Penn State vs. Iowa College Football Odds, Picks, Preview: Your Betting Guide For The Game of The Week

Penn State vs. Iowa College Football Odds, Picks, Preview: Your Betting Guide For The Game of The Week article feature image

David K Purdy/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Goodson.

Penn State vs. Iowa Odds

Penn State Odds+2.5 (-110)
Iowa Odds-2.5 (-110)
Moneyline+110 / -130
Over/Under41 (-110 / -110)
Time4 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

One of the most highly-touted games of the college football season is in Iowa City on Saturday as the fourth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions battle the third-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes.

Penn State has passed every test on its schedule up until this point in the season, beating the likes of Wisconsin on the road and Auburn at home.

James Franklin has his defense playing at an elite level and Sean Clifford is starting to round into form as the quarterback all Nittany Lions fans hoped he would be.

Now, this will be their biggest test of the season — going into a hostile crowd and playing one of the best defenses in the country — so we will see if Clifford and the Nittany Lions are up for the task at hand.

The Hawkeyes have maybe been the most impressive team in the country so far this season outside of Georgia. They obliterated Maryland last Friday night, winning 51-14 with a defense that created seven turnovers against Taulia Tagovailoa and the Maryland offense.

This is the biggest game in Iowa City since 1985 when No. 1 Iowa beat second-ranked Michigan on a game-winning field goal.

Iowa did beat Penn State in Happy Valley last season but has lost six of its last seven meetings with the Nittany Lions, including a heartbreaker on the final play in 2017.

This isn't the first time an undefeated Iowa hosted an undefeated Penn State.

It happened as recently as 2017, and was an instant classic that @PennStateFball won on Trace @McSorley_IX's last-second TD pass. #TheOneFansDeserve x #DrPepper


— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 7, 2021

Penn State vs. Iowa Betting Preview

Saturday, Oct. 9
4 p.m. ET

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State Offense

Even though Penn State is 5-0, it's not because of its offense.

Penn State can't run the ball to save its life right now, ranking 114th in Rushing Success Rate and 115th Offensive Line Yards.

The offensive line has been the biggest problem, though, as it's been getting no push up front and is having trouble protecting Clifford in the passing game.

Penn State ranks 64th in terms of a run-blocking grade, per PFF, and is 87th in Havoc allowed, which is a major problem when facing the No. 2 team in the country in terms of creating Havoc. Iowa's defense already has 16 takeaways in five games.

If Penn State isn't able to run the ball with any type of success, it's going to have to move the ball steadily through the passing game.

Iowa's secondary is 22nd in Passing Success Rate Allowed and is 10th in Explosive Passing Allowed. So, Penn State's deep threat Jahan Dotson — who has five catches on passes over 20 yards and an average depth of target of 11.8 — is going to have a really difficult time getting behind the Iowa defense.

Jahan Dotson, #PennState WR is an elite vertical threat with crafty route running skills who reminds me of #Texans Brandin Cooks. He's gonna contend for my WR1 this #NFLDraft

I breakdown how he uses his speed as a weapon and sells routes at the release, stem and on double moves.

— Jordan (@Texans_Thoughts) October 2, 2021

Penn State's success in this game is likely going to be in the hands of Clifford and whether or not he can prevent turnovers.

This season, he's been much improved in that respect with eight big-time throws and only two turnover-worthy plays. However, the two previous seasons, he posted 21 turnover-worthy plays and 10 fumbles.

He has not faced a defense of Iowa's caliber yet this season, he threw two interceptions against the Hawkeyes last season.

Penn State Defense

Penn State's defense has been really good this season, and the team showed it last Saturday night by pitching a shutout against Indiana.

Penn State is one of the best teams in the country at stopping teams once it crosses the 40-yard line, ranking 18th in Finishing Drives. However, the Nittany Lions' run defense has not been elite this season, ranking outside the top 40 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and Defensive Line Yards.

That's going to be a bit of a problem against Tyler Goodson and an Iowa rushing attack that runs the ball 59% of the time.

The secondary is where Penn State makes its money.

The Nittany Lions are graded as the No. 3 secondary in the country in terms of coverage, per PFF. They have one of the best safeties in the country in Jaquan Brisker, who is the seventh-best coverage safety in the country, according to PFF's rankings.

