No. 18 Iowa at No. 17 Penn State – 3:30 p.m. ET
This is the game of the day in my opinion.
There are massive implications for both sides. If the one-loss Hawkeyes can find a way to take down Penn State in Happy Valley on Saturday, a Big Ten Championship appearance and a shot at the College Football Playoff become even more attainable, as they would likely be favored the rest of the way on their schedule.
Though the Nittany Lions are out of the Playoff picture with two losses, they would still have an outside chance at a Big Ten East title and a trip to Indy with a win. A New Year’s Six bowl appearance would remain on the table. If they lose, they can kiss all those goals goodbye for good.
Iowa has looked phenomenal ever since the loss to Wisconsin in Week 4, winning all of its last four games in convincing fashion, including last week’s 23-0 showing against Maryland. Again, after this weekend’s showdown with Penn State, the Hawkeyes’ schedule is relatively manageable, though games against Purdue and Northwestern could be tricky.
Penn State’s coming off of a narrow 33-28 win over a stingy Indiana squad, but now enters the gauntlet of its schedule starting against Iowa on Saturday and followed by games against Michigan and Wisconsin.
If this game was at Kinnick Stadium, I would not hesitate to give Iowa the clear edge with how well they have played lately. However, since Penn State will have the major home-field advantage that Happy Valley provides, this looks to be a toss-up.
The outcome will largely be decided by two factors.
First, which version of Nate Stanley shows up for Iowa? The Hawkeye quarterback’s performance tends to vary from week to week, as one game he may play like one of the nation’s top signal callers, and the other he may just as easily lay an egg. That being said, he has looked great over Iowa’s current run of wins, and if he continues that trend this week Penn State’s chances of victory will plummet.
Second, can Trace McSorley get anything going against Iowa’s defense? The Hawkeyes boast the nation’s No. 3 overall unit, shutting opponents down both on the ground and through the air. That being said, if anyone can overcome that it is McSorley. The senior has put the Nittany Lions on his back this season and has no shortage of weapons in running back Miles Sanders and receivers such as Juwan Johnson and KJ Hamler.
This one should be a thriller that comes down to the fourth quarter, where Penn State has often struggled to close out games this season. Can the Nittany Lions find a way to put away this red-hot Hawkeye squad?