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Two top-20 Big 10 foes will face off Saturday night in Iowa City as the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions travel to take on the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes. With last season’s 24-30 road loss, Iowa has dropped five straight in this rivalry for the first time since the early 1970s. Their last time at Iowa, the then-No. 4 Penn State needed a game-winning touchdown as time expired to avoid losing as 11-point favorites. In a game that could almost certainly have Big 10 Championship implications, let’s take a deeper look to see where we can find an edge.
Penn State Nittany Lions @ Iowa Hawkeyes
Saturday, October 12th, 2019 – 7:30 pm EST
Iowa Hawkeyes +3, O/U 42.5 (via PointsBet)
The Nittany Lions will try to stay perfect this Saturday and avoid looking ahead to a big game back in State College next week against Michigan. Outside of a Week 3 game against long-time rival Pittsburgh, this Penn State team has had a dominant start to the season with their most impressive win coming (59-0) on the road at Maryland in Week 5. Averaging 47 points (fifth FBS) and 500.2 yards (11th in FBS) per game, this Nittany Lions’ offense has taken significant strides this season under sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford who owns a 12:2 touchdown to interception ratio to start the season. While the offense has been efficient, the defense for the Nittany Lions has been dominant. Nearing the halfway point of the season, Penn State ranks second in the nation in yards allowed per play (3.6) and points allowed (7.4). Their defense against the run has been especially stout, ranking second in rushing yards allowed per game (50.6) and first in yards allowed per rush (1.46). Facing an Iowa team that lacks a rusher that falls inside the top-100 players in yards per game, the Nittany Lions’ defense should have their way once again on Saturday night.
Iowa senior quarterback Nate Stanley, who finds himself climbing the Iowa record books, would assuredly trade all the records to avenge last season’s poor performance against Penn State. In one of his worst performances in a Hawkeyes’ uniform, Stanley threw two interceptions and zero touchdowns on the way to finishing with a 63.73 rating and a loss. In fact, all 24 of Iowa’s points that day came either on defense or special teams, and they will now face a Penn State defense that has somehow found a way to improve since then. Last week’s 10-3 loss against Michigan gave Hawkeye fans no reason to be optimistic either, with Iowa turning the ball over four times while rushing for just one yard (and scoring zero touchdowns). Like the Nittany Lions, though more heavily, the Hawkeyes have relied on their defense to this point in the season which has allowed an average of just 8.8 points (third in FBS) and 255 yards (fifth) per game.
With Michigan looming on deck for Penn State, I don’t see them pulling out all of the offensive looks like we’ve seen them do to this point in the season. If they can score a touchdown or two early, they will have no problem pounding the rushing attack until the clock hits zero, knowing their defense should be able to keep the Hawkeyes in check throughout the night. Recent trends also heavily point towards a low-scoring affair. In their last five games against conference opponents, the under is a perfect 5-0 for Penn State. In the Hawkeyes’ five games to start the 2019 season, the under is 4-1, with the one over coming in Week 1 against Miami (Ohio). In a game where I expect both teams to struggle to move the ball, my money is on the under.