No. 22 Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1, 1-2 ATS) at No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1, 2-1 ATS), Week 5 College Football, Saturday October 2nd, 8:05PM Eastern Kinnick Stadium Iowa City, I.A.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: PSU +7/University of Iowa -7
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The no. 17 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes bounced back from a tough loss at Arizona two weeks ago by throttling Ball State this past Saturday 45-0. The stage is now set for the Hawkeyes as they host no. 22 Penn State this Saturday night in a Big Ten Conference opener. The Nittany Lions have had a similar start to their season. Penn St. was beaten pretty bad by Alabama just two weeks ago but bounced back to beat Temple last week 22-13. The Nittany Lions now look for their marquee win of the season on the road against Iowa.
The Big Ten currently has 6 different teams ranked in the top 25 just to give you an idea of how competitive conference action will be this season. While Ohio State is the odds on favorite to win the Big Ten title, things are very much wide open given the level of competition these schools will face week in and week out. Therefore, there is a ton of importance in capturing the first big conference win for both schools this Saturday or from a different perspective avoid falling 0-1 in conference play.
For the Hawkeyes, I believe they definitely have the advantage being at home and they have opened as 7 point favorites over the Nittany Lions. Not only will Iowa get the home field advantage, but they are supported by an offense that can light up the scoreboard. The Hawkeyes have posted 36 points per game this season with one of the most balanced offenses in the Big Ten. QB Ricky Stanzi is as solid as they come. Stanzi has completed 67% passing on the year for 999 yards, 9 touchdowns, and just 1 pick. Stanzi does a good job at keeping his poise under pressure and gets the ball to his receiving core effectively. Speaking of the receiving core, they are a talented group led by WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos who has 17 catches for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns. Also, wide outs Allen Reisner and Marvin McNutt are also weapons they can make plays in the passing game as well.
Now Iowa may be more dangerous offensively when Stanzi drops back to pass, but they love to run the football as well. Running back Adam Robinson is sporting a 5.5 yards per carry average and has produced 385 yards with 6 touchdowns on the season. When the running game is moving, it really opens the door for the passing game especially on the play action fakes with Stanzi. Therefore, do not be surprised to see Iowa come out trying to establish the running game and let Stanzi work in the pass afterwards. Despite the Nittany Lions great defense, they struggled stopping the run against Alabama and again last week against Temple. So look for Iowa to use their running game to setup their passing attack early in the football game.
For the Nittany Lions, they have not put up a ton of points on the offensive side of the ball. After being held to just 3 points in their loss to top ranked Alabama, the Nittany Lions posted just 24 points against Kent State and 22 points against Temple who are inferior opponents. The offense has only managed 368 yards of total offense in their first 4 games are and in need of some sparks to fire. The most likely problem has been the inconsistency with QB Robert Bolden. Bolden is completing 60% passing on the year for 823 yards, but has thrown 5 picks to just 3 touchdowns. Due to those struggles, opposing defenses have really focused in on the strong running game of the Nittany Lions causing the ground game to be less efficient.
Running backs Evan Royster and Stephfon Green are intimidating runners. Royster especially considering he has posted 1,100 plus yards in each of the last two years. Still, Royster has been held to just 297 yards through the first 4 games this season. Backup Stephfon Green who is also a dangerous runner has been held to even lower numbers with just 119 yards on the season. Expect Iowa to focus on the run as well meaning Bolden will have the chance to deliver throwing the football. Penn State wide outs Derek Moye and Brett Brackett can both provide excitement as they have combined for 438 yards receiving this season. Actually I believe Penn State will have to get those two wide outs involved to thwart the Iowa defense this Saturday.
Jay’s pick to cover the spread: The points Iowa is giving here is extremely valuable in what could likely be a low scored game fearing the always dreaded backdoor cover. With that being said I am going to stay away from the side even though I think Iowa wins the football game. If you looking for a play I would consider the under as I expect this game to be scary low in terms of points posted on the scoreboard.