3DownNation’s CanCon Game of the Week: Iowa at Penn State

Photo courtesy: Mark Selders/Penn State Athletics

If you thought last week was bad, wait until you hear about Week 12.

A record 17 college football games have been lost this week as the pandemic rages on unabated. Still, the return of some prominent Canadians may provide a silver lining for viewers.

Photo courtesy: Mark Selders/Penn State Athletics

I also did alright managing the turmoil last week, going 14-of-20 with my Canadian picks and nailing big performances by Alonzo Addae and Akheem Mesidor in the Game of the Week to bring my season record to 118-of-159.

With lots of uncertainty continuing to swirl, this week’s highlighted game is a tight one that guarantees plenty of Canadian action.

Iowa (-2.5) at Penn State
Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
Saturday, November 21 at 12:30 p.m. PST/ 3:30 p.m. EST
Where to View: 
Big Ten Network

Just a year ago, this matchup would have had a little more appeal. In 2019, Iowa finished 10-3 and Penn State was 11-2. Add in some off-season losses and a raging pandemic and now the Hawkeyes are the favourites at just 2-2, while the Nittany Lions have crawled to a disappointing 0-4 start.

Iowa has won its last two contests by impressive margins thanks to a re-invigorated run game. Running backs Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent provide a fantastic one-two punch and have combined for nine touchdowns through four games, but a considerable amount of credit goes to the Hawkeyes’ offensive line.

Despite losing first-round NFL draft pick Tristan Wirfs, the group up front has been excellent and sophomore centre Tyler Linderbaum is considered by some to be the best in the country. Canadian left tackle Alaric Jackson, who split his childhood between Windsor and Detroit, has also been impressive. The projected mid-round 2021 NFL draft pick has helped move bodies in the run game, but he’s also locked opponents down in pass protection and hasn’t conceded a sack yet this season.

That Hawkeyes’ offence faces a Penn State defence that has given up 30-plus points in each of its four losses. The Nittany Lions had a surefire defensive star in linebacker Micah Parsons, but the projected first rounder opted out to protect himself (and his NFL draft stock) from COVID-19.

In his place stepped athletic Canadian Jesse Luketa, a highly-touted recruit who had long laboured behind Parsons. The Ottawa native has been a solid run defender thus far and should rack up the tackles against Iowa, but he’s struggled to replicate his predecessor’s success in coverage.

Fortunately for him and the Penn State defence, Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras hasn’t shown the ability to air it out, so their downhill style of defence won’t cause as much exposure on the back end.

Luketa isn’t the only Ottawa native who will suit up for Penn State on Saturday. Safety Jonathan Sutherland only sees limited time on defence, but the junior is a team captain and an absolute demon on special teams.

Recently, Sutherland was awarded No. 0, the first time the number would be worn for the team and a new tradition to honour a core leader who excels in the game’s third phase. He won’t make the highlight reel, but Penn State knows Sutherland is crucial to their team.

Offensively, Penn State has some serious question marks at quarterback after the struggling Sean Clifford was pulled last week in favour of Will Levis. Whoever is under centre, they’ve got a match-up weapon in tight end Pat Freiermuth. He’s one of the best in the country and is a highly-touted NFL prospect, but Penn State already has his replacement in the building in Theo Johnson.

The four-star recruit was the most coveted Canadian prospect in the class of 2020 and while he hasn’t caught a pass yet, he’s dressed for the last two games in a limited capacity as he’s groomed for a bigger role next year. The same can be said for freshman receiver Malick Meiga of Saint Jerome, Que. Meiga has yet to suit up in 2020 but has a bright future at Penn State after a likely redshirt.

Penn State is a better team than their record might indicate — No. 9 Indiana needed overtime to beat them and it’s hard to fault a 13-point loss to No. 3 Ohio State. Still, their morale is low and they seem to be in too much turmoil right now to fully trust that they’ll right the ship. Iowa wins the trenches here and then takes a close one by a score.

Pick straight-up: Iowa
Pick against the spread: Iowa (-2.5)

Other Week 11 NCAA games featuring Canadians

Buffalo at Bowling Green
CanCon: Dominic Johnson, REC, SR (Buf), Cole Burniston, TE, SO (Buf), Gabe Wallace, OG, SO (Buf), Deondre Dorion, OL, FR (Buf)
Result: 42-17 Buffalo

Akron at Kent State
CanCon:  Daniel Johnson, LT, SO (KSt), Reignings Awah, DE, FR (KSt)
Result: 69-35 Kent State

Northern Illinois at Ball State
CanCon: Woodly Appolon, FS, JR (NIU)
Result: 31-25 Ball State

Toledo at Eastern Michigan
CanCon: Sidy Sow, LG, JR (EMU), Jake Julien, P, SR (EMU), Geri Theodore, DE, FR (Tol)
Result: 45-28 Toledo

Western Michigan at Central Michigan
CanCon: Mohamed Diallo, DT, SR (CMU), Cade Cote, DL, FR (CMU), Jack Taylor, OL, FR (WMich)
Result: 52-44 Western Michigan

Syracuse at Louisville
CanCon: Matthew Bergeron, LT, SO (Syr), Geoff Cantin-Arku, MLB, SO (Syr), Tyrell Richard, OLB, JR (Syr), Ben Labrosse, FS, FR (Syr), Damian Alford, REC, FR (Syr), Patrick Davis, LG, SR (Syr)
Result: 30-0 Louisville

Purdue at Minnesota
CanCon: Benjamin St-Juste, CB, JR (Minn), Tyrell Lawrence, OL, FR (Minn)
Result: 34-31 Minnesota

UMass at FAU
CanCon: Samuel Emilus, REC, JR (Mass), Tyris Lebeau, LB, JR (Mass)
Result: 24-2 FAU

No. 9 Indiana at No. 3 Ohio State (-20.5)
CanCon: DK Bonhomme, OLB, SO (Ind)
Pick: Ohio State

No. 4 Clemson (-35.5) at Florida State
CanCon: Ajou Ajou, REC, FR (Clem)
Pick: Clemson

No. 6 Florida (-31.5) at Vanderbilt
CanCon: Lamar Goods, DT, FR (Flo)
Pick: Florida

Appalachian State at No. 15 Coastal Carolina (-5)
CanCon: Enock Makonzo, WLB, JR (CC), Wilt Gabe II, DE, SO (CC)
Pick: Appalachian State

Illinois at Nebraska (-16)
CanCon: Sydney Brown, FS, JR (Ill), Chase Brown, RB, SO (Ill), Barron Miles Jr, REC, FR (Neb)
Pick: Nebraska

Arkansas State (-6) at Texