It’s hard to believe that a Penn State-Iowa prediction is a prediction on the most important game of a college football Saturday, but here we are, in the Year of our Lord 2021 and the Nittany Lions vs. the Hawkeyes is the game of the weekend.
Hell, it may end up being the game of the year in the Big Ten. College football betting just doesn’t get any better than this.
A top-five matchup between a couple of teams known for having a juggernaut defense, Iowa is coming off of a thorough dismantling of a then-4-0 Maryland team on national television on Friday night in College Park. This wasn’t the kind of win that we are used to seeing from Iowa, either. They put up 51 points on the Terps. 51 points! Usually, it takes three weeks for the Hawkeyes to put up numbers like that.
On the other side of the ball, Penn State completely controlled the game against Indiana, their fourth consecutive impressive win through the first month of the season. If we had to pick who the best team in the Big Ten was today, there are a lot of smart people that would tell you it’s Penn State. I think the fact that they are just a two-point dog on the road against a top-five team in a sport where home-field is worth a little more than a field goal says it all.
So who is going to win Saturday’s showdown?
Longtime college sports writer Rob Dauster, the co-founder of The Field of 68 and The Field of 12 Network is here to break down the tantalizing matchup and provide his Iowa-Penn State prediction for Week 6 of the college football season.
PENN STATE-IOWA BETTING LINES:
#3 PENN STATE (5-0) at #4 IOWA (5-0)
GAME: 4:00 p.m. ET (ABC)
MONEYLINE: Iowa (-132), Penn State (+108)
SPREAD: Iowa (-2)
PENN STATE-IOWA PREDICTION:
These are two of the hottest teams in college football today. Iowa has won 11 consecutive games — the third longest streak in the nation behind Alabama and Oklahoma — while Penn State has won nine in a row, their last loss coming last season against Iowa at home.
And if there ever was a game that should be billed as a defensive battle, this is it. Penn State is allowing just 12 points per game this season, a number that ranks third in FBS this season. One of the two teams allowing fewer points per game? The Hawkeyes, who check in at 11.6 points allowed per contest. Penn State has a +6 turnover differential. Iowa has a +12 turnover differential and has turned those turnovers into points at one of the best rates in college football, and I do think that this is a game that is going to come down to turnovers.
At the end of the day, I think it is going to be difficult for both of these teams to move the ball. Iowa’s offense is built around their run game — I’m sorry, I still don’t trust Spencer Petras even after last Saturday’s performance — and Penn State does have good enough defensive backs that they can stack the box against the Hawkeye ground game. On the other side of the ball, Iowa’s strength is in their defensive backfield, and I do think that is going to create problems for Sean Clifford, who has been really good this season.
Part of the reason I don’t like either side in this game is that I do think the line is pretty sharp. Iowa should be slightly favored because they are playing at home and I think that it’s more likely we see their running game succeed than it is that we see Penn State passing game win this for them. Hell, Auburn was able to move the ball on the ground pretty easily, and Auburn is not as good as Iowa. But all it takes is one or two times for Jahan Dotson — who is a certified baller — to get loose for Penn State to strike.
To me, the play here is the first half under (20.5). I think both coaching staffs will take a conservative approach early on to void getting behind and avoid turnovers. The last two times these teams have played in Iowa City, the first half scores with 7-5 and 7-6. Those sound like team records, not halftime scores. So I’ll take the first half under, and if I half to take a side, it would be the Penn State moneyline with the added juice.