Few could have honestly predicted that the Penn State Nittany Lions would be searching for their first win in mid-November, but such is the fate for James Franklin's team. Penn State's ongoing quest for its first win of the 2020 college football season will continue this weekend at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes. After a couple of early stumbles this season, Iowa has stormed its way to back-to-back decisive victories. Can they manage to keep it going and leave Penn State flustered for another week?
Iowa at Penn State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Iowa -2.5
When Iowa Has the Ball
As is custom with the Hawkeyes, Iowa has a solid running game going for it. Iowa has the second-most rushing touchdowns among Big Ten teams this season with 11 (Minnesota has 12), six of which have come on the road. Tyler Goodson has already rushed for half of his 2019 rushing total and matched his touchdown total from last season in just four games. Together with senior Mekhi Sargent, the Hawkeyes have a troubling rushing duo for Penn State’s defense to handle.
The Nittany Lion defense has been a disappointment this season, to say the least, with their scoring defense falling from eighth to 95th. Penn State has given up far too many points in the first halves of games, but the defense has fared better after halftime. If Iowa can do some damage in the first 30 minutes, it should be in a good position. Bringing pressure on Spencer Petras will be key, as the sophomore quarterback has four interceptions this season to just three touchdowns.
When Penn State Has the Ball
This will be a big week for team captain Sean Clifford. His miscues have come back to haunt Penn State often this season. Last week, Clifford was pulled in favor of Will Levis, although Franklin won’t be expected to yank Clifford out of a key role in the offense just yet. But don’t be surprised if Levis gets in some work this weekend either.
Penn State’s offensive troubles may start with the offensive line. The Nittany Lions have allowed a Big Ten-worst 15 sacks in four games. The lack of protection provided by the offensive line has also hurt the running game’s chance to overcome the losses of Journey Brown and Noah Cain. Penn State ranks eighth in the Big Ten in rushing offense and has just four rushing touchdowns.
Penn State has a long way to go to salvage anything in the 2020 season, but the Nittany Lions almost have to win at some point. Don’t they? Penn State has out-gained two of their opponents but dug too deep a hole to climb out of against Indiana and Nebraska. If the Nittany Lions can clean up their own mistakes in the first half, then they should manage to keep their winning ways going against the Iowa program. But four games may be enough evidence to suggest that may be too much to ask Penn State, especially since Iowa has outscored its last two opponents 84-14. This one won’t be that lopsided, but Iowa is clearly the safer pick this weekend.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Penn State 25
Podcast: Week 12 Preview and Predictions