Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Iowa Hawkeyes – College Football, October 9, 2021

By Dan Vasta in College Football
| October 7, 2021 12:48 pm PDT

The Big Ten has been right there with the SEC as the top conference in America. Five of the top 11 ranked teams are from the Big Ten, and the top teams are all rising in the polls.

The Hawkeyes are currently the frontrunners in the West division, and the Nittany Lions are right there in the East division. Iowa has been looking for their first outright conference title since 1985. Hayden Fry was the coach, and the program is searching for greatness.

Kirk Ferentz replaced Fry and is now in his 23rd season. Kinnick Stadium will be rocking for their matchup with Penn State. The winner of this game could become the favorite to win the conference and reach the College Football Playoff.

Two of the better programs in the country without a CFP appearance will be ready to take the nation by storm in this matchup.

It is time to look at the latest odds for this Big Ten clash via SportsBetting.ag.

No. 4 Penn State vs. No. 3 Iowa

Penn State (+2)-110
Iowa (-2)-110
Penn State to Win+105
Iowa to Win-125
Over 42-110
Under 42-110

For all of your gambling needs, be sure to check out the several top online sports betting sites. This Big Ten meeting should be the game of the week.

These two from the Big Ten have split their last ten meetings against the spread. The Hawkeyes have lost six of their past seven games against the Nittany Lions. Ferentz, as a home favorite against the spread, has gone 61-51-1. Iowa is a slight favorite (3-point or less); they have covered three of their past four games.

Penn State lost their first eight games as an underdog under James Franklin, but they have now won two straight games. We saw PSU win outright at the Big House last season, and they stunned Wisconsin at Camp Randall earlier in the season.

The winner of this game will be picked by many to appear in the Big Ten title game, and there is a chance they will meet again in Indianapolis.

Why Penn State Will Win

The Nittany Lions are quietly one of the better defenses in the country. They are top 50 against the run and the pass. They may give up the yards, but they have been able to suffocate teams in the red zone.

PSU is second in the country (.533) in red-zone defense. Only Cincinnati is better, but it goes to show how you can win without being sexy.

They survived in Madison in the opener due to their opportunistic defensive ability.

The Badgers were inside the PSU 10-yard line four times throughout the game and ended up getting only seven points. Brandon Smith and Ellis Brooks are two of the better linebackers in the country. They have been able to tee off on opposing running backs, and they will get their opportunities against Iowa’s smash-mouth style of football.

The ability of wide receiver Jahan Dotson to take the top off the Hawkeye defense will be vital in this matchup. Sean Clifford has to take care of the ball. He has only thrown three interceptions on the season with 11 passing scores.

In their loss to Iowa last year (41-21), Clifford threw two picks. In their victory in 2019 (17-12), Clifford avoided costly mistakes and allowed the run game and defense to dominate. Noah Cain is an experienced back that has the fourth most receptions on the team.

PSU will win this game if they can get the ball in open space to Dotson, Cain, Parker Washington, and tight end Brenton Strange.

Those weapons are lethal, and even a great defense in Iowa will have too much pressure on them to limit their abilities.

Why Iowa Will Win

The Hawkeyes at home have gone 33-9 since 2015. Kirk Ferentz is a tremendous coach that is a future Hall of Famer. He has come up short in most seasons ranked in the Top 25. Iowa has not had any consistent seasons in which the Hawkeyes have been national title contenders. The 2015 season came crashing in the Big Ten title against Michigan State and then in the Rose Bowl against Stanford.

The defense was borderline elite in those seasons, but the offense sputtered down the stretch. There is always a chance that happens again, but they have found ways to win ugly for years under Ferentz.

The Hawkeye defense allows the second-fewest points per game (11.6), trailing only Georgia (4.6).

Iowa can muck any game up with the best of them. They are often slow-paced and will chew away at the clock. They haven’t posted a ton of yards per game, but that is their style of football. Jack Koerner and Riley Moss headline the elite secondary.

Both are playing at an All-Big Ten level. The tandem has had a nose for the ball while it is in the air. They lead the country in turnover margin at a plus-12 mark for the season (2.40).

Penn State vs. Iowa Prediction

This game should be a defensive slugfest where points will be at a premium. Point totals are challenging to predict, but these are two of your better defenses in the country.

Penn State has not allowed more than 20 points in a game (Auburn), and Iowa has allowed fewer than 18 in every game.

The quarterback likely decides this matchup. Clifford and Spencer Petras will have all eyes on them under center. Managing the game and distributing the ball to their top playmakers without turning it over will decide this one.

I am going with the trend of Penn State getting the best of Iowa over the years. The Nittany Lions are more explosive offensively (don’t tell that to Maryland) in this matchup. So, I am leaning with the road team in this potential epic thriller.

Penn State vs. Iowa Pick

Pick
  • Penn State to Win
    +105

I love both of these teams and feel the Nittany Lions have more talent. Both have Top 20 rosters, but the Nittany Lions are more explosive at running back and wide receiver. Both can get after the passer and stuff the run.

Still, I trust Clifford’s talent around him more than the Hawkeye talent surrounding Petras.

Taking the points is one option, but I love PSU winning this one outright. Iowa isn’t going to fall off with a loss here, and I like their chances to win the West division.

Other than a trip to Madison, they will be solid favorites to run the table. PSU has yet to play Michigan or Ohio State, but they will make the most of their challenges ahead with a victory in Iowa City.

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