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Iowa vs. Penn State Odds & Picks: The Case for Betting Either Side in Saturday’s Big Ten Matchup

Iowa vs. Penn State Odds & Picks: The Case for Betting Either Side in Saturday’s Big Ten Matchup article feature image

Scott Taetsch & Quinn Harris/Getty Images. Pictured, from left: Keyvone Lee (24) of Penn State and Tyler Goodson (15) of Iowa.

  • Iowa has struggled putting Penn State away in recent years, but if there's any year in which the Hawkeyes can do it, it's now.
  • Ace DeCardano makes the case for backing Iowa, while Mike Ianniello explains reasons for taking Penn State.
  • Check out the case for each side below.

Iowa vs. Penn State Odds

Iowa Odds +1.5 [BET NOW]
Penn State Odds -1.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -103 / -120 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 45 [BET NOW]
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Big Ten Network
Odds updated Saturday afternoon and via Parx, where you can bet risk-free up to $500, plus a 20% profit boost if you win.

The Case For Betting Iowa

by Ace DeCardano


The Iowa defense has stifled opposing Big Ten offenses all season. It’s equally adept against the run (2.8 yards per rush against ranks sixth in FBS) and the pass (5.8 yards per pass against ranks 11th nationally). Now, the Hawkeyes travel to Happy Valley to face a Nittany Lions team that can’t decide on a starting quarterback. Will it roll with Sean Clifford or Will Levis, who wasn’t originally able to beat out Clifford?

Does it matter?

The ineffective Clifford or the inexperienced Levis will be facing an Iowa defense that not only limits opponents’ yards; it’s also eighth in FBS in yards per point allowed (21.3). In other words, the other team has trouble gaining yards and needs a lot of yards to generate points. That’s not a recipe for success.

This is due to a 4-2-5 “cash” defense whose philosophy is meant to, first and foremost, limit the vertical passing game of which Penn State has relied upon so heavily in James Franklin’s tenure. Clifford, with better weapons, only managed 117 passing yards in last year’s contest. One would assume the weakness of a nickel defense would be stopping the run, as one linebacker is off the field. This is certainly not the case. How is Penn State going to score?

Photo Credit: Matthew Holst/Getty Images.

The Case For Betting Penn State

by Mike Ianniello

In the interest of full disclosure… I am a Penn State graduate. But if anything, that should make me biased against the Nittany Lions. I am angry. I am frustrated. I am depressed. But I still believe this team is significantly better than its record indicates.

Penn State is the only team in the Big Ten without a win, but you can make a strong argument it could easily be 2-2. Penn State wasn’t beating Ohio State, arguably the best team in the country, and it just laid an egg against Maryland.

But the Nittany Lions outgained Indiana, 488-211, and had a Success Rate of 49% compared to 33% for the Hoosiers. They had that game won if it wasn’t for a sophomore running back making a mistake and a horrible call on Indiana’s two-point conversation that was clearly short (see, no bias here). The post-game win expectancy for Penn State was 100%.

Against Nebraska last week, Penn State had more yards, a higher Success Rate, more explosive plays, a higher third-down conversion rate and more scoring opportunities. The Nittany Lions outplayed the Huskers for the entire game, but two bad turnovers and poor red-zone execution ultimately cost them the game.

There is no such thing as a moral victory. But when you continue to outplay your opponents, eventually, you are going to win some of those games. Penn State has been able to move the ball all season, ranking third in the Big Ten in total offense.

Penn State still has a strong run defense and Iowa really struggles to pass the ball, ranking 100th in the country in Passing Success Rate. Iowa is just seventh in the Big Ten in total offense and does not have the skill players or talent to keep up with the Nittany Lions, who will finally protect the football and cash in on their scoring opportunities to get their first win of the season.

Photo Credit: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images.

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Hawkeyes Secondary Argument

DeCardano: I don’t see this being the week Penn State finally “protects the football.” Iowa has turned its opponents over 2.5 times per game this season. There are those in the analytics community who like to hypothesize that turnovers are random. I’m not one of those people — at least when considering the collegiate level. It’s my belief the Iowa defensive philosophy plays a major role in these turnover numbers.