That means they should be able to shut down Spencer Petras and the Iowa passing attack, which has been well below average through the first five games of the season.

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Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Offense

While Iowa is 5-0, from a Success Rate standpoint, the offense has really struggled up to this point in the season, ranking outside the top 100 in both Rushing and Passing Success Rate.

That has led Iowa to gain only 4.6 yards per play, which is 102nd in the country. So, the question for Iowa as a whole is: can its offense be successful if the defense isn't able to get multiple turnovers?

On paper, Petras' numbers aren't up there with the top quarterbacks, but he's actually been really efficient, and last Friday night was a perfect example.

Petras averaged 8.6 yards per pass attempt with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

The biggest thing for Petras is that he has to have a clean pocket. He has a 91.6 passing grade with a clean pocket but a 53.6 passing grade when under pressure, per PFF.

Penn State hasn't pressured the quarterback often this season, as it ranks 70th in Havoc and 85th in terms of a pass-rushing grade, per PFF. That's good news for Petras.

Spencer Petras was on point with this zinger to Arland Bruce 🎯

— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 2, 2021

However, the focus of the Iowa offense is the rushing attack.

The rushing offense in total hasn't really been up to par, gaining 3.4 yards per carry. However, Goodson has been incredible, racking up 4.3 yards per carry behind one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in college football (fourth this season, per PFF).

Iowa will have to establish the run against Penn State given how good the Nittany Lions' secondary has been this season.

Iowa Defense

Iowa may have the best defense in college football through the first four games.

It showed that on a national stage last Friday night, picking off Tagovailoa five times and finishing the game with seven forced turnovers against the Terrapins.

Even though Iowa's defense is getting a lot of takeaways, it's still not allowing opposing offenses to have any sort of efficiency, allowing only four yards per play.

The Hawks rank in the top 10 in the country in both rushing and passing explosive plays allowed, and opposing quarterbacks have not been able to throw on their secondary.

Iowa boasts two of the best cornerbacks in college football in Riley Moss and Matt Hankins, who both are graded as top-10 corners in terms of coverage, per PFF.

Iowa is the ONLY team to have two CBs graded inside the top 10:

▪️Matt Hankins – 87.2 (2nd)
▪️Riley Moss – 83.0 (9th)

— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 7, 2021

The front seven has also been much better than it was projected to be coming into the season. Iowa has allowed only 2.7 yards per carry and ranks inside the top 25 in Rushing Success Rate Allowed.

Phil Parker's defense is predicated on not allowing explosive plays and forcing the opponent to sustain long drives to beat his defense, as Iowa is the No. 4 team in the country in big plays allowed.

Maryland wasn't able to do that on Friday night, and we'll see if Clifford is patient enough on Saturday to beat Iowa's defense.

Penn State vs. Iowa Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Penn State and Iowa match up statistically:

Penn State Offense vs. Iowa Defense




Rush Success
Line Yards
Pass Success
Pass Blocking**
Big Play
Finishing Drives
**Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Iowa Offense vs. Penn State Defense




Rush Success
Line Yards
Pass Success
Pass Blocking**
Big Play
Finishing Drives
**Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling
PFF Coverage
Middle 8
SP+ Special Teams
Plays per Minute
Rush Rate
51.9% (80)
56.% (59)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

This is a really close game, as both passing attacks are likely not going to have much success against two of the best secondaries in the country.

So, the question will be: can Penn State establish its rushing attack against Iowa's front seven? If not, the game is going to be in Clifford's hands, which is a big problem against a defense that has 16 takeaways in five games.

On the flip side, Iowa's rushing attack will need to get going as well and keep a clean pocket for Petras, who is one of the worst quarterbacks in the country under pressure.

However, the Iowa offensive line should be able to dominate the line of scrimmage in this game, which I think will end up being the difference in this game.

Penn State vs. Iowa Betting Pick

Iowa opened as a -3 favorite, but it has been bet down to -1.5 at a lot of books. So, I think that line movement has created some value on Iowa, which has significant advantages in the trenches.

I am going to back the Iowa moneyline. The best price is -122 currently available at FanDuel.

Pick: Iowa -122

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