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Penn State Football: Five Things To Watch As The Nittany Lions Take On Iowa

by on October 11, 2019 1:00 PM

Penn State is off to Iowa for the first real test of the Nittany Lions' season. The last time the Blue and White made the trip it was a nail-biter with the Nittany Lions walking-off with a final play winner and heroics but Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. For Penn State fans they will hope to see a slightly less dramatic game, but nothing about playing in Kinnick Stadium at night is simple.

Here are five things to watch as Penn State looks to go 6-0 on the year and head into Michigan week undefeated.

Finish Finish Finish:

Penn State [Saquon Barkley] was the better team last time it visited Iowa City and the stats showed it. The only problem, Penn State had a hard time turning those 579 yards into points. While there's no guarantee that this game will follow the same pattern, but the general idea remains the same: Make sure your offense turns into something on the scoreboard. Finishing drives is often the difference in big games, and the Nittany Lions won't want to outperform the Hawkeyes and have little to show for it, last time it nearly cost them the game.

Your Ball:

Penn State has done a pretty good job this year of not coughing up the ball, and when it has happened, it hasn't been an overly important moment in the game. Stands to reason that any turnovers on the road against Iowa could spell game-changing swings. Sean Clifford's two interceptions were deep balls gone awry so any shots down the field will need to be confident and on point. The stable of running backs have managed to hang on to the ball despite the ongoing rotations, and that'll be key in more ways than one come Saturday.

It's not rocket science, but the turnovers that didn't mean much through the first five games of the year will mean a lot more as the season goes along.

Within Reach:

It goes without saying, but if you're going to be trailing on the road, you don't want things to get out of hand. If Penn State hits a second half lull like it did against Purdue, it might not like the results. Empty drives and three-and-outs are one thing, it's something else when teams take advantage and suddenly trailing by a field goal is trialing by 10 points. If the Nittany Lions are going to have down moments, they'll need to make sure the defense is there to respond and keep Iowa within reach. Of course this might not be an issue at all, but Penn State will be trailing in a game on the road sooner or later.

Simple Things:

Penn State is 5th in the nation (a good thing) in terms of penalties per game. Nothing kills a good drive like holding or gives your opponent hope like pass interference. If the Nittany Lions can take their discipline on the road, that'll go a long way towards winning. The penalty battle is farther down the list of ways you might win or lose, but it only takes a few poorly timed mental errors to swing a game. Penn State has been pretty good at avoiding dumb penalties most of the year, and really the last few years, but that trend will have to continue on Saturday.

Get Back There:

Iowa struggled mightily against Michigan's pass rush and had a hard time moving the ball because of it. One would imagine that the Nittany Lions wouldn't have 10 sacks in back-to-back games, but getting to Nate Stanley will make Penn State's life a lot easier. Assuming that this is a defensive affair, a good pass rush is Step 1 to keeping Iowa off the board. Can Shaka Toney repeat his three-sack performance against the Boilermakers? Can Yetur Gross-Matos start to have the season he was hoping for? Penn State has a lot of pass rushing options, now is the time for them to flex their potential. The same can be said for keeping Clifford on his feet.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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