In a season that started with College Football Playoff ambitions, No. 17 Penn State enters Week 9 in a position where roles are reversed from what might have been expected to start the season. It's No. 18 Iowa that remains in the thick of the Big Ten title hunt while Penn State looks like it will have to hope to salvage a quality bowl invitation out of a disappointing season after losses to Ohio State and Michigan State. However, the Nittany Lions are 5.5-point favorites at home with the total set at 51 in the latest Penn State vs. Iowa odds for this 3:30 p.m. ET matchup on Saturday. But even with the talent edge and the Beaver Stadium advantage, you'll want to hear SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh's Penn State vs. Iowa picks and predictions before locking in your play.

The renowned co-founder of AccuScore, Oh simulates each game 10,000 times using the SportsLine projection model.

Oh is crushing college football in 2018, and he heads into this week with a 3-1 run on his point-spread picks. More important, he has had a keen eye for the tendencies of Penn State, as he boasts a 9-2 mark on against the spread picks involving the Nittany Lions. Now he has run the numbers for this Big Ten clash and locked in another strong play. 

Oh knows that Trace McSorley is the lifeblood of the Penn State offense, which is what has made the 2018 season a challenge at times for the Nittany Lions. McSorley is still dynamic, with 554 yards on the ground and eight rushing touchdowns, but he's taken a major step back as a passer in his senior season and it's proving costly.

McSorley's completion percentage is down from 66.5 last season to 54.1 this year. He's completed more than 60 percent of his pass attempts just once in seven tries this year. Against an Iowa defense that has forced seven interceptions in the last three weeks, that inaccuracy could be more costly than ever.

However, don't assume Penn State's recent struggles means a guaranteed cover for Iowa on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes are 6-1, but they haven't defeated a ranked team this year and failed to cover against Wisconsin at home in the only game they've played against one this season. In that game, the Iowa defense gave up 210 yards on the ground to the Badgers, and that's exactly how Penn State will hope to attack on Saturday.

James Franklin's bunch is averaging over 240 yards rushing. The 1-2 punch of running back Miles Sanders and McSorley could make things extremely hard on the Iowa defense.

We can tell you Oh is leaning toward the under, but his much stronger play is on the side. He has crunched the numbers and discovered a crucial x-factor that makes one side of the spread a must-play Saturday.

Who covers Iowa vs. Penn State? And what crucial x-factor causes one side of the spread to hit hard? Visit SportsLine now to see which side you need to jump all over Saturday, all from the data scientist who's 9-2 on his spread picks involving Penn State.