Prospect Preview: (18) Iowa at (17) Penn State

Last weekend we looked at a ranked ACC matchup between Clemson and N.C. State. The biggest talking point of that article was that if N.C. State wanted a chance wide receiver Kelvin Harmon would need to have the best game of his career. Harmon has two receptions for 13 yards and the result was a 34 point blowout loss. Clemson looks every bit of the contender we've seen in years prior. With their upcoming conference schedule of Florida State, Louisville, Boston College and Duke, I would expect them to enter rivalry week unscathed. 

Now we move on to week nine. 6-1 Iowa travels to Penn State to take on the Nittany Lions. Iowa's only loss came against Wisconsin, and while none of their wins were against very good teams, recent blowouts have out them on the map and made them a very respectable ranked team. As per usual, the defense has looked superb this season. Excluding the Minnesota game, they are yet to give up 20 points in any of their wins. The offense has also come alive of late, averaging 37.7 points over their last three wins compared to 28 over their first three, which also happened to include games against Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa. 

Penn State sits one spot ahead of Iowa in the rankings despite having one more loss. Their resume took a big hit last week as they played a close game again an average Indiana team, Ohio State got steamrolled by Purdue and Michigan State looked completely inferior to Michigan. Penn State is a very well rounded team with stars at just about every position, it just seems as though they don't come with the same fire in every game. They played a tight game with Ohio State and lost late one week prior to losing to a 4-3 Michigan State team that has been plagued with injuries. 

With that, let's get in to what is likely to be a very good defensive matchup. 

TE Noah Fant, Iowa

Noah Fant has long been heralded as the top tight end in this draft class. He had a superb sophomore season scoring 11 touchdowns on the season. He's on pace this season as a junior to surpass 500 yards receiving for the first time in his career and he also is on track to finish at 11 touchdowns once again. He projects to be the next tight end to reach the NFL out of Iowa. 

Strengths

Noah Fant is a pretty good blocker as a tight end but not a perfect blocker, allowing room for improvement. Through the air, he's so impressive. He is 6'5 and 220, he has good speed and runs crisp routes. He's also very athletic and does a great job with body control and adjusting back to the ball. He runs a diverse route tree and beats secondaries over the top as the primary receiver. 

Weaknesses

Fant is as close to perfect as any tight end we've seen in recent memory. He can work a little bit on selling his route nuances a little better, but this doesn't impact his college game because he's so dominant already. 

Current Projection: Round 1

RB Miles Sanders, Penn State

With Saquon Barkley being drafted second overall you would think that he's completely irreplaceable. Penn State has managed to pick up right where they left off at the running back position. While Penn State fans knew what they had in Sanders, the general population had to see it for themselves considering Sanders only had 31 carries last year as a sophomore. He looks the part of a star running back and should follow in the footsteps of Barkley heading to the NFL as a junior.

Strengths

Sanders is very reminiscent of Barkley. He's quick and cuts quickly. He makes a lot of defenders miss and he also runs incredibly low down to the ground, making him very hard to bring down. He is very patient and he regularly waits for plays to develop so he can find the hole and hit it quickly.  

Weaknesses

Sanders biggest problem is he hasn't shown the ability to break free on speed alone. While he is very athletic and very strong, he doesn't have the ability to hit a crease in the line and take it the length of the field untouched. 

Current Projection: Round 2

DE Anthony Nelson, Iowa

Anthony Nelson is the epitome of a Hawkeye. The three-star in state prospect chose Iowa over Iowa State. Nelson is only a junior and is not a shoo-in to declare for the NFL draft by any means, but his ascent up draft boards this season give him the option. His sack numbers are on pace to beat out any prior year totals and this is also while he faces more double teams than ever.  

Strengths

Nelson is a safe pick who does a good job with his hands to beat offensive linemen.  He has a big frame and does a good job overpowering the offensive lineman on him. He gets off of blocks easily and does a good job against both the run and the pass.    

Weaknesses

Nelson lacks the athleticism to be a very special defensive end. He doesn't have the necessary bend to beat offensive linemen around the arc, and his hand usage may be good enough to give him a role in the NFL but he may be limited at the next level. 

Current Projection: Round 5

CB Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

Oruwariye was a name that wasn't so popular coming into the season. That definitely wasn't due to his tape in 2017 as a junior because it was truly impressive. It was at the start of this season when the Oruwariye train gained some passengers. Levonta Taylor hasn't looked so good this year and players like Oruwariye and Julian Love are climbing draft boards by the week. He's breaking up more than a pass a game so far this season. 

Strengths

Oruwariye has great body control and is very good in coverage. He has speed and the height to cover the top receiver regardless of their play style. He runs stride and stride downfield on the hip of the receiver and he has very active hands to keep tabs on the receiver, and in order to knock balls down. He breaks really hard on short passes for tackles and break up opportunities. 

Weaknesses

Oruwariye has the speed to keep up with most receivers, but he will get burns by some of the top guys. He also misses some tackles every once in a while but so do the best of them. He doesn't release off blockers in the run game well enough to make tackles. 

Current Projection: Round 1

 

Conclusions

This is a very good game between one of the best teams in the east and one of the best teams in the west. It'll be a defensive matchup which will play in to Iowa's play style, and the result will largely be based off which Penn State team we see.