The game of the week in the Big Ten this week features the no. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions traveling to face the no. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 EST on Saturday, October 12 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
If we look at our Week 7 betting odds, the Nittany Lions are 4-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the contest is set at 41 points.
The Nittany Lions have been ultra-impressive since they started Big Ten play. Coming off a sleepwalking effort against Buffalo and a close call against Pitt, the Lions crushed Maryland 59-0 in what could have been a tricky road game and proceeded to blow out Purdue 35-7, allowing just 104 total yards of offense by the Boilermakers.
Those two wins have helped answer any questions about whether or not Penn State is a top-10 team. It also has them in a position to challenge for the top spot in the Big Ten East. Of course, the Nittany Lions have five more games until their trip to Columbus to face Ohio State. For that game to mean something, Penn State has to keep the wins coming.
As for the Hawkeyes, they are trying to bounce back from their first loss of the season, which came last week against Michigan. Iowa had looked impressive prior to that, slipping past in-state rival Iowa State and taking care of business against lesser opponents. But they turned the ball over four times and couldn’t get anything going last week against the Wolverines, losing 10-3 on the road.
Iowa’s margin for error is now small if they want to be a contender in the Big Ten West division. The Hawkeyes can’t afford another loss before November when they face Wisconsin and Minnesota, who are both 5-0 right now. If Iowa can get back on track right away and hold serve at home this week, they can keep alive their hopes of playing for a Big Ten championship.
These teams no longer play each other every year now that the Big Ten is split into two divisions, but that hasn’t stopped Penn State from putting together a five-game winning streak over Iowa. Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes haven’t beaten Penn State since 2010. The Nittany Lions have won the five meetings since then, although games between Penn State and Iowa the past two seasons have been decided by six points or less.
I was on the Iowa bandwagon before last week’s loss to Michigan and I’m not ready to jump off. One bad day by the Iowa offense isn’t going to chase me away. I think the Hawkeyes will be able to bounce back at home. I don’t know if it’ll be enough to beat Penn State, but I like my chances with Iowa and the points at home.
With all due respect to the Nittany Lions, I’m still on the fence about how impressed I should be by their wins the past two weeks. Their blowout win over Maryland is nothing to scoff at, especially the way they shut down the running game. However, Purdue was playing without their starting quarterback and their best wide receiver last week. The Penn State defense certainly deserves plenty of credit for giving up just over 100 yards of total offense. But they were also facing a team that was playing without several key pieces.
I imagine the Penn State defense will face a more difficult challenge this week. The Hawkeyes have run the ball effectively all season outside of last week’s game against Michigan. The offensive line will be embarrassed about their inability to generate a ground attack last week, not to mention the eight sacks they allowed Nate Stanley to take. I’m willing to bet that they’ll come back with something to prove this week. Amidst all of that pressure, Stanley ended up throwing three interceptions, which were the first ones he’s thrown all year. In a friendlier environment at home, I also think he’ll have a bounce-back game.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with the Iowa defense. That’s important to remember for a home underdog. Even on the road and with the offense doing nothing, the Hawkeyes allowed just 10 points last week. Through five games, Iowa hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 17 points in a game. If that trend continues, it’ll be tough for the Nittany Lions to cover the spread. While the Penn State offense has had a couple of games in which they’ve steamrolled their opponent, they’ve also been sluggish at times. The Iowa defense will be the toughest opponents they’ve faced this season, so I can see the Nittany Lions being a little slow to get going.
I’ll admit that I could be wrong about Penn State. The Nittany Lions have ambushed Big Ten foes the past two weeks, and so they may be capable of doing it again. But I still think that Iowa is a good team that isn’t going to be pushed around on their home field. I’ll take my chances on this being a field goal game, pushing me toward Iowa and the points.