The 10th-ranked Penn State football team has a difficult three-game stretch that begins Saturday night at No. 17 Iowa. That will be followed by the “White Out” game against Michigan and then a trip to Michigan State, which is 5-1 in its last six games against the Nittany Lions.
Here are two writers’ predictions for the matchup at Iowa.
This will be a grind-it-out, pad-popping duel for 60 minutes between two of the best defenses in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions aren’t likely to come close to their season average of 47 points against an Iowa team limiting opponents to 8.8 points on average, and will need to lean on its defense.
Penn State must keep the heat on Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, who was sacked eight times and intercepted three times last week by Michigan, and prevent the Hawkeyes’ running game from controlling the game.
Offensively, Sean Clifford passed his first test in front of a loud audience at night on the road at Maryland, but this could be several levels above that in terms of noise, nerves, and quality of opponent. The Lions must stay focused and limit, if not eliminate, the turnovers. A minus-2 reading in last week’s win over Purdue won’t do this week.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Iowa 20
James Franklin is right: Penn State is playing championship-level defense right now. But the thing is, so is Iowa. These are two menacing defenses, and as is the case more often than not when the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes square off, points should be at a premium.
It’s Kinnick Stadium at night, but Penn State just has too many offensive playmakers to lose this game. Behind the strength of a much-improved offensive line, Sean Clifford will pass his first real test as the Nittany Lions will leave Iowa City and head into their white-out matchup against Michigan sitting at 6-0.
It will be a close game, but a late Penn State touchdown will put things out of reach in the final minutes of the game.