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Kinnick Stadium

John Schultz, Quad-City Times

Four things the football teams from Iowa and Penn State can do to put themselves in a position to win Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium:

Penn State (3-0)

1. Be Penn State

The Nittany Lions won a Big Ten championship last season with a collection of explosive playmakers on offense, a sound defense and solid special teams. Many of those pieces return heading into this season's Big Ten opener.

Running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki are preseason all-Americans for a reason. Barkley has averaged 102.3 rushing yards per game and his 11 catches trails only the 12 balls that Gesicki has caught this season.

Quarterback Trace McSorley finds himself with plenty of options, including receiver DaeSEan Hamilton who arrives at Kinnick Stadium with 170 catches on his resume.

That all adds up to an offense which has had 30 plays of 20 or more yards through three games, including the nine by Barkley which shares the national lead.

If Penn State's skill can spread the Iowa defense, the Hawkeyes will be in for a long night.

2. Repeat the feat

Penn State ground the Iowa running game to a halt a year ago in its 41-14 win over the Hawkeyes.

Iowa totaled just 30 yards on 26 carries, creating a one-dimensional offensive approach which played into the Nittany Lions' hands.

Penn State leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with 34 tackles for a loss so far this season, an effort led by Shareef Miller and his four tackles for a loss.

The team's defensive strength is in its linebackers, where Jason Cabinda leads the way with 15 stops through three games.

3. Be a pace setter

Penn State averages 469 yards of offense per game, helping itself by challenging defenses with a variety of tempos.

The Nittany Lions will go from zero to 95 in minimal time, mixing and matching pace within drives with great success in its effective run-pass option attack.

Quarterback Trace McSorley, the team's second-leading rusher at 45.7 yards per game, has completed 67.1 percent of his 76 passes this season. He's contributing 296.7 yards per game to lead an offense which has averaged 47 points per game. McSorley has thrown nine touchdown passes and has been intercepted twice this season.

4. Have special special teams

The Nittany Lions don't overlook this segment either and the work of DeAndre Thompkins on punt returns and Saquon Barkley on kick returns is positioning Penn State for success.

Thompkins has averaged 20.2 yards on 10 returns this season - nearly nine yards more than what Iowa has averaged - while Barkley is returning kicks at an average of 26.8 yards in four run backs through three games.

On the flip side, Penn State has allowed just one punt to be returned this season.

Iowa (3-0)

1. Establish the run, and them some

The Hawkeyes couldn't get anything going on the ground a year ago at Penn State, averaging 1.1 yards per carry.

That number has to change for Iowa to have a chance against the fourth-rated Nittany Lions. The Hawkeyes ability to gain ground on the ground and work the clock are critical components to Iowa's needs in this game.

Akrum Wadley is expected to be good to go after suffering a minor ankle injury during last Saturday's win over North Texas, but Iowa will be without back-up James Butler until mid-October.

Redshirt freshman Toren Young and true freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin will see the field today in a complementary role to Wadley and the Hawkeyes need production from each in addition to greater cohesion from an offensive line which has started three lineup combinations in Iowa's first three games because of injuries.

2. Clean up at Kinnick

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Iowa positioned itself for last season's 14-13 victory over second-rated Michigan by playing a relatively clean football game.

The Hawkeyes and Wolverines traded one interception in that game, but Iowa had no fumbles and was penalized just three times for 24 yards in the victory.

Both are areas that have been bothersome for Iowa during its 3-0 start this season. The Hawkeyes had two touchdowns taken off the board last week against North Texas, the first because of a Nick Easley fumble out of the end zone and the second because of a penalty called on Akrum Wadley for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Iowa currently ranks 10th in the Big Ten in turnover margin, losing five fumbles and one interception through three games. The Hawkeyes have also been the fifth-most penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging 57.3 penalty yards and 6.3 penalties per game.

3. Deal with the heat

Temperatures in the 90s won't be the only heat the Hawkeyes are feeling today.

Penn State's defense is second in the Big Ten with 11 sacks through three games, an effort that includes contributions from 12 Nittany Lions and a team-leading two from Shareef Miller.

Expect Penn State to put some heat on Iowa sophomore quarterback Nate Stanley, who has been intercepted just once and has been sacked four times through three games.

Iowa's ability to keep the heat off of Stanley will be important as he faces a defense which will test his quick decision making as well as his physical abilities.

4. Rule the night

There is something special about night games at Kinnick Stadium.

Iowa is 10-4 all-time in home games played under the lights including a pair of wins in each of the last two seasons and a 3-0 record all-time at night against top-five opponents there.

Penn State is the last road team to win at Kinnick at night, beating Iowa 38-14 in 2012 in the Nittany Lions' most recent visit.

The Hawkeyes' ability to make the most of what promises to be a special atmosphere will center in part around Iowa's ability to contain Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley and make him work out of the pocket. Iowa was able to make that happen in its opener against Wyoming and Josh Allen. A repeat performance of that effort will be needed.

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