The matchup inside the game that will determine the outcome. That’s what this article is all about. The winner of Iowa’s rushing attack versus Penn State’s front seven will come out with the ‘W’ Saturday evening.
Iowa knows what it will do, and so does Penn State. Time to break it down.
Don’t Tread on Me
Everyone knows that Iowa is a zone running football team. The Hawkeyes do not attempt to hide it either. For as long as Iowa Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz became the head man, the Hawkeyes ran the football downhill. It’s their nature; it’s who they are.
For years, Iowa has placed numerous offensive linemen into the NFL after being under Coach Ferentz’s tutelage. Recent first round pick Tristan Wirfs immediately started for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and helped Tom Brady win his seventh Super Bowl. That’s one of many examples of Iowa’s talented offensive lineman over the years.
With that in mind, Penn State’s front seven is really talented, and especially so at linebacker. With Penn State, there’s an absolutely incredible linebacker duo in weak side linebacker Brandon Smith and middle linebacker Ellis Brooks. The two players are future NFL players in their own right, and they lead a unit that is really good by allowing The Nittany 111.6 yards per game on the ground.
Can these two help push Penn State over the top against the Iowa rushing attack today? To do that, it brings up the best matchup of the game.
Can Penn State Slow Down Goodson?
For anyone that did not yet see Iowa junior running back Tyler Goodson play, you will be in for a treat when you turn on the television today. He’s a one-cut-and-go runner, but he also possesses some razzle-dazzle, at times, to help him avoid tacklers.
The 5’10”, 200 pound running back accumulated 430 yards and five touchdowns on the ground so far this season behind an offensive line that should not be considered a vintage Hawkeyes’ front five.
Three of the five starters are in their first or second year of college football. That’s very unusual for an Iowa program that tends to redshirt the majority of their offensive lineman and allow them to go through a long process of learning the offensive system while gaining needed size and strength.
At any moment, however, Goodson can explode. He’s also caught 12 passes for 146 yards and one receiving touchdown. Look for the Hawkeyes to find different ways to place the pigskin in Goodson’s hands.
Further, It’s now the middle of the college football season. Yes, those are young Hawkeyes along the front offensive wall, but they are also now more accustomed to playing with one another. That leads to the following question.
Can Iowa Hit the Big Running Play to Help Set Up Play-Action?
Barring something unforeseen, Penn State will likely be able to at least hold down Goodson, i.e. keep him to a 100 yards. In that scenario, this game likely comes down to the last possession.
If Iowa is to change the flow of the game, and the scoreboard, can they find a way to pop Goodson into the open field for a long gain? It’s important beyond just getting Goodson going.
Iowa’s passing attack needs play-action passing to work at its best. Junior quarterback Spencer Petras passed for 943 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception this season. With Goodson rolling along, it makes his job far more easy.
If the Nittany Lions can keep Goodson under 75 yards rushing, however, there’s a far better chance for interceptions and the Hawkeyes struggling offensively overall. Petras has a cannon for an arm, but like any signal caller, he needs the element of surprise with play-action to maximize the Hawkeyes’ passing attack.
This should be a fantastic game and a fantastic matchup between Iowa’s rushing attack and Penn State’s front seven. It’s good ol’ Big 10 Football with really talented players soon to be in the NFL. Here’s a final score prediction:
Iowa 20 Penn State 17
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