IOWA CITY – No. 9 Penn State's vaunted defense will try to maintain its dominant run against a team that failed to find the end zone last week in the 18th-ranked Iowa, which hosts the Nittany Lions in a key Big Ten affair Saturday night. Penn State entered the week second among FBS teams in scoring defense (7.4 points allowed per game), third in run defense (50.6 yards per game) and first in sacks per game (five) after recording 10 in last week's 35-7 win over Purdue.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Penn State -4
"You know, it's hard to find a whole lot of things to be critical about with our defense right now," Nittany Lions' coach James Franklin told reporters. Franklin's crew has to be licking its chops to get after the Hawkeyes and senior quarterback Nate Stanley, who was sacked eight times and threw three interceptions in a 10-3 loss at Michigan last Saturday. Iowa turned the ball over four times overall, committed eight penalties and had one rushing yard while falling from the ranks of the unbeatens. "They had a great plan as far as their blitzes were concerned. They did a lot of things that were very hard on us pickup-wise," Stanley told reporters after the game while perhaps overlooking what he might face against Penn State. "Probably the hardest we've seen all year, and quite possibly the hardest we'll see all year."
ABOUT PENN STATE (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten)
The offense has been no slouch either, as sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford ranks second among Big Ten passers with 1,443 yards and is third with 12 touchdowns. A running-back-by-committee approach saw freshman Noah Cain break out against the Boilermakers with 105 yards on 12 carries, one of which went for a score. Sophomore wide receiver KJ Hamler leads the receiving corps with 19 catches for 394 yards and he's found the end zone in each of the last two games.
ABOUT IOWA (4-1, 1-1)
Stanley, who needs one TD pass to move into a tie for second in school history, completed only 18-of-49 passes while throwing two interceptions and getting sacked three times in a loss at Penn State last year. He will lean on a stable of running backs that boasts three players with at least 200 yards and a quartet of receivers all with at least 190 through the air. While Penn State has pressured opposing quarterbacks all year, the Hawkeyes have just seven teams sacks - the second-fewest total in the 14-team league.
1. Stanley (6,576) also needs 150 passing yards to move into fifth place alone on Iowa's all-time list.
2. Penn State leads FBS teams in tackles for loss per game (10.4).
3. The Nittany Lions have won five straight meetings, including a 21-19 triumph in their last visit to Iowa City in 2017, when Penn State scored a TD on the game's final play.
PREDICTION: Penn State 20, Iowa 14