Preventing big plays forces amateur athletes into long drives. Therefore, if the offense plans to march down the field, there will be more opportunities for mistakes. The numbers bear this out. Since switching to their version of the “big nickel” (one of the extra safeties is actually a safety/linebacker hybrid Iowa calls the “cash” position) the Hawkeyes have intercepted 38 passes in 26 games.

The Iowa defense will lead this team to victory as long as talented sophomore running back Tyler Goodson (6.0 yards per carry) can get anything going at all and quarterback Spencer Petras protects the football.

Nittany Lions Counterargument

Ianniello: Yes, Sean Clifford has been bad this season. But the biggest reason I have optimism is what Penn State showed in the second half against Nebraska when Will Levis took over. While Levis wasn’t anything spectacular, it would have been very easy, given everything happening in 2020 and all the hurdles these players have to jump through, for the rest of the team to give up when an 0-4 start seemed inevitable.

But the Nittany Lions didn’t quit. They fought back into the game and held Nebraska to just three points in the second half. Penn State’s stars like defensive end Jayson Oweh and linebacker Brandon Smith were all over the field, and the offense drove the ball past the Nebraska 40-yard line on every second-half possession.

Despite the records, Penn State is significantly more talented than Iowa, ranking 13th in talent composite compared to 43 for Iowa, and the Nittany Lions proved they are not giving up on this season.

Iowa Rebuttal

DeCardano: Actually, Penn State’s defensive stars either graduated (Yetur Gross-Matos) or chose to sit out the season (Micah Parsons). Either way, they aren’t walking through that tunnel on Saturday.

It’s true Jayson Oweh will probably be a high NFL draft pick, but that is based more on his raw athleticism than his production. Oweh has a grand total of zero sacks and four TFL in his first four games. Those aren’t exactly the types of numbers keeping offensive coordinators up at night.

Meanwhile, Iowa defensive end Zach VanValkenburg leads the Big Ten in sacks while defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon is becoming a star. Nixon has spent the 2020 season disrupting everything the offense is trying to do. He has 23 total tackles and three sacks in four games.

Those are just a few of the defensive linemen who force quarterbacks into bad decisions. When that happens, Jack Koerner — tied for the Big Ten lead with three interceptions — and Barrington Wade have been there to turn the pressures into game-changers.

Penn State Rejoinder

Ianniello: SP+ still has Penn State ranked at the No. 16 team in the nation, mostly because it basically sees wins in the Indiana and Nebraska games.

If Michael Penix is ruled short and Penn State is able to complete just one goal-line fade in the two late red-zone trips against the Huskers, what would this line be for a 2-2 Penn State at home against 2-2 Iowa? Probably Penn State -5 or -6?

I don’t believe the line should be this different based on two losses in games Penn State outplayed its opponents and think we are getting value on a team that is better than its record.

Penn State needs to be better in the red zone — there is no denying that. Hopefully, it has realized constantly throwing goal-line fades to 5’11 Jahan Dotson and 5’10 Parker Washington isn’t the best idea, especially when you have a 6’5 stud tight end in Pat Freiermuth. But if you and I can see that, I’m hopeful Kirk Ciarrocca has too.

While this year has been a disaster in the red zone, Ciarrocca did have Minnesota ranked 13th in the country in red-zone touchdown percentage last season and 17th in points per opportunity.

Closing Arguments

DeCardano: Everyone needs to stop looking at their preseason rankings, own up to their mistakes and admit that Penn State is not a good football team. Before they do, though, give me Iowa -2.5 (up to -3).

Ianniello: Penn State has won six straight games against the Hawkeyes. The Nittany Lions are desperate for a win and will play like it at home. Take Penn State and the points.

[Bet Iowa vs. Penn State now at Parx risk-free up to $500 AND get a 20% profit boost if it wins]

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