Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Date and Time: Saturday, September 23, 2017, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
Opening College Football Odds: Penn State -11
Penn State vs. Iowa TV Coverage: ABC
The one thing we know about Penn State is that it's going to play some tough football. The Nittany Lions have conceded just two touchdowns the entire season, second best in America to Vanderbilt, and both came against Pittsburgh. Neither Akron nor Georgia State ever legitimately had a chance against the PSU defense, and James Franklin has to be thrilled about that.
The other reason Franklin has to feel excited right now is because he has a pair of fringy Heisman Trophy candidates in Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. Neither man is ultimately going to win the honor this year, but the stats are still pretty darn special for three games into the season.
McSorley has thrown for 753 yards and rushed for 137 more, accounting for 11 total touchdowns. Barkley has 307 yards on the ground and three trips to the end zone.
Still, this Iowa team isn't going to go down without a fight. Nathan Stanley has the look of one of the better quarterbacks Kirk Ferentz has ever had to work with, and his defense has had two really good efforts in three games against poor competition to kick off the year.
Stanley is the first Hawkeye to throw for 10 touchdowns in a three-game stretch in three decades. He's got a great receiver in Nick Easley, who always seems to be the right place in the right time. Akrum Wadley has a total of 410 yards and two touchdowns between his rushing and receiving in two games, and he'll be a threat here as well.
But the real key is going to be finding some other members of this offense to step up. James Butler is a nice change-of-pace back, while Noah Fant, Matt VandeBerg and T.J. Hockenson will have to make some plays to complete a full effort against Penn State.
Credit goes out to the Penn State defensive linemen for as well as they've played at the outset of the year. Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran are both fifth-year seniors at nose tackle, and they've really dominated at the point of attack against lesser teams.
So much of Iowa's offense is based on keeping the pocket from collapsing and giving running backs chances to poke holes in the middle of defensive lines. If Penn State doesn't allow that to happen, we're really going to find out in a hurry what Stanley is made of, and we're not sure it's going to be pretty.
Penn State vs. Iowa Free Picks
It's time for Penn State to make a statement, and this is a nice spot to do it in. Iowa was impressive against Wyoming to start the year, but if we're being honest, it hasn't really played against anyone yet this season to get to 3-0. This might be one of the more overrated teams in America at the moment, and we don't think Penn State is ultimately having a problem.
So don't the glitz and glamor of this being a Saturday night game under the lights at Kinnick Stadium fool you. Iowa can play, and it's going to be a bowl team this year, but this isn't a game that is going to be competitive more often than not. Shop around at all of your favorite sportsbooks and find the best price on the Nittany Lions, then fire away.
College Football ATS Pick: Penn State -11 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Penn State 34, Iowa 13