When and where: October 12, 2019, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA, 7:30 PM ET
The Penn State Nittany Lions run into their toughest test of the season in Saturday’s trip to Kinnick Stadium for a primetime meeting with the Iowa Hawkeyes. After rolling over Purdue, the unbeaten Nittany Lions will face a desperate Hawkeyes team reeling after getting squashed by the Michigan Wolverines’ defense in their first loss of the season.
Penn State barely escaped with a 30-24 victory the last time the two Big Ten rivals went head-to-head. They’ll have quarterback Sean Clifford behind center in place of the departed Trace McSorely this time playing opposite of Iowa’s Nate Stanley.
Is Sean Clifford for real?Saturday’s game against the Hawkeyes will serve as the first real test for Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. We’ve seen him air the ball out with no fear against bad teams in his first five games of the season, and it’ll be interesting to see if that confidence lingers or flees on the road against a ranked opponent.
Iowa has the fourth-ranked defense in the conference with opponents averaging 254.2 total yards per game against them. They are also holding opposing teams to only 8.8 points per game. As a young quarterback, the biggest obstacle for Clifford will be taking what the defense gives him and limiting turnovers. He can’t afford to put his own defense in a bind by giving the ball back to the Hawkeyes with good field position.
The Nittany Lions’ defense is talented enough to keep Clifford in this game. He just has to be wise enough to not throw it away. They put the clamps on Stanley in the 2018 meeting between these two teams in a game where he was limited to 18-of-49 passing for 205 yards and two interceptions.
The offense could once again be without running back Journey Brown, who is still working his way through a knee injury. Receivers Daniel George and Cam Sullivan-Brown are also questionable for the game with injuries. Fortunately, they have wide receiver K.J. Hamler, who had five catches for 96 yards and a punt return of 67 yards against Iowa last season. This year, he's fourth in the Big 10 in receiving yards with 34 on 19 catches.
“He’s one of those rare players who has the capability of hitting a home run,” Iowa Head coach Kirk Ferentz said during a conference call with Penn State reporters. “And there aren’t a lot of guys like that in baseball, and there aren’t a lot of guys like that in football. But he is truly one of those guys; he’s already demonstrated that.”
Stanley’s road to redemptionStanley could barely move the ball the last time he shared the field with Penn State’s monstrous defense. He turned in a nightmare performance with two interceptions and an 11.7 QBR. Punter Colten Rastetter threw for more touchdown passes than Stanley in that game.
Will things be any different on Saturday?
That’s the million-dollar question that has the outcome woven somewhere in the answer. Iowa currently has the fifth-ranked offense in the conference, which appears to flow predominantly from Stanley’s passing attack. They haven’t had a predominant rusher to lean on heavily so far this season. Granted, Mekhi Sargent has been decent coming out of the backfield, but he certainly isn’t scaring any Penn State defenders.
The offensive line shuffling could be a serious issue heading into this game against a Penn State defense with 25 sacks under their belt this season. Offensive lineman Kyler Schott has been out with a foot injury, and Alaric Jackson is also working his way through a knee injury. Stanley dropping back in the pocket could be like hanging beef from a stick for the hungry Nittany Lions defense.
- Nittany Lions are 8-3-1 ATS in their last 12 games in October.
- Nittany Lions are 16-6-1 ATS in their last 23 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
- Nittany Lions are 13-5-1 ATS in their last 19 games following a straight up win of more than 20 points.
- Nittany Lions are 18-7-2 ATS against a team with a winning record.
- Hawkeyes are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 conference games.
- Hawkeyes are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Hawkeyes are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game.