Iowa Football

Iowa football: 5 things to know about Penn State

No. 16 Nittany Lions host No. 18 Hawkeyes this week

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin argues with a referee during Saturday’s game at Indiana. (Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin argues with a referee during Saturday’s game at Indiana. (Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports)

Admit it, Iowa fans. This is the game you looked at in July or August and thought “what if?”

What if the Hawkeyes could start the season with wins over Northern Illinois, Iowa State, UNI, Minnesota, Indiana and Maryland and head into Happy Valley with a 6-1 record?

What if they could upset Wisconsin in that early Big Ten game and actually be 7-0?

Well, it’s Penn State week and Iowa is 6-1 and ranked 18th nationally after Saturday’s win over Maryland.

Now, the Nittany Lions haven’t exactly been the world-beating, CFP-challenging team their fans had expected, but they still are 5-2 and rank 16th nationally.

It’s still a big game, an important game for both teams.

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. in State College, Pa.

Here are “5 Things” about PSU:

1. Golden touch?

Success seems to follow Penn State Coach James Franklin wherever he lands.

Since becoming a head coach at Vanderbilt before the 2011 season, he has coached in seven bowl games. That’s every year.

His first Vanderbilt team finished 6-7 after losing to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl, but his next five teams have gone 9-4, 9-4, 7-6, 7-6, 11-3 and 11-2. He has a career record of 65-34.

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A former all-conference quarterback at East Strodsburg (Pa.), Franklin started his coaching career at Kutztown (Pa.) in 1995. He moved back to East Stroudsburg in 1996 then went to James Madison, Washington State, Idaho State, Maryland (twice) and Kansas State before getting the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. He also spent the 2005 season as wide receivers coach with the Green Bay Packers and participated in the NFL’s Minority Coaching Fellowship Program.

He’s not universally loved, however.

In an anonymous poll published by CBS Sports in August, Franklin was tabbed one of the most overrated coaches in college football. One coach said “his coaching peers know he is full of it.” But only about 25 or 26 of the 129 coaches surveyed took part in the poll. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, by the way, ranked third along with Lane Kiffin.

2. McTalented

Penn State not only has a talented player under center, but one with loads of experience.

Richard Thomas McSorley III — aka Trace McSorley — graduated from Penn State in May with a degree in accounting. He’s working on a second degree now, this one in journalism.

He’s been on the field since his redshirt freshman year in 2015 when he played in seven games and tossed his first touchdown pass in the TaxSlayer Bowl. He is Penn State’s career leader with 8,610 passing yards, 70 passing touchdowns, 24 rushing TDs and 9,956 total yards.

He has a career record of 27-7.

As you can see, he can beat you with his arm and his feet. This year, he has passed for 1,461 yards and 11 TDs and ranks second on the team with 554 rushing yards.

3. A numbers game

Penn State has been putting up some impressive offensive numbers this year, averaging 42.6 points and 480.6 yards per game.

The points rank second in the Big Ten, the yardage third.

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The defense, however, has been a bit suspect. The Nittany Lions rank ninth in total defense, allowing 392 yards per game.

In last week’s win over Indiana, a 33-28 verdict that snapped a two-game losing streak, Penn State allowed the Hoosiers 554 yards and 32 first downs.

4. History lesson

Penn State certainly has a storied football past.

The Nittany Lions own two consensus national titles — 1982 and ’85 when the late Joe Paterno roamed the sidelines — and have won four Big Ten titles since joining the conference in 1993.

Penn State has played in 48 bowl games. Paterno directed it to 37 of those bowl games in his 45 seasons and Franklin has taken them to a bowl in each of his four previous seasons.

Football, it appears, started at Penn State in 1881. It played a game against the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell), winning 9-0 with “nine goals.” It was more rugby than football since Walter Camp didn’t develop several of the rules and terminology used today until the next year.

Bucknell, however, denies the game ever took place.

Every Penn State coach since 1900 has had a winning record except for Tom Bradley, who took over when Paterno was fired in 2011 and coached the final four games.

5. The series

The Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions first met in 1930 in Iowa City and the home team won, 19-0.

Penn State won the next five — from 1971 to ’75 — before Iowa posted wins in 1976 and again in 1983. Iowa owned this series in the early 2000s, winning five in a row from ’00 to ‘04, but the Nittany Lions have won the past four and own a 15-12 advantage in the series.

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The teams are 9-9 since Penn State joined the Big Ten and Iowa is 7-6 in games in State College.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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