Points could be at a premium Saturday when No. 3 Iowa hosts No. 4 Penn State in one of the biggest regular-season games of the college football season.
This weekend’s meeting in Iowa City will feature two of the top three scoring defenses in the country. The Hawkeyes are allowing 11.6 points per game, second-best in the nation, while the Nittany Lions are third at 12.0.
Additionally, both teams average at least 30 points per game offensively, and each is coming off a resounding victory. So both squads are riding quite a bit of momentum heading into this Big Ten showdown.
“If we keep winning, it’s going to be more and more hype and more and more buzz,” Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said. “But it’s all about winning.”
The coaches are trying to downplay their team’s success through five games.
“When it’s all said and done, we’re a 5-0 team that still has a lot of work to do,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said after last week’s 51-14 rout of Maryland. “I think our guys understand that. They’ve also seen, though, that if we work hard, maybe some good things can happen.”
“There was a lot of things we’ve got to correct from this game,” noted Penn State coach James Franklin after his team shut out Indiana, 24-0, last Saturday. “And we got a tremendous challenge on the road.”
Dating back to last season, the Hawkeyes have won 11 games in a row and the Nittany Lions enter with a nine-game winning streak.
Defense is one of the primary reasons for recent success.
Iowa has forced 16 turnovers in five games (including an FBS-best 12 interceptions) and owns a plus-12 turnover margin. Penn State, meanwhile, has yielded only five touchdowns on their opponents’ 15 trips into the red zone.
Petras has seven touchdown passes and only one interception. He threw for a season-high 259 yards in the win over Maryland, accounting for five touchdowns, including two on the ground.
Penn State’s Sean Clifford has 11 touchdowns and three interceptions and has thrown seven TDs over the last two games. Naturally, it helps to have talented wideout Jahan Dotson, who has scored at least one touchdown in every game and has a Big Ten-best 35 catches for 446 yards on the year.
“(Clifford) has full trust in me now, and I have full trust in him,” Dotson said. “We’re out there having fun. It’s literally what we do every single day.”
This is the sixth time Iowa and Penn State have met as ranked opponents and the third time in the last four seasons. It is the sixth top-five matchup in Iowa history and the 11th for Penn State.
The Hawkeyes have won five straight games against ranked opponents, including triumphs over Indiana and Iowa State this season. The only team with a longer active winning streak against ranked foes is Alabama (nine).
The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series 17-13. They had a six-game winning streak against the Hawkeyes snapped last season, when Iowa came into Happy Valley and posted a 41-21 victory.
–Field Level Media