WHO: #4 Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten)
WHEN: 3:00 PM CT (Saturday, October 9)
WHERE: Duke Slater Field at Kinnick Stadium (Iowa City, IA)
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson & Joel Klatt))
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network (TuneIn, or local listings) | SiriusXM Ch. 195
MOBILE: Fox Sports app
TWITTER: @IowaFBLive | @IowaAwesome | @IowaOnBTN
WEATHER: mostly clear, highs in the low 80s (!), 5-10 mph winds
LINE: Iowa -2.5 (TOTAL: 41.0)
Big game? BIG GAME. We've talked a lot this week about how big this game is -- for this particular Iowa team, for the Iowa program, for the Iowa fanbase. It means a lot, for a whole lot of different people. But the memories it creates, the impact it has on Iowa's recruiting, or the resume boost it may or may not provide -- those are all just secondary effects, after the game itself.
So what's going to happen in the game? Hell if I know. My prediction last week was, of course, hilariously, absurdly, stupendously wrong. Not only did Iowa not lose to the Terrapins, they recorded one of their most lopsided road wins in years. In my defense, I didn't anticipate Iowa recording a +7 in the turnover department, nor did I see Iowa's offensive line having its best game of the season, or the offense as a whole bouncing back from a mostly lethargic effort against Colorado State the week before. I was, of course, extremely happy to be so wrong about Iowa last week -- they played brilliantly and wiped the field turf with the Terps for three hours.
Iowa looked outstanding last week -- is that how they'll look in their remaining seven games this season? Probably not. Team performance is not a static thing. It ebbs and flows from week to week. Is the real Iowa closer to the team we saw against Colorado State? Or the team we saw against Maryland? Or neither? Recency bias -- as well as our own desire to want to think believe the best-looking version of Iowa is the "real" version -- probably makes us lean towards believing that last week's team is the that "real" version. And, sure, we can point to things like more experience and increased continuity as reasons why Iowa (especially on offense) should continue to look better as the season progresses.
Penn State is a very good team, with many of the same strengths (especially on defense) as Iowa. That shared defensive stoutness between these teams is why the total for this game is a whopping 41 points. It's been hard as hell to score on both of these defenses all season long. The Nittany Lions also have a very experienced (and accurate) QB in Sean Clifford (67% completion, 267 ypg, 11/3 TD/INT ratio) and some dynamite receivers in Jahan Dotson (35 receptions, 446 yards, 6 TD) and Parker Washington (25 receptions, 331 yards, 2 TD). Iowa's secondary has been very good this year, but they're going to put a lot of stress on it, especially if Iowa's pass rush isn't able to pressure Clifford.
So: who wins? What's the prediction here? As tempted as I am try to and pull another reverse jinx (sure, that's what I was definitely doing last week, uh huh...) and pick against Iowa, I can't do it. Not here, not now. Not after the way they played last week. Not with this defense and these special teams. Not with the atmosphere this game is going to have. Pick against Iowa in the biggest game in Kinnick Stadium in decades? Couldn't be me.
IOWA 20, PENN STATE 17
GO IOWA AWESOME