Penn State football: Preview, prediction vs. No. 24 Iowa in Week 4

Sep 2, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) drops back to throw a pass during a warm up prior to the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 2, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) drops back to throw a pass during a warm up prior to the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports /

Penn State football hosts the No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday, Sept. 23, in what could be the best game in a packed slate of college football matchups.

The 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff on CBS serves as the latest edition of the ‘Whiteout’ game, the featured game in the Nittany Lions’ home schedule, which often pits PSU against a top rival and draws recruits from beyond its initial region because of the hype surrounding the game and the overall atmosphere.

Instead of getting a chance to knock off an Ohio State or a Michigan in a quest to make the Big Ten Championship Game, Penn State will get a crack at Iowa, a contender in the West division and more underrated foe of the Lions.

Penn State football has revenge on the brain

The No. 7 Nittany Lions enter this much-anticipated contest with a 3-0 record and their College Football Playoff hopes alive and well. The Iowa Hawkeyes have won the last two games in the longstanding series, and the last one in particular stung Penn State in a way that hasn’t been forgotten by many coaches and players who were on that 2021 team.

Iowa staged a grueling (for Penn State) comeback victory in Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 9 of that season, and insult was added to literal injury for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was dealing in that game before getting knocked out of it due to injury, and the same happened for starting defensive tackle PJ Mustipher.

Penn State let a 17-3 lead turn into a 23-20 loss as the offense ground to a complete stop under backup Taquan Roberson, and Iowa gradually scratched its way back to the lead as the home team’s fans accused and ridiculed several Penn State players who got hurt during the first half.

Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz did nothing to dispell the unfounded suspicion saying his fans thought they had “smelled a rat”. Plenty of team members had to endure that loss and how it tanked a promising 2021 season for Penn State, and many will suit up and be on the sideline coaching in this matchup.

Though it hasn’t been talked about much during this week, fans can be sure that those sour memories will serve as extra fuel for the Nittany Lions in what is already one of the most exciting games this Saturday.

Penn State or Iowa, who has the edge in this year’s Whiteout?

As always, the 24th-ranked Hawkeyes can pose a difficult challenge to just about any Big Ten opponent they face, but they still lack the firepower to pull off this upset.

Coming in as 15-point underdogs, the Hawkeyes boast a strong defensive unit that potentially will be one of the nation’s best by season’s end. However, the offensive side of the ball has been a struggle in their recent history, and continues to be so.

Iowa is currently ranked 31st in total defense, and is not particularly vulnerable to either the run or the pass, but we don’t know if this unit is elite and can overcome a bad day on offense for Iowa, who has to try and find a way to put up points against a PSU defense that most definitely is stacked at all three levels.

Iowa’s only chance to win this game outright is to put serious pressure on rising star quarterback Drew Allar, slow the passing game down and create some turnovers. In essence, muck up the game in classic Hawkeyes fashion.

Penn State tends to find ways to score, even in tougher games.

The Lions have scored 30 or more points in 10 consecutive games. Iowa has given up 30 points just four times since 2018, so they have a puncher’s chance to win a game where the over/under is set at 40 points.

Factor in that starting tight end Luke Lachey is injured, as are Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson, the top two running backs on the Iowa depth chart and the Hawkeyes will be scrambling to find more weapons. This leaves veteran signal-caller Cade McNamara with a poorly stocked cupboard of weapons, and though he pulled off a Whiteout win as Michigan’s quarterback in 2021, his supporting cast now is worse, and this version of Penn State is better.

Prediction: Penn State football defeats Iowa, 27-13

Like several games this season, it takes some time for Penn State football to pull away from some tough, but ultimately lesser opponents.

The Nittany Lions win in similar fashion in this primetime tilt, controlling the game most of the way before eventually slamming the door shut with a big fourth quarter. Illinois turned the ball over like crazy last week, but Iowa but keep themselves in the game by taking a little bit more care of the all-important rock. Penn State is one of two teams in the country that hasn’t had a turnover, and they continue to play clean football in this one.

Iowa relies heavily on those extra possessions, 19 points this season they’ve already scored on defense or from a turnover that the offense scored directly off of. Penn State won’t give them those free points Iowa needs to pull off the upset, and controls the ball with its improved offensive line and two-headed running back monsters of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen.

Revenge is paid back to the Hawkeyes in the form of 150-plus yards rushing and some punishing hits by this athletic Penn State defense.

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