The Hawkeyes have one of their biggest opportunities of the season against the Penn State Nittany Lions. This is a game that can propel Iowa’s season from a ‘good’ season to a ‘special’ season. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley needs to come out and play one of the better games he has in his career.
One of the biggest matchups to watch is the Penn State rushing attack versus the Iowa rushing defense. Nittany Lion has the duo of quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Miles Sanders. They’ve combined for 66 percent of the Nittany Lions ‘explosive’ plays this season. McSorley has run for 411 yards and two touchdowns in the last four games.
Sanders is a guy that hasn’t gotten the hype he deserves. He’s put together a solid season for the Nittany Lions. He has run for 772 yards and eight touchdowns on 119 rushes. That’s an astounding 7.5 yards per carry. He’s a capable running back who can make you pay once he breaks to the next level. He also has 15 receptions for 112 yards.
The Hawkeye rushing defense is one of the best in the nation. They rank second in the country in rushing defense (79.6). The Hawkeyes only allow 2.7 yards per carry, sixth in the country. They are also one of three defenses in the country to have allowed only three rushing touchdowns (Alabama, Auburn).
Penn State has the second-best rushing offense in the Big Ten. They average six yards a carry and run for 240 yards per game. The Maryland Terrapins averaged 245 rushing yards per game heading into last weekend, but Iowa held them to a season-low 68 yards.
When: 2:30 p.m. (CT)
TV: ESPN (Play-by-play: Steve Levy Color Analyst: Brian Griese Sideline Reporter: Todd McShay)
Radio: Iowa Hawkeye Radio Network (Gary Dolphin, Ed Podolak, Rob Brooks)
Line: -6 Penn State
Weather: Raining. 42 degrees at kickoff. 80 percent chance of rain. Winds 7 miles per hour.
The Nittany Lions haven’t proved that they can stick in front of athletic defensive ends, so sophomore star defensive end A.J Epenesa could have a big impact on the game. Penn State loves to run the “11” personnel, so that means it’s likely that safety Amani Hooker starts at outside linebacker, allowing safety Geno Stone to get some solid snaps in. Stone has played well for the Hawkeyes over the past couple of weeks.
Penn State is 10th in the Big Ten in rushing defense, but the Hawkeyes are only ninth in rushing offense. Iowa hasn’t had an individual have over 100-yards in a game this season. The Hawkeyes need to reduce the stress on Stanley and the defense by running the ball efficiently. Running back Ivory Kelly-Martin has shown flashes of it this season, but he needs to break to that next level a couple of times in this game to keep the defense honest.
The rain looks like it’s going to die down late in the first half. Tight ends Noah Fant and T.J Hockenson need to keep up their high-level of play because the Nittany Lion linebackers haven’t proved that they can stay with bigger/more athletic tight ends. Look for Stanley to find them early and often.