Penn State (4-2) at Iowa (4-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 8:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kinnick Stadium (70,585) -- Iowa City, Iowa. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: PSU 3-1, Iowa 2-2. Away Record: PSU 1-1, Iowa 1-0. Neutral Record: PSU 0-0, Iowa 1-0. Conference Record: PSU 2-0, Iowa 2-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 12-12.
GAME NOTES: Two teams on the rise are set to square off in a Big Ten Conference battle at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday night, as the Iowa Hawkeyes play host to the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penn State opened the year 0-2 thanks to a pair of late meltdowns against Ohio University and Virginia. However, the Nittany Lions have since reeled off four straight wins and could move to 3-0 in league play with a win here. The team is coming off a bye after posting a 39-28 win over then 24th-ranked Northwestern a week earlier.
Iowa is also off to a 2-0 start in Big Ten play following last weekend's 19-16 double-overtime win at Michigan State. The victory was the 100th for head coach Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. The Hawkeyes, who have played only one true road game so far this season, could really use a win here before hitting the road for three of their next four.
The all-time series between these two schools is tied, 12-12. However, Iowa has had the upper hand of late, winning three of the last four meetings and eight of the last 10 overall.
Now a senior, PSU quarterback Matt McGloin has really come into his own after a mostly pedestrian junior season. McGloin currently leads the Big Ten in passing yards, averaging 249.8 per game. He is also tied for the league lead with 12 passing touchdowns and is second in completions, with 139. Perhaps more importantly, he has thrown only two interceptions in 221 attempts. Of course, a big reason for McGloin's success has been the emergence of dynamic sophomore wideout Allen Robinson, who leads the Big Ten in receptions (41, 6.8 per game) and touchdown receptions (7), and is second in receiving yards (524, 87.3 per game.
While McGloin and the offense have been taking care of business, the PSU defense has also performed well. Entering the weekend, the Nittany Lions rank second in the conference and 15th nationally in scoring defense (16.0 ppg). They also lead the Big Ten in turnover margin (+1.17) and red-zone defense. Senior linebacker Michael Mauti is the catalyst, as he seems to make an impact play or two every game. Mauti is fourth in the Big Ten in tackles (9.5 per game), tied for second in forced fumbles (2) and tied for third in interceptions (2). Through six games, he has posted a team-best 57 stops. Mauti and fellow linebacker Gerald Hodges combined for 20 tackles against Northwestern, with Hodges also notching a forced fumble and two pass breakups. The Wildcats were held to just 247 total yards for the game.
Trailing 13-6 with less than six minutes to play in regulation against Michigan State, the Hawkeyes went on a nine-play, 68-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 13-13, and they eventually won it in overtime. The key play of that drive was a 35-yard completion from James Vandenberg to fellow senior Keenan Davis on 2nd-and-26. Vandenberg has been a steadying presence for Iowa's offense, having thrown for 1,134 yards on the season. However, he has tossed only two touchdowns to go along with three interceptions. Last year, Vandenberg threw for 3,022 yards with 25 TDs and seven INTs. The focal point this year has been sophomore running back Mark Weisman, who is coming off a 116-yard rushing effort and a TD against MSU. Weisman (105.2 ypg) has rushed for eight touchdowns over the last four games.
Like their opponent, the Hawkeyes thrive on generating turnovers. They enter this tilt having notched at least one takeaway in five of six games. Senior defensive back Greg Castillo's interception in the second overtime sealed the win over Michigan State. Aside from the turnovers, the Hawkeyes have established themselves as a tough-nosed defensive squad, ranking 19th nationally in total defense (317.7 ypg) and 21st in points allowed (17.2 ppg). Junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens is the headliner, as he leads the nation in tackles with 13.0 per game. Hitchens has posted double-digit tackles in each of the last five games.
This is a key matchup between two teams that entered the season with fairly modest expectations in the Big Ten. Whichever team comes out on top will have no doubt earned its contender status. The Nittany Lions may be at a disadvantage playing on the road, but they have certainly faced their fair share of adversity over the last year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 23, Iowa 17
10/17 13:01:48 ET