Won Four Straight
After starting off the year with a 2-2 record and loses to Pittsburgh and Michigan, the Nittany Lions have rattled four straight victories. They defeated Minnesota, Maryland, Ohio State, and Purdue the last four weeks to move into the top 25 rankings. Obviously, the most impressive of those victories came against Ohio State at home. The Lions looked like they could be in a tad bit of trouble last week against Purdue, but used the second half to demolish the Boilermakers 62-24. They haven't lost a game at home this season and are red hot, this could spell trouble for Iowa.
The Nittany Lions have the best running back in the Big Ten in Saquon Barkley. He ran for 100 yards in the game against Ohio State on just 12 carries and torched Purdue last weekend to the tune of 207 yards and 2 TD's on just 18 carries. He currently leads the Big Ten in yards with 888 and 10 TD's. He will likely be the focus around Iowa's game plan and the Hawkeyes have had success shutting down opposing running backs this season. Barkley versus Iowa's run defense will be one of the key things to keep your eye on for Saturday.
Don't Be Fooled
Yes, Barkley leads the Big Ten in rushing, but Penn State actually comes in at 12th in the Big Ten in terms of rushing yards per game. This suggests to me that they don't really have anything past Barkley to go to. Their QB, Trace McSorely is second on the team with 91 carries and 251 yards. As concerned as you should be about Barkley, Penn State's passing attack actually ranks fourth in the Big Ten. He completes around 55% of his passes and has thrown for 1,818 yards, which factors out to around 230 per game for McSorely. Iowa has two good cover corners, but if their safeties struggle with pass coverage, as they have in the past, McSorely could have a nice game. He's a good player and with a weapon like Chris Godwin on the outside, Iowa will need to be sharp. McSorely has thrown 12 touchdowns opposite 3 interceptions this season.
This could be a big factor on Saturday. The Nittany Lions convert on just 25% of their third down conversions, which is good for last in the Big Ten. Iowa has had some issues getting off the field on defense this season, so the fact that Penn State struggles in the department could help. The Nittany Lions also are letting opponents convert on 39% of their third downs. The team that wins in this department and keeps the other teams defense on the field will have the upper hand late in the game. Keep an eye on third down conversions Saturday night.
Time of Possession
Penn State also comes in last in the Big Ten in this department. This usually wouldn't jump out at me too much, but with the way Iowa likes to play, controlling the clock, running the football, it makes me wonder if we could have a tired Nittany Lion defense by the end of the night on Saturday. If Iowa's defense can stay fresh, that will obviously help late in the game. It seems like Iowa's defense has spent a bunch of time on the field this year because the offense has struggle to mount any drives of substance quite often. For Iowa, control the clock, run the football, and try to make it as ugly as you can.