Iowa defensive linebacker Josey Jewell stares down Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley during the Iowa-Penn State game in Beaver Stadium in College State on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes, 41-14. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Point/Counterpoint: What is the toughest Big Ten matchup for Iowa this football season?

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Having tough Big Ten teams on its schedule is something Iowa football is used to. The Daily Iowan takes a look at exactly which matchup will be the Hawkeyes’ biggest feat.

Wisconsin

Remember Iowa’s 55-24 shellacking of No. 6 Ohio State in Kinnick last year? Nate Stanley threw 5 touchdowns without a pick, and a stout Iowa defense contained J.T. Barrett, J.K. Dobbins, and all the rest of a potent Buckeye offense, with initials or not.

It was a game that Hawkeye fans will remember for years to come.

Even though Ohio State is not on Iowa’s schedule for the 2018 season, there is still a game that could be as much of a spectacle as that battle on Nov. 4, 2017: Wisconsin.

Entering Kinnick for Iowa’s fourth-consecutive home game on Sept. 22, the Badgers will likely pose a similar challenge as the Buckeyes did the previous season.

A legitimate threat to win the Big Ten, Wisconsin has a ton of weapons that could potentially exploit the Hawkeye defense, and it all starts with Jonathan Taylor.

As a freshman, Taylor racked up 1,847 yards on 273 rushes for an average of 6.8 yards per carry, while scoring 13 touchdowns in the process of shredding defenses.

The number of yards he put up was simply ridiculous, beating the next highest total in the Big Ten by nearly 500 yards.

Throw in a veteran offensive line that most teams would love to have, and Taylor has a chance to rack up even more insane stats this season.

Luckily for Iowa, Wisconsin’s leading receiver, Troy Fumagalli, has departed the team after being drafted in the fifth round by the Denver Broncos, but receiver Quintez Cephus is looking to have a solid year after his fast start in 2017 got cut short by a leg injury.

Although prone to turnovers, Alex Hornibrook is coming off a high-quality Orange Bowl performance in which he threw for 258 yards and 4 touchdowns without an interception.

Couple a talented offense with the best scoring defense in the Big Ten, holding teams to 13.9 points a game in 2017, and Iowa — along with the rest of the teams in college football — could have problems.

— Pete Ruden

Penn State

In 2017, Iowa competed seriously with Penn State but fell short on a last-second catch that broke Hawkeye hearts everywhere.

In 2018, the Hawkeyes will take on the Nittany Lions on a road trip, making the game one of the toughest Iowa will play in on the season.

Sure, Wisconsin is a big opponent, but in the confines of Kinnick Stadium? Anything could happen.

On the road, it’s a different story. Iowa will have to zero in on its goals and seriously fight in front of a crowd full of Nittany Lion faithful.

Iowa’s one hope will be that Penn State falls off the trend it has been on for two years and returns to being a middle-of-the-road team. If the Nittany Lions falter and they face Iowa unranked, then the Hawkeyes could take advantage and pull a fast one in the East.

However, if Penn State faces Iowa highly ranked, as in last season, all bets are off. It would be a demolishing much like Ohio State experienced in Kinnick last season.

Not to mention that Penn State has a young squad that has grown in two 10-game winning seasons, and it’s ready to continue the tradition. That means that despite the loss of Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions are ready to fill his shoes.

For a tough Big Ten schedule, Penn State on the road will be the toughest.

– Anna Kayser 

 

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