Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Pick

No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-0) -7.5 at Iowa Hawkeyes (5-4) +7.5, 42.5 o/u Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008 3:30pm ET Kinnick Stadium , Iowa City, IA ABC
by Matt of

Penn State hits the road this Saturday, looking to continue their march to an undefeated season against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Penn State has kept national title game hopes alive with a win against Ohio State and now looks to win their final road contest of the year. Iowa has put together an average season to this point and while bowl eligibility is on the line over the next few weeks, an upset versus Penn State would be the highlight of the year for the Hawkeyes. The game from Kinnick Stadium kicks off at 3:30 pm ET and can be seen on ABC.

Vegas opened with Penn State as an 8 point favorite and the line has remained for the most part, dropping only a half to 7.5 as most college football sportsbooks. Penn State is on the money line at -300 to -320 while the range is a bit bigger for the Iowa , anywhere from +200 to +260 depending on what offshore book you use. The over/under total for the game is at 42.5 as of Wednesday morning.

Penn State is fresh off its biggest win of the year, a 13-6 squeaker at Ohio State and it seems the Lions are primed to finish off the year strong. The 13 points at OSU marked the fewest put up by the Penn State offense on the year, but the defense shut down the Buckeyes and proved the Lions can win the close games. State sits two games in the loss column in front of Michigan State in the Big Ten and two full ahead of Ohio State , Minnesota and Northwestern.

Penn State has performed well against the spread in 08; putting together a 6-1-1 overall ATS mark that includes a 3-0-1 record against the spread on the road. The matchup versus the Hawkeyes has been tough on the Lions in the recent past, with Penn State only 2-6 ATS in the last 8 contests against Iowa.

Iowa was poised to come into this game with a head of steam after wins against Indiana and Wisconsin , but stumbled last week at Illinois , losing 27-24. The Hawkeyes missed Ohio State on their schedule this year, so this is clearly the stiffest test they will face this year. Iowa sits in a tie for 6th in the Big Ten and has not performed well against the upper tier of the conference, losing to Northwestern and Michigan State while cruising against down squads like the Badgers and Hoosiers.

Iowa has played well at home, compiling a 4-1 straight up mark and has a 5-3 overall against the spread mark so far, 2-2 ATS at home. The underdog spot could bode well for the Hawkeyes as the dog has logged an ATS win in 6 of the last 8 games in this series.

The Penn State offense has been among the best in the nation, ranking in or near the top-10 in most key statistics. The Lions are 11th in rushing yards at 226 yards per game on the way to a 10th best 459 total yards average. State is money when it comes to pushing it in the endzone, converting to the tune of 41.8 points per game on average. The Penn State defense has been equally efficient, holding opponents to a 6th best, 265 yards per game and a 4th ranked, 11.1 points per game.

Daryll Clark runs the show for the Lions, converting on 61.8% of his passes for 1,506 yards while throwing for 10 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions. Clark is also a weapon on the ground, rushing for 229 yards and adding 8 TD’s. Evan Royster is the team’s leading rusher at 970 yards, averaging 7.2 yards a rush and finding the endzone 10 times. Stephon Green is a good change of pace to Royster and has 5 total touchdowns. Deon Butler and Jordon Norwood both average over 15 yards a catch, combining for nearly 1000 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season. Daryll Clark is listed on the Lions injury report with a concussion, but is expected to start the game.

Iowa runs out a more pedestrian offense overall, but is strong with the ground game, ranking 26th in the country at 189.4 yards per game. The Hawkeyes add 190 through the air on the way to 379 yards total and convert on 29.1 points per contest. The Iowa defense is solid as a unit, allowing just over 100 yards to the rush and 300 overall. The Hawkeyes are stingy when it comes to giving up the points, allowing just 13.2 on average to opposing offenses.

Richard Stanzi calls the signals for Iowa, throwing for 1,311 yards on 59.3% completions with 9 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Shonn Greene leads with 1,177 rushing yards and 10 TD’s with Jewel Hampton adding 5 rushing touchdowns as a strong complement. Andy Brodell leads the Hawkeyes in catches (27) and yards (454) as well as adding 105 rushing yards and 5 total touchdowns. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Brandon Myers are reliable possession options for Stanzi, combining for 616 yards and 4 TD’s. There are no notable injuries on the Iowa report.

Matt’s Pick: It’s really hard not to like Penn State against almost anyone at this point and while Iowa’s defense should provide some resistance at home, I can’t see the Hawkeye offense putting up enough points to keep this on close. Penn State will be motivated to produce a style victory seeing that they sat in third in the BCS even though Texas lost in front of them last week. I like Penn State to stretch out in the second half and take this one in comfortable fashion, 33-13.