Staff Predictions: No. 4 Penn State vs. Iowa
Penn State faces its stiffest challenge yet when it heads to Kinnick Stadium to face Iowa. The Hawkeyes have won four of the last five meetings at home against Penn State, but the Nittany Lions took the most recent meeting and last meeting at Kinnick in 2012.
Our sports staff is pretty confident the Nittany Lions will pass their first big test of the season.
Steve Connelly (3-0): Penn State 35, Iowa 24
I’m definitely concerned about Penn State’s run defense trying to stop Akrum Wadley, but the Nittany Lions will be able to score enough to get by the Hawkeyes on the road. Penn State can get past the horror story of a Kinnick Stadium night game and earn a huge Big Ten opening win in one of the toughest matchups it’ll face this season.
Anthony Colucci (3-0): Penn State 27, Iowa 17
Cite Penn State in 2008, Michigan State in 2010, and Michigan last season all you want, but the Nittany Lions still enter Kinnick Stadium favored by nearly two touchdowns. As much as a night game in Iowa City sends shivers down the spines of even the bravest fans of top-five teams, Penn State travels to its first road pairing of the season with a better and more explosive roster than any of those other three teams the Hawkeyes have knocked off at Kinnick. In all three games, Iowa disrupted the opponents’ offenses early, so the key for Penn State will be to establish momentum from the first drive. If the Nittany Lions do that, continue to win the turnover margin, and pressure Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, they’ll grind out a win in their first real test of the season.
Mikey Mandarino (3-0): Iowa 27, Penn State 24
Hopefully, everyone who reads this will roast me in the comments for being completely wrong and a Penn State-hating idiot by the end of the game, but for now, I think Iowa pulls off a massive upset against the Nittany Lions. Their record against top-5 teams at Kinnick Stadium is impossible to ignore, and I could see the atmosphere pushing Iowa to a huge victory. I may be digging my own grave here, but I think the Nittany Lions’ potent offense will have trouble developing momentum due to the crowd at Kinnick. You can blast speakers all you want in practice, but there’s no replicating the noise of the Iowa faithful that has doomed so many other top-5 teams in the past.
Elissa Hill (3-0): Penn State 27, Iowa 21
Sure, it’s Kinnick. Sure, it’s a night game. But the Nittany Lions are going to pull out a win this weekend to start strong in what looks like it could be a long month on the schedule. Penn State steamrolled the Hawkeyes 41-14 last year in Beaver Stadium, and with an astounding number of returners, this year should be no different.
Ethan Kasales (3-0): Penn State 38, Iowa 20
Both Iowa and its opponents averaged exactly 5.3 yards per play during the first three games of the season. While the Hawkeyes will surely try to overpower Penn State on the ground, Joe Moorhead’s offense shouldn’t have a problem eclipsing that mark and then some. There’s simply too much talent on the roster for Iowa to stick around into the fourth quarter.
David Abruzzese (2-0): Penn State 35, Iowa 14
The Nittany Lions are rolling, and a primetime atmosphere in Iowa City shouldn’t change that. Saquon Barkley is on another level, and it doesn’t matter that the Hawkeyes — led by AP preseason first team All-American linebacker Josey Jewell — know what’s coming.
Expect another stout defensive performance against an average Iowa offense, continuing the team’s dominant form to begin the year.
This isn’t 2008, and Saturday’s result should reflect that.
Mitch Stewart (2-0): Penn State 34, Iowa 19
Going to play in Iowa City is like traveling into Oz to play a football game. You have to travel to the middle of nowhere into a hostile environment and try to come out with your life. Many top contenders have traveled to Kinnick Stadium and had their seasons ruined by the Hawkeyes — but not this time. I see the Nittany Lions struggling early during their first road test of the year, but I think Barkley will make a game-breaking play to seal a victory for Penn State. However, keep an eye on injured Iowa tailback Akrum Wadley. If he can shake off his ankle injury from last week’s win over North Texas and come up with a big performance, this game may come down to the last possession.
Matt Sniegowski (2-0): Penn State 31, Iowa 17
Iowa City has been known for its incredible upsets and wild wins (see last year’s Michigan upset game at Finnick Stadium). This week, however, I believe the Nittany Lions’ defense will be able to hold up to their first major test of the season. Although Penn State’s run defense has been relatively weak this season, the defensive line will quickly adjust to the Hawkeyes’ offense. Trace McSorley may start off slow as he has previously this season, but he’ll quickly find Gesicki and Barkley for scoring opportunities to get the team in motion. The Nittany Lions need a strong win Saturday to prepare for another wildcard team, the Indiana Hoosiers, next weekend in Beaver Stadium.
Champe Fisher (1-0): Penn State 30, Iowa 13
After a decisive win last weekend against an overmatched opponent, the Nittany Lions travel to Iowa City to take care of some unfinished business. The last time Penn State was ranked this highly (No. 3 in 2008), Iowa ruined its national championship chances on home turf at Kinnick Stadium. While Penn State certainly has some demons, this isn’t a year when Iowa will be able to take advantage of the Nittany Lions’ flaws. Saquon Barkley and company are too strong offensively for the Hawkeyes to overcome the talent gap. I see Penn State taking this game personally and excelling offensively.
Matt Fox (1-0): Penn State 28, Iowa 17
Playing at Kinnick Stadium, especially at night, is never an easy task for a visiting team. Kinnick is known for being one of the loudest environments in college football. This game is going to come down to how well Penn State’s offense will be able to perform outside of the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium. If McSorley and company struggle to move the ball consistently, this game could quickly turn sour for the Nittany Lions. I see Penn State getting off to a slow start in the first half, but will come out after halftime firing after some adjustments made by Joe Moorhead and the offense. It will be a little too close for comfort, but the Nittany Lions should have enough to pull it out in the end.
Nathaniel Pinskey (1-0): Penn State 41, Iowa 17
Folks, we’re finally entering the part of the season where the results actually matter. No more warm-up games against lowly opponents. It’s time to see the offense firing on all cylinders and the defense continuing to be stingy against opposing teams. The latter may be a lot easier with Iowa’s star running back, Akrum Wadley, coming off an injury last week. We’ve all heard of the horrors of a top-5 team going into Kinnick Stadium at night and having their seasons ruined by Iowa, but that won’t happen this time. Expect a big game out of Trace McSorley and his supporting cast of wide receivers. Saquon will continue putting up Saquon numbers, and the team will return to Happy Valley ready to prepare to fight an Indiana team that gave Ohio State a scare in the opening week of the season.