A busy slate in college football is headlined on Saturday by a pair of top five-ranked Big Ten teams squaring off as No. 3 Iowa plays host to No. 4 Penn State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. With their undefeated records and positions near the top of the polls to this point, both of these teams fancy themselves College Football Playoff contenders nearly halfway through the 2021 season.
Iowa enters the game with a 5-0 record and has already picked up wins against Indiana and Iowa State, both of whom were ranked at the time. Penn State's 5-0, as well, and has two wins against ranked opponents itself in Wisconsin and Auburn (Yes, Auburn is still ranked). Now both look to pick up what would be their biggest wins of the season to this point.
While they reside in different divisions, both programs have grown familiar with one another in recent seasons. Penn State holds the all-time advantage in the series, winning 17 of the 30 meetings. That includes four wins against the Hawkeyes in the last five years, though Iowa won last season's meeting at Penn State 41-21. Follow LIVE coverage of Penn State vs. Iowa here on CBSSports.com.
Iowa vs Penn State: Need to know
This is a rare matchup: According to College Gameday's Chris Fallica, this matchup will mark the first time there's been a regular-season Big Ten conference game between teams ranked in the top five of the AP Poll that didn't include Ohio State since 1997 when Penn State hosted Michigan. If you remove Michigan from the equation alongside Ohio State, it's the first time it's happened since a 1962 game between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Of course, if you include Big Ten Championship Games, it last happened in 2015 when No. 4 Iowa faced No. 5 Michigan State, but that's not as fun of a stat, is it?
Iowa's defense is phenomenal at intercepting passes: No team has intercepted more passes this season than Iowa with 12, but the total doesn't tell the whole story. Not only do the Hawkeyes pick off more passes, but they do it at a much higher rate than almost every other team. Iowa has intercepted 7.2% of the passes against it this season, ranking second nationally behind Houston. But this year is only five games, and this is not a new trend with the Hawkeyes. Since the 2017 college football season, 2.7% of the passes thrown at the FBS level have been picked off. Iowa's defense has managed to intercept 4.4% of the passes against it in that time, which is the highest mark of any program in the country. Appalachian State is the only other team even to crack the 4% mark, which is where it sits in second place.
Sean Clifford is having a career season so far: There were plenty of questions about Clifford coming into the 2021 season, and he was seen as a weak spot in a strong Penn State team. So far, he's been a strength. Clifford enters the weekend with a passing efficiency of 160.7, which is the third-best mark in the Big Ten and far and away the best number of his career. His touchdown rate of 7.2% is the best in his career, and he's also sporting the lowest interception rate of his career since becoming Penn State's starter. If the Nittany Lions are going to win in Iowa on Saturday, he'll have to have another big game.
How to watch Iowa vs Penn State live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 9 | Time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: Kinnick Stadium -- Iowa City, IA
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Iowa vs Penn State prediction, picks
My official pick here is Penn State and the points, but I'd be lying if I told you I was confident about it. This game is a coin flip in my eyes. On the one hand, I don't know if Iowa's offense can put together a long scoring drive if it needs one late. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm ready to trust Sean Clifford on the road in a spot like this. At the beginning of the year, Clifford struggled on the road against Wisconsin, and this Iowa defense is just as strong as Wisconsin's. This game will come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes, and both are capable of forcing them. So, in the end, I'm just taking the points in what should be a close contest. Prediction: Penn State (+2.5)
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