Hawkeye fans are in uncharted territory. Iowa opened the season with two ranked opponents and defied expectations by coming away with two blowout wins. That led to Iowa’s earliest entry into the AP top-5 in a generation.
As the Hawkeyes prepared for their first road test in the Big Ten, the narrative turned toward Iowa’s offensive struggles early in the year and the likelihood they would be knocked off by a solid Maryland team that could attack Iowa’s offense.
That narrative was blown out of the water on Friday night as Iowa’s defense suffocated a high-powered Terrapin attack and the Hawkeye offense had it’s best performance of the season. The showing was so positive, Iowa jumped two spots in the national polls, leap-frogging Penn State to 3rd in the nation.
That sets up a showdown between the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions on Saturday night in the first meeting of top-5 teams in Kinnick Stadium since 1985. The matchup will also be the first in the Big Ten featuring a pair of top-5 teams without including either Ohio State or Michigan since 1962.
To say the anticipation is palpable would be an understatement. Here’s what you need to know about this week’s historic showdown between Iowa and Penn State.
Date: Saturday, October 9th
Time: 3:00pm CT
Matchup: #4 Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0, 1-0) at #3 Iowa Hawkeyes (5-0, 1-0)
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
Preliminary Weather Forecast: partly sunny with temps in the low-80s, 10% chance of rain
DraftKings Opening Line: Iowa -2.5, O/U 41.5
Saturday will mark the 31st meeting between the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions. Penn State holds a 17-13 all-time lead in the series. That’s thanks in large part to a streak of six straight wins from 2011-2019.
The Hawkeyes stopped the streak last season as they throttled Penn State 41-21 in State College. The 20-point margin of victory is the second largest by Iowa in the series, topped only by their second-most recent win over PSU in 2010.
That victory in Kinnick capped off what had been a three-game streak by the Hawkeyes, who took eight out of nine from 2000-2010. Kirk Ferentz did well against the Joe Paterno-led Nits, finishing 8-3 against him all-time.
Perhaps the most memorable of those wins came in 2009 when Adrian Clayborn put the Hawkeyes on the national map when he blocked, scooped up and scored a TD on a PSU punt in the rain. Iowa rattled off nine straight wins to start that season before QB Ricky Stanzi went down against Northwestern. The Hawkeyes finished the year ranked 7th nationally.
But PSU is no longer coached by the legendary Paterno and Ferentz has fared far worse against his successors. Last year’s victory was the first for Ferentz over a non-Paterno coached Penn State club. He is 1-4 all-time against current head coach James Franklin.
This weekend’s matchup will not only be the first game featuring two top-5 teams in Kinnick since the #1 Hawkeyes defeated the #2 Michigan Wolverines in 1985, it will be the first matchup of top-5s for Penn State since 1999. The Nittany Lions were ranked #3 entering that season and took down #4 Arizona 41-7 in week one.
PSU is 1-15 against top-5 opponents dating back to 2000 with the lone win against #2 Ohio State in 2016. The Nittany Lions haven’t beaten a top-5 team on the road since they took down #5 Michigan in the Big House in 1994.
Iowa is 5-8 in games against top-5 opponents since 2000. Their lone win over a top-5 team on the road came in that 2009 trip to Happy Valley. The Hawkeyes are 4-2 against top-5 teams inside Kinnick Stadium since 2000. The two losses came to #1 Ohio State in 2006 and the Nittany Lions in 2017. Iowa hasn’t lost a game in Kinnick as a top-5 team since #12 Penn State defeated #5 Iowa 20-17 in 1984.