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Iowa Football Opponent Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

In we go to Happy Valley...

Minnesota v Penn State Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

With the bye week now in the rearview mirror, it’s time for the Hawkeyes to turn their focus towards this week’s road challenge against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

So far this season, the Nittany Lions have been quite the revelation in the Big Ten, as they currently sit with an impressive record of 6-2 through the first eight games. In addition, this past Tuesday, the Nittany Lions were revealed as the #12 team in college football according to the College Football Playoff committee. A ranking that left many analysts and college football fans scratching their heads.

With that said, Penn State has looked quite impressive this season on both sides of the ball and, by every indication, this team looks to be rolling, as they look to extend their four-game winning streak this Saturday.

Home Field Advantage

Listen, I’ve never really been a believer in the idea that just any college football team’s home stadium provides a true home field advantage. And still to this day, I stay subscribed to that belief.

With that said, Beaver Stadium is different … a lot different.

I believe this is the first time I’ve ever included a stadium’s atmosphere in an opponent preview and I assure you it’s for good reason.

On game days, 110,000 fans fill into Beaver stadium and from beginning to end scream at their top of their lungs and unquestionably leave their mark on the game.

Heading into what is sure to be raucous environment this Saturday, the Hawkeyes will look to extend an impressive road win streak which currently stands at nine games.

There’s no doubt that this will be a tough challenge for the Hawkeyes. However, getting a win in such a hostile environment this weekend would bode extremely well for the Hawkeyes’ chances to win some more games down the stretch and it would certainly give them some much-needed confidence heading into a primetime home game against Michigan.

The Best Back in the Big Ten

I’m going to try to make this clear as I possibly can: Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley, is not only the most talented running back in the Big Ten, he’s arguably the best back in all of college football.

Although running backs such as, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey (apologies for the flashbacks), Dalvin Cook, and Nick Chubb are the ones that tend to garner the most national attention, based on the film study I’ve done, Barkley appears to me to be the most talented running back in the country.

Heading into this Saturday’s game, Barkley is coming off of a performance against Purdue where he was able to rack up a total of 277 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns on only 21 carries. I mean, I realize this is Purdue we’re talking about here but those are video game numbers.

What makes Barkley such a special talent is his ability to cut on a dime, explode into space, come downhill while maintaining his balance, use his incredible vision to find cut-back lanes, and catch balls out of the backfield.

When you take a look at some of the notable running backs the Hawkeyes have seen over recent years, there’s really no other back and you can compare him too. However, having game experience against guys such as, L.J. Scott (again, apologies for the flashbacks) in the Big Ten Championship Game and Christian McCaffrey in the Rose Bowl, should be valuable when going up against a player as special as Barkley.

With that said, even with a much than improved run defense, the Hawkeyes will have to live with the fact that Barkley will find a way to get his this Saturday.

An Underrated Defense

When you ask around the Big Ten fanbases about which teams have the best defenses, you’ll hear people throw out the normal candidates with teams such as, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, etc.. However, one with teams such as, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, etc.. However, a team you don't often hear mentioned alongside those schools is Penn State.

Now, let me be clear, I’m not saying that I believe the Nittany Lions are necessarily as good as those three teams. However, from what I’ve seen on tape, they definitely seem to have some respectable talent on every level of the defense.

Whether it be junior linebacker Jason Cabinda, senior safety Malik Golden, junior safety Marcus Allen, or junior defensive end Garrett Sickels, the Nittany Lions have multiple contributors on defense that are more than capable of stepping up and making plays when they need to.

One thing is for sure, the Hawkeyes offense will certainly have their hands full on offense this Saturday.