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Iowa vs. Penn State College Football Pick with Analysis

10/8/11

Penn State hosts Iowa in Happy Valley Saturday. Penn State comes in at 4-1, 1-0 in conference play while Iowa comes in 3-1 with this being their first conference opponent of the year. Penn State opened as a 2 point favorite and early sharp money has pushed that line to -3, even -3.5 in spots.

Bettors are likely zeroing in on what Penn State has done defensively this year. Their defensive numbers actually resemble those of recent Iowa teams. The Nittany Lions are giving up just 12 points per game and only 250 yards per game on average. In their 4 wins, they gave up 7, 10, 6 and 10 points. In their one lose, they gave up 27. Now let's dig a tad deeper. Their lone loss came at the hands of Alabama. Their wins have been against Indiana State, Temple, Eastern Michigan and Indiana.

Do we have a paper tiger in the Penn State defense? We may find out Saturday as Iowa comes in averaging 38 points per game. Yes, they played a couple of cup cakes, but they also came all the way back from a huge deficit to beat Pitt 31-27 while losing a shootout to Iowa 44-41. The Iowa offense looks to be clicking, but the defense is not on par with recent editions.

You have to be concerned with the Penn State offense. They were lucky to get out of Indiana with a win, scoring just 16 points. Indiana is a 1-4 football team. The teams that have beaten Indiana are Ball State, Virginia and North Texas. Each of those 3 teams was able to put more points on the board than Penn State in their wins over the Hoosiers. In fact, South Carolina State was able to put up 21 in a losing effort.

Granted the Iowa defense isn't what is was. But, we think it's a better defense than every other team Penn State has faced this year with the exception of Alabama. Unlike Penn State the Iowa offense is moving the ball. QB James Vandenberg has played some fantastic ball recently starting with that comeback against Pitt. He seems to be filling the shoes of Ricky Stanzi Just fine.

The strengths of these teams can be found in the yards per point numbers, with schedule strength being fairly even. Iowa has an 11 on offense which is very good, compared with Penn State at 16, which shows us the Nittany Lions are having a tough time turning yards into points. Defensively, Iowa has a 16, which is modest, while Penn State's number is very good at close to 21. If we're using ypp to get a line here, it would be Penn State by 2 or 3, very close to the actual line.

Our prediction model has Penn State winning and covering by a score of 23-12, but we have our doubts. We simply cannot trust the Penn State offense laying points here. Their defense is likely legit. They held Alabama to their lowest point total of the year so far, 27, and the defense kept that game from being a complete blowout, but the Tide still rumbled for a couple hundred yards on the ground. We don't think Iowa will have that kind of success, but you have to figure the Hawkeyes, at 38 points per game, are going to put a couple of scores on the board. Can Penn State match them? We think anything over a field goal here could loom large so we'll back Iowa + 3.5 or more

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