(#4) Penn State at Iowa
Time: 6:30 PM CT, Saturday
Spread: PEN -12.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Penn State Nittany Lions are 3-0 and possessors of a No. 4 national ranking. Some are predicting upset potential, however, as the Lions travel to face Iowa at 6:30 PM Saturday on ABC. PSU is 12.5-point favorites over Iowa, in a game featuring a higher over/under of 52.5 points at oddsmaker 5dimes.
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Penn State has not been tested yet. It shutout both Akron and Georgia State, and it handled business fine in Week 2 in defeating Pittsburgh 33-14. Iowa will be its toughest game of the season, before it finally faces Michigan and Ohio State in back-to-back games in Week 7 & 8 of the schedule. Penn State’s defense, needless to say, has been stifling, but Iowa does present some unique offensive weapons to test the Nittany Lions this week.
Iowa (3-0) is led by yet another very good quarterback in Nathan Stanley. He has thrown 51 of 83 for completion (61.4 percent), while amassing 655 yards, averaging 7.8 yards per pass, with 10 TD passes and just one pick on the year. His outstanding passer rating of 165.1 compares to former QB CJ Beathard, and the Hawkeyes regularly possess strong WRs capable of making these catches. Nick Easly and Akrum Wadley have combined for 314 yards and three TDs, and Easly’s 16 receptions lead the team handily.
Wadley is also the featured running back, with 60 carries for 258 yards and a TD. He is mostly a short yardage back, but does not lack breakaway speed. Overall, Penn State is a team capable of putting the clamps on him as a running back, but he is actually more effective running routes. How Iowa is able to maximize Wadley against a tough defense is one of the keys to this week’s matchups.
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The Lions have some backfield performers that will give the Hawkeyes tantamount headaches. Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley is among the nation’s best. He has 38 carries for 307 yards, 8.1 yards per attempt, a long-run of 80-yards, and three TDs, on the 2017 season through just three games. Quarterback Trace McSorley is a running threat in his own right, with 137 yards on 23 attempts and a pair of rushing TDs. McSorley has also aired it out for 753 yards and a 9.91 yard per attempt average with nine TDs and just two interceptions. His passer rating is better even than Stanley’s of Iowa. McSorley stands at 184.1 on the season.
Between Barkley making that impact rushing the ball, and his effect as the team’s leading receiver, he is a huge factor in this game. Barkley has 241 receiving yards and two receiving TDs. Senior Tight end Mike Gesicki is a major red zone threat with four of his 12 catches being TD receptions this season. Overall, Penn State should prevail, but this game may be slightly closer than the heavyish odds given by NCAA Football oddsmakers.
Penn State and Iowa both are undefeated, but there is no sense thinking Iowa has quite the offense to disturb the Nittany Lions litany of defensive playmakers. The Lions should put extraordinary pressure on Stanley, and Wadley may be running a lot of pass routes in this one because PSU is effective at shutting down the ground game. As for the over/under, it seems precariously high at 52.5 points, but it could be that these defenses do find Wadley, and Barkley, respectively to be the dominant factors they have been thus far, once again.