Matchup: No.17 Penn State (5-2) vs. No. 18 Iowa (6-1)
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
When: Saturday October 27th, 2018 at 3:30 EST
Penn State Offense vs. Iowa Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Penn State managed to get back on track last week as they improved to 5-2 after a win over Indiana. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but escaping Indiana with a victory after two heartbreaking losses was exactly what they needed. The offense ended up scoring 24 points if you take away Jonathon Thomas’s kick return touchdown. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 220 yards but from watching the game, some of his passes looked visibly off. However, despite an “off” game in the air, McSorley got the job done on the ground by rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Miles Sanders added 72 yards on the ground with a touchdown.
Now Penn State comes back home to face an Iowa team that finds themselves 6-1 and ranked just below Penn State at 18. Iowa’s one loss came from its only ranked opponent to this point, Wisconsin. In that game, the Iowa defense really struggled to stop the Wisconsin run game. The Badgers rushed for over 200 yards while quarterback Alex Hornibrook added 205 passing yards and three touchdowns. If there is anything to take from that game, it’s that the Nittany Lions key to success this week will rely heavily on Miles Sander’s as well as Trace McSorley’s ability to move the ball on the ground effectively.
Looking into individual impact players, it is hard to miss three of their defensive lineman that have cause absolute havoc in the backfield. First is sophomore AJ Epenesa. The defensive end is the team leader in sacks with six and tied for first in tackles-for-loss with seven. He is tied in that category with fellow defensive end Parker Hesse who also has three sacks of his own. Finally, there is redshirt junior Anthony Nelson who has collected five sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss.
Behind them Penn State should be on the lookout for Kristian Welch and Amani Hooker. The linebacker, Welch, is the team’s leading tackler and figures to be one of their defensive leaders. Hooker is junior defensive back that has two interceptions while also ranking in the top five in tackles on the team.
Penn State Defense vs. Iowa Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
After escaping from Bloomington with a win, the Nittany Lions look to close out October with a win at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes. As seen throughout this century, the Hawkeyes give the Nittany Lions problems almost every year, including the 2004 6-4 loss, the 2008 one point loss in Iowa City, and the narrow escape the Lions had last season. Let’s see how the Lions defense stacks up with the 19th ranked Hawkeye offense.
QB Nate Stanley is back for the Hawks in 2018 and is having a very good season. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns so far and only six interceptions. He leads an offense that has put up over 40 points in two of their last three games. Despite struggling early on, the Iowa offense has picked up and that directly correlates with the way Stanley has played in the last few weeks.
The Hawkeyes rely on a committee in the backfield. Torren Young, Mekhi Sargent, and Ivory Kelly-Martin are all sophomores and have all made key contributions this year. It may depend on who has the hot hand early on to see who will take the bulk of the carries this week.
The strength of the Iowa offense is the tight end group. Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson are two of the best tight ends in the country and can create major problems for the Penn State defense. Fant has six touchdowns this season while Hockenson leads the team in receiving yards with 424. This dyanmic duo will be an interesting challenge for Brent Pry and his defense as most teams don’t feature a great tight end, never mind two of them.
On the outside, the Hawkeyes return their leading receiver from 2017, Nick Easley. Other than Easley, the position has not contributed much as the Hawks have relied on their two standout tight ends to produce the bulk of their passing offense.
Brandon Musso (6-1):
Penn State seemed to barely escape Bloomington with a win last week over Indiana. Iowa is a tough team that is going to come to State College ready to pounce and expose a struggling Penn State team. As a result, I think this will be a hard-fought battle that will come down to the final minutes of the game. While it is easy to be down seemingly really struggling Penn State team, I believe that they are much better than they have shown the last three games. I think Penn State gets the play they need at the end of the game and pulls out a close victory.
Penn State 24 Iowa 21
Kraigen Rasalla (5-2):
The forecast for this game appears to be nasty with cold temperatures and heavy rain. Sloppy conditions do not favor the Nittany Lion offense that has struggled to throw the ball in recent weeks. I can see the Hawkeyes offense controlling the game with time of possession, a strong O Line, and a short passing game. I think the Hawks will haunt the Nittany Lions on this Halloween Weekend.
Iowa 20 Penn State 16