What you need to know: No. 4 Penn State at Iowa
UNIVERSITY PARK — Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.
Game details: at Iowa, 7:30 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on ABC
Records: No. 4 Penn State (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Iowa (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Venue: Kinnick Stadium, capacity of 70,585.
Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 89 degrees, with sunshine and patchy clouds.
Overview: Penn State’s first road test of the season, and the Lions’ toughest opponent so far. Kinnick Stadium has boosted Iowa to a number of upsets of top-ranked teams over the last decade or so, which Penn State fans are familiar with. The Hawkeyes’ victory in 2008 derailed a potential national championship for the Nittany Lions. After Iowa dominated the last decade, Penn State has won three consecutive games in the series, and boasts the more talented team by a considerable stretch. Iowa’s a sneaky 3-0, and that description seems to fit that program more than most. The Hawkeyes routinely win, but they don’t usually look impressive. They’ll have to Saturday to hand Penn State its first loss of the year.
The line: Penn State –12
All-time series: Penn State leads 14-12, beginning in 1930.
Last time they met (2016): Penn State thumped Iowa 41-14 at Beaver Stadium, where the Nittany Lions rolled up nearly 600 yards of total offense.
Penn State wins if: This answer could go so many different directions each week. For a team so talented, there isn’t any one thing that has to go the Lions’ way. This week is noteworthy, if only because it’s a Big Ten road game under the lights, so we’ll say the Lions should leave Iowa with a victory if they handle the initial energy that the Hawkeyes (and their fans) will surely have.
Iowa wins if: The Hawkeyes truly bottle up Trace McSorley; through three games, Penn State’s allowed only two sacks. McSorley has improved on making his progressions, routinely finding different receivers or checking down to Saquon Barkley for big gains. Forcing McSorley to rush some throws probably won’t be enough on its own, though it’ll be a necessity for Iowa to win.
Count on: A great atmosphere. Kinnick Stadium is talked about as one of the most underrated stadiums in the Big Ten, and maybe even in the country. ABC’s top-level team of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will call the game, and they’re both more familiar with Penn State’s program than many other on-air duos. That should lead to an informed broadcast.
Keep an eye on: the first half, or more precisely, Penn State’s first couple of offensive series. How will the Lions and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead handle their first road game, under the lights, in a stadium that won’t be welcoming? Don’t expect Penn State to play timid, but just how aggressive the play-calling will be is something to watch.
Trivia tidbit, Part I: 19:1. That’s the touchdown ratio for Penn State this year. Nineteen touchdowns scored, and only one given up.
Trivia tidbit, Part II: With an 85-yard reception last week, Barkley is the first player in Penn State history with both a rushing and receiving play of 80-plus yards. He’s also the only player in FBS this season with two plays from scrimmage of 80-plus yards — he also had an 80-yard run against Akron.
Saquon Barkley record watch: After finishing with 47 rushing yards last week — he did most of his damage through the passing game — the Heisman Trophy candidate still stands ninth all-time with 2,879 rushing yards. Next up on the list is Lydell Mitchell with 2,934 yards.
*Season record: 3-0
*Season record against the spread: 1-2
Prediction: Penn State 38, Iowa 21
*HappyValley season predictions