It is finally time. The highly anticipated top four showdown at Kinnick Stadium is finally here. Penn State and Iowa always combine for exciting matchups and today should be no different. Both teams have gotten off to red hot starts and will be looking to prove themselves once again this afternoon.
Iowa’s defense has been stifling this season. They have allowed just 11.6 points per game, but have also recorded an astounding amount of takeaways. They have already scored three touchdowns and a safety in just five games this season. There isn’t a star player that the defense revolves around, but they play as a cohesive unit.
Typically Iowa teams are stout up front, which they are, but not as much as they have been in the past. Penn State’s run game hasn’t been incredible but they need to stick to it today. Keyvone Lee should be untilized throughout to get sure yards – something Noah Cain has not done recently. Cain is still the best back on this team, but Lee looks to be the better option to attack the Hawkeyes.
The strength of this defense is their secondary. Every player back there has years of experience and they capitalize on mistakes made by opposing Quarterbacks. However, they have not faced a test like this Penn State offense. It is important to get Jahan Dotson involved early because they do not have the star power to stop him. Once they become weary of him, that will open up easy reads underneath for Clifford to make.
Mike Yurcich needs to stretch out the offense and attack Iowa through the air. This is a game where they will need to target everyone and rely on Jahan Dotson in key moments to be the difference maker. Establishing the run is important, but will not be easy today, so that is why 11 personnel is this offense’s best option. Jack Campbell and the rest of Iowa’s Linebackers are excellent against the run, but have questionable coverage skills. The Nittany Lions must use that to their advantage.
Iowa’s offense is not going to take the top off of a defense as good as Penn State’s, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of moving the ball. Tyler Goodson is one of the best Running Backs in the Big 10 and has an incredible interior Offensive Line to run behind. Ellis Brooks has proven to be stout downhill, but Brandon Smith has not done so just yet. Today is the day for younger Linebackers like Smith and Curtis Jacobs’ to prove their toughness.
Redshirt Junior Quarterback, Spencer Petras has proven to be a very good game manager for the Hawkeyes. He does not have spectacular arm talent and is not too versatile but has a good read on the pocket and generally makes good, safe decisions. It is important for Brent Pry to dial up blitzes throughout the game to pressure Petras and expose his shortcomings. Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Nico Ragaini are better than your stereotypical Iowa Wide Receivers, but aren’t anything that Joey Porter Jr. and Tariq Castro-Fields haven’t seen before.
Furthermore, the Hawkeye Offensive Tackles are a big question mark. They are inexperienced and will face a very big test this week. Arnold Ebiketie and Jesse Luketa should have big games pressuring both Petras and Goodson.
The Nittany Lions are better than the Hawkeyes at nearly every position. They are the better team and need to prove so today. Iowa’s defense hasn’t faced Wide Receivers as good as Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington yet this season; moreover, they faced a Quarterback like Sean Clifford either. Iowa’s offense will move the ball, but Penn State’s red zone defense matches up well. Don’t expect the Hawkeyes to score many touchdowns. If Penn State plays smart, doesn’t make costly turnovers, and doesn’t beat themselves, they will make a huge statement today in Iowa City.
Final Score Prediction:
Penn State 23, Iowa 13
Offensive Player of the Game:
Defensive Player of the Game: