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Staff Predictions: No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 17 Iowa

No. 10 Penn State football (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) will travel to Iowa City to take on No. 17 Iowa (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.

The Hawkeyes will be Penn State’s first ranked opponent of this 2019 season, and Kinnick Stadium will no doubt be the toughest road test James Franklin’s squad will face thus far. Despite the hostile environment, our staff expects the Nittany Lions to escape Iowa with a win.

Andy Mollenauer (2-0): Penn State 20, Iowa 16

Penn State’s lopsided victories over Maryland and Purdue were all but gimmes. This contest on the road against Iowa will be no easy feat and will be the first real challenge for the Nittany Lions in conference play. Fortunately for Penn State, its averages in points per game and points allowed per game are both better than Iowa’s.

While these are two of the best defenses in the country, Penn State has a clear offensive edge that should allow it to pull through in a tough prime-time matchup against a hungry Big Ten West foe. Assuming the Nittany Lions can push past Ohio State this year, we may be looking at a Big Ten Championship preview in this game, folks.

Samuel Brungo (1-0): Penn State 24, Iowa 20

Penn State has won its last five match-ups against the Hawkeyes. That being said, growing up in State College and spending Saturdays stressing over football, I have watched Iowa upset the Nittany Lions and ruin their season before — remember 2008? — and that could be the same story this year. In my opinion, prime time at Kinnick Stadium holds a similar standing to a White Out, as it is one of the most hostile environments in college football.

Aside from Ohio State, this will be the most important game of Penn State’s season. But I always have faith in the Nittany Lions. State by 4.

Matt Noah (1-0): Penn State 28, Iowa 13

Purdue looked awful in last week’s Penn State win, so consider that a tune-up game for Saturday night’s battle. Iowa is the best opponent the Nittany Lions have faced up to this point and James Franklin’s squad needs to be ready. Going to Iowa will make for unfavorable conditions, but the Nittany Lions proved in their win over Maryland that going on the road doesn’t change their ability to dominate.

If Noah Cain can carry the rushing attack and Sean Clifford is consistent in finding his weapons, the offense will do just fine. The defense has been amazing and will continue to be a force. Penn State will cover the spread and take home the victory.

Gabe Angieri (0-0): Penn State 20, Iowa 13

Iowa’s defense should be able to hold Penn State to just 20 points, but similarly to last week, it will not be able to get it going offensively. It will be a struggle for Sean Clifford and his offense throughout the game, but I expect them to muster up enough points to defeat Iowa on a touchdown late in the game and remain undefeated.

Anthony Colucci (5-0): Penn State 14, Iowa 10

Kinnick Stadium is a tough place to play, and this will be a defensive showdown that’ll go down to the wire. I expect Iowa to hang around throughout the game and contain Sean Clifford and the high-octane Penn State offense for the first 58 minutes. But kings do king things, and the big red Heisman candidate is going to pull a game-winning drive out of his hat to extend the Nittany Lions’ perfect start to the season. Get ready for KJ Hamler motioning the Kinnick crowd to be silent after a fourth-down, walk-off touchdown.

Matt DiSanto (5-0): Penn State 20, Iowa 17

If we learned anything from Penn State’s last-minute win over the Hawkeyes back in 2017, playing at Kinnick Stadium is no easy task. The Nittany Lions face a major test on the road this week against a ranked opponent — something they certainly didn’t encounter at Maryland a few weeks back. Joe Lorig’s special teams unit must improve to win on the road, as the group’s punt return game was virtually useless against Purdue. If Penn State’s defense can pull off yet another strong performance against Iowa, the team will find itself halfway through a perfect season with ease.

Jared Raggi (2-0): Penn State 24, Iowa 17

The Nittany Lions will definitely need to be up to the task on both sides of the ball against Iowa for what’s by far their most difficult matchup so far this season. Saturday night is the most hostile environment Sean Clifford has ever played in during his time as a collegiate quarterback.

The Penn State offense needs to be prepared for the speed they’ll face off against. Iowa defensive end AJ Epenesa is a game-wrecker and can single-handedly change the flow of the contest if Penn State’s offensive line isn’t prepared.

The same goes for the opposite side of the ball. Although inconsistent at times, third-year quarterback Nate Stanley can light an opponent up if the defense comes out sluggish. Anything can happen under the lights at Kinnick Stadium, but I believe the Penn State defense will prove to be elite and force enough havoc to escape Kinnick Stadium with a win.

Ryan Simmonds (0-0): Penn State 31, Iowa 13

The last game Penn State played in Kinnick Stadium was an absolute classic and probably the most exciting win I have witnessed as a Penn State student. However, I don’t think this one will be as exciting.

Iowa put up three points against Michigan, which has a tough defense, but this Penn State defense is one of the best units in the country. Michigan’s offense runs a similar style to Penn State, and although it didn’t have much success against Iowa’s defense, there is plenty of beneficial film to dissect to find ways to be effective.  

I can see this game being a close, low-scoring fight early on, but the Iowa defense will not be able to contain Penn State’s dynamic offense all game.

Will Pegler (5-0): Penn State 23, Iowa 16

I’m going to use three words to describe what I expect in Saturday night’s game: Big. Ten. Football.

This is going to be a classic, gritty, and defensive Big Ten game. The Nittany Lions are allowing the fourth-fewest yards per game in the country and are leading the nation in sacks per game. Iowa sits right behind them at fifth in the nation in terms of yards allowed.

I expect the Iowa offense to struggle against a dominant Penn State defense, but I don’t think Ricky Rahne’s unit will have a particularly easy day either. Iowa defensive ends AJ Epenesa and Chauncey Goldsen will be tough to stop for the Penn State offensive line, and noise will certainly play a factor in communication at the line of scrimmage. Noah Cain and Journey Brown will need to have big days out of the backfield for Penn State to win this game, and I think they’ll step up to the challenge. Don’t expect the Nittany Lions to have too many explosive pass play in this one, but instead a methodical, ground-and-pound offensive strategy.

This will be a tight game throughout, but a couple of big-time defensive plays and possibly even a few forced turnovers for Brent Pry’s unit will be enough for the Nittany Lions to slide by Iowa.

Mikey Mandarino (5-0): Penn State 14, Iowa 13

This feels like the perfect storm for a Penn State loss, but I just can’t bring myself to bet against the Nittany Lions in this game.

Both of these teams boast phenomenal defenses that rank among the top three in the nation in total yards allowed per game. AJ Epenesa is a star at defensive end, and I expect him to play very well against the Nittany Lions. Safety Geno Stone is also a player to watch on the Hawkeyes’ defense — especially after he returned an interception for a touchdown against Penn State last year.

I’m not exactly convinced by the Hawkeyes’ offense, which couldn’t get much of anything going last week in a 10-3 defeat against Michigan. Experience is very valuable at quarterback, and three-year starter Nate Stanley definitely has tons of that. At the end of the day, Penn State is simply more talented than Iowa offensively, and I think that will propel a well-prepared Nittany Lion squad to a 6-0 start to the year.

Although many are making a lot of Kinnick Stadium’s notoriously intimidating atmosphere, it’s also important to note that Penn State is 2-0 in night games played in Iowa City. The team won 38-14 in 2012 before escaping with a 21-19 victory under the lights five years later.

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