No. 7 Penn State will face No. 24 Iowa in a Big Ten showdown Saturday in a prime time matchup on CBS. Both programs in this cross-division matchup have conference championship aspirations, and the winner will likely find itself smack dab in the middle of the early-season College Football Playoff conversation.
The Nittany Lions are the only team on Iowa's 2023 schedule currently ranked, which raises the stakes for the Hawkeyes, who have a relatively open path to a Big Ten West title. In a West division with three first-year coaches that has seen established programs like Illinois and Minnesota struggle early in the season, Iowa looks like the favorite to represent the division in the Big Ten title game.
Penn State's path to the league title game is significantly more treacherous, with a trip to No. 6 Ohio State and a game against No. 2 Michigan still looming. If the Nittany Lions are going to break through and represent the Big Ten East for the first time since 2016, beating the Hawkeyes at home is a must.
The last meeting between these teams was a classic top-five showdown in 2021. The homesteading Hawkeyes escaped with a 23-20 victory, and their fans rushed the field in celebration. Given the strength of both defenses, it would be no surprise if this meeting follows a similar dramatic and low-scoring script.
Follow along with LIVE updates from Penn State vs. Iowa
How to watch Penn State vs. Iowa live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 23 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Beaver Stadium -- University Park, Pennsylvania
TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
Streaming on Paramount+ with Showtime (Try It Free)
Penn State vs. Iowa: Need to know
Turnover battle: In a 30-13 win at Illinois last week, Penn State forced five turnovers and did not commit one. That massive edge in takeaways allowed the Nittany Lions to win rather comfortably, despite averaging just 5.9 yards per passing attempt and a modest 4.1 yards per carry. It was a page straight out of the Iowa playbook as the Hawkeyes are usually renowned for their ability to forcing turnovers under defensive coordinator Phil Parker. It hasn't been the case this year, though. Iowa has forced just a single takeaway in each of its three games. If the Hawkeyes are going to pull a road upset, they will almost certainly need to win the turnover battle.
Iowa banged up: The Hawkeyes' injury situation isn't doing embattled offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz any favors as the team works towards a contractually-mandated average of 25 points per game. Tight end Luke Lachey and running backs Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson aren't expected to play, coach Kirk Ferentz announced. Their absences will leave quarterback Cade McNamara with even fewer weapons than normal. Look for running back Leshon Williams to take on a heavy workload amid the injuries.
Allar's opportunity: Penn State sophomore quarterback Drew Allar completed 16 of 33 passes for 208 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in last week's Illinois win. It was an unspectacular performance, but it was all the Nittany Lions needed because of their turnover advantage. Beating Iowa could require more downfield playmaking from the former five-star prospect. Penn State is tied for 112th nationally with just nine plays of 20 or more yards this season, according to TruMedia. The Nittany Lions have connected on just one completion of 50 or more yards. Hitting explosive plays against Iowa is a challenge for anyone, but so is putting together long and methodical drives. But if Allar and his receivers can stretch the field vertically in the first half, it could help open up the rest of Penn State's offense.
Penn State vs. Iowa prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
Iowa is banged up offensively with injuries to Luke Lachey and two of its top three running backs, but the Hawkeyes likely weren't going to rack up a ton of points against a really stout Nittany Lions defense even in peak condition. While Penn State scored 30 points against a stout Big Ten West defense last week in a victory at Illinois, that total is misleading because the Nittany Lions enjoyed a 5-0 turnover edge. Nothing about scoring on Iowa will be easy, and this should be a close game. Pick: Iowa +14.5
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