The Iowa Hawkeyes closed out their 2023 non-conference slate in week three with a 41-10 win over the Western Michigan Broncos. The final score, like the stat sheet for the rushing attack, was impressive and in line with most expectations entering the game. The ride to get there, was not.
Now Iowa looks to build on the success they found in the second half of that game as they move on to their Big Ten opener in week four. With the beginning of Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes also face their first truly hostile environment of 2023 as they travel to Happy Valley for a whiteout for the first time since 2009.
The parallels to that 2009 matchup run deep this week. As was the case 14 years ago, both teams enter the week at 3-0 with the Nittany Lions big home favorites ranked inside the top-10 nationally. And as with 2009, the forecast for Saturday evening in Happy Valley calls for cooler temps and a good chance of rain. Perfect.
However, unlike that fateful day back in 2009, the Hawkeyes are expected to be missing several key components on Saturday. After losing Mackey Award candidate Luke Lachey with what appeared to be a season-ending leg injury in week three, Iowa added running backs Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson to the list of offensive players expected to miss the week four showdown.
That likely leaves a lot on the plate for Phil Parker and his defense. Challenge accepted.
Here’s a quick look at the details for this weekend’s conference opener.
Date: Saturday, September 23rd
Time: 6:30 pm CT
Matchup: #24 Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0, 0-0) at Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0, 1-0)
Location: Beaver Stadium - University Park, PA
Preliminary Weather Forecast: cloudy with temps in the upper-50s, 50% chance of rain
DraftKings Opening Line: Penn State -14.5, O/U 42
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Saturday night’s meeting between Iowa and Penn State will mark the 32nd all-time between the two programs. Penn State holds the all-time series lead 17-14, but Iowa has won each of the last two meetings between the two teams. That includes a 23-20 win in Iowa City back in 2021, as well as a big 41-21 win the last time these two teams played in Happy Valley back in 2020. Notably, there were no fans in the stadium for that Iowa victory.
As noted, this week opens Big Ten play for the Hawkeyes. Iowa is 8-3 in its last 11 Big Ten openers, but just 13-11 in such games in Kirk Ferentz’s storied career. This will be the seventh time Iowa has opened conference play against Penn State. Iowa is 4-2 in conference-openers against the Nittany Lions.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz is 5-5 all-time against Penn State in Happy Valley, but just 1-2 against current head coach James Franklin. Ferentz is 2-4 overall against the Nits under the direction of Franklin.
Saturday night’s matchup will be broadcast nationally on CBS, marking the first time in 26 years the Hawkeyes will be on the channel. The Hawkeyes’ last appearance on CBS came in 1997 when Iowa faced off with Arizona State in the Sun Bowl. That ended in a 17-7 loss fort the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s last regular season game on the network came way back in the Fry days in 1986 against Michigan.
Notably, Penn State’s Beaver Stadium is one of only a handful the Hawkeyes will play on all season which still uses a grass playing surface. Iowa won their first such game this season when they left Ames victorious 20-13 over Iowa State. The Hawkeyes have won their last six games played on a grass field.
Preseason Prep Work
As we march toward kick off, be sure to check out our preseason preview for this week’s matchup. There’s loads of important details and unique looks at this week’s opponent, including this great set of stats:
4 11-win seasons: Over the last 7 years, Franklin has had Penn State humming with a 64 wins, tied for 10th in the nation. Last year, they bounced back after an underwhelming couple of years, capped with their third New Year’s Six bowl win.
+17.5: PSU was top 20 in scoring offense & defense, culminating in the 6th best scoring margin in the nation.
3.2 sacks/game: Part of what keeps their defense in the upper echelon is their hectic front seven which attacks the backfield. Last year’s 3.2 sacks/game ranked 8th in the nation. Iowa took advantage of their aggressiveness with the game-winning score in 2021 but they’ll be a tough test for an offensive line which hasn’t played together yet.
83 passes deflected: With their emphasis on getting to the QB, the Nittany Lions leverage more press coverage to force early throws into tight windows. It compares incredibly favorably to Iowa’s number (46) but really, it’s a function of what each team asks their guys to do.
And here’s a look at the preseason predictions for this one.
Staff Prediction: Iowa Loss, 100% of the vote
Fan Prediction: Iowa Loss, 96% of the vote
BizarroMath Prediction: PSU 24, Iowa 13 - 30% chance of win
Be sure to check back in throughout the week as all preview and postgame stories will be published to this stream.