a 10-3 loss last week at Michigan where they turned the ball over four times. Senior quarterback Nate Stanley, a three-year starter, threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times.
But the Hawkeyes try to fix their offensive problems, their defense, like that of Penn State, has been consistently great all season. In FBS statistics, the Nittany Lions are second, third and fifth in scoring, rush defense and total defense, and the Hawkeyes are third,11th and fifth in the same categories.
“They are a really good program,” Franklin said. “They have great pride. They have a tremendous identity and they play to that identity. You’re going to have to beat them. They are not going to beat themselves, just got a lot of respect for how they go about their business.”
The Nittany Lions have won their last two games at Kinnick, the last being in 2017 when Trace McSorley hit Juwan Johnson with a 7-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play for a 21-19 victory.
Franklin said one reason he actually likes going to Iowa City is because of the Hawkeyes’ tradition of waving to patients at the university’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital next door at the end of the first quarter.