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The Pants Predicts: Iowa at Penn State

Penn State at 0-5 for the first time ever sure has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

NCAA Football: Penn State at Iowa
Iowa hasn’t beaten Penn State in a decade. Is this the year?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

When the Big Ten split into East and West divisions, there was much time and energy spent thinking about protected crossovers games and the frequency with which teams played each other. At the time of the change (2014), Iowa and Penn State had just taken their first year off since 2006. In the 13 years prior, Iowa had won 8 of 11 meetings between the two teams. Shortly after the realignment, Iowa and Penn State was back to being an annual game, but Iowa’s edge was gone.

Penn State has now won the last six meetings, including every game since Joe Paterno left the program, and Iowa hasn’t won in the last decade. The Hawkeyes haven’t won in State College since 2009. Can that change this week as Iowa face just the second Penn State team to start a season 0-4 ever?

Vegas is saying yes. After opening as a pick’em, this one moved to Iowa -2.5 with an over/under set at 48.5. As for The Pants, we’re a bit less convinced. Nearly half the staff is on Penn State to win outright, but none of us are calling for the Hawkeyes to win by less than the spread. Despite that, on average we’re expecting a 22-21 game in favor of the Hawkeyes. That puts us on the under in this one.

Here’s a look at our individual predictions for Iowa’s trip to Penn State.


This one is genuinely difficult to predict. My heart wants to believe what we saw from the Hawkeyes the last two games is evidence this team has turned the corner and is ready to make a run. But my brain tells me this was just a pair of below average opponents who Iowa was able to run all over.

The Hawkeyes have struggled against Penn State the last decade and I expect that to continue this week. Penn State has enough athletes to create problems for the Iowa offense while the Nittany Lion offense seems capable of scoring against a defense that has shown some lapses in the back end from time to time. If Penn State can avoid turning the ball over, which seems more likely if it’s Will Levis at QB instead of Sean Clifford, I expect them to get a win in a close one.

Penn State 17, Iowa 15 (because we know things will get weird, right?)

Rob Donaldson

Last week’s annihilation of Minnesota was very predictable, but this game presents a lot more of an unknown. This will prove to be the toughest task to date for Iowa’s offensive line this season and it’ll be very interesting to see how that unit performs because they’ve been the star of the show in every game thus far.

Penn State has experienced a number of setbacks and tough losses this season and none of them were even COVID-related. At this point, everyone knows about the unfortunate with now former Penn State running back Journey Brown, but underwhelming and even detrimental performances from Sean Clifford and the quarterback position as a whole have really hurt this Nittany Lions squad.

The talent is there for this team to play well and finish out the season relatively strong and there is an aspect of the “due factor” to consider in this one. Regardless, I feel like for both offenses there will be turnovers in this one. However, this Iowa team is a great one and I think they find a way to overcome those mistakes.

Iowa 27, Penn State 22

Bartt Pierce

If you’ve been following these you know where I’m going. My predictions had us beating Purdue and Northwestern. I learned from my mistakes. I decided to go full on superstitious the next two weeks. I predicted Iowa losses to MSU and Minny. Two wins. It goes without saying that I’m going all-in with James Franklin’s squad. I really don’t care for him. He’s a terrific coach, but he has that Mark Dantonio/P.J. Fleck vibe about him. I don’t like the fact that the Nittany Lions are winless. Too much talent on the roster for that. It feels like a game the Hawks should win, and then we don’t. Penn State is going to run the football and then run some more. Turnovers will be the key. Hawks lose a close one. An old-school slobber knocker.

Penn State 17, Iowa 13


To me, this has trap game written all over it. Iowa has looked really good the last two weeks but are also shaky in a lot of ways (particularly at quarterback). Penn State is winless, and undoubtedly hungry. This feels like a trap game to me.

I’m going to say it’s sadly not even close.

Penn State 31, Iowa 17


I have thought about this game too much. There are about a dozen different outcomes on the table. To me the easiest one is the one we’ve seen all too often before: a good-ole fashioned rockfight.

You have to go back a decade before you find a game where Iowa’s offense scored more than 20 points on the Nittany Lions. Conveniently enough, that was Iowa’s last win. Ugh. Penn State’s offense is the type which provides just enough uncertainty, through turnovers and red zone execution, to lead Kirk Ferentz to believe Iowa can win a game without exceeding 20 points and he’s probably right.

I just don’t have a good feeling about it and sense the Hawkeye offense from the first two games return as Penn State goes all out to stop Iowa’s running game, forcing Keith Duncan to kick one too many field goals.

Penn State 20, Iowa 16


This is a game where I don’t see a large advantage for either team at any matchup positions. The last two weeks the defense has really starred and key turnovers have limited scoring opportunities for opponents. Penn St has been prone to mistakes with Clifford at quarterback, but I’m expecting to see Levis, who Iowa really wanted out of high school, limit those mistakes.

In the end, I think the difference in this game is the fact that there are not 107,000 fans in the stands, and Iowa uses a big play to turn the tide late and pull out the win.

Iowa 26, Penn St 23


Is Penn State, a team that was an inch away from beating Indiana in its opener, really as bad as its 0-4 record suggests? Is Iowa closer to the team that started 0-2 or the one who stomped its past two opponents to claw back to .500? This game will answer a lot of questions about both teams.

Kirk Ferentz has never beaten James Franklin and the Hawkeyes have lost three straight winnable games against Penn State, so history is working against Iowa. But if the Hawkeyes are EVER going to beat Penn State again, getting a winless Nittany Lion team in an empty Beaver Stadium while your team is riding a hot streak presents as good an opportunity as they’re going to get in the foreseeable future.

Iowa 21, Penn State 13

Ben Ross

Y’know, I really hate the outside noise drowning out this game. Penn State’s winless. It changed quarterbacks. Kirk Ferentz has never beat James Franklin.

Here’s what has me going: Penn State handed Nebraska its first win of the year, and I don’t think that’s making any coaches or players on the Iowa sideline very happy. It’s time to show Penn State that losing to Nebraska has dire consequences.

Iowa 24, Penn State 17

So that’s where we stand, what say you, Hawkeye fans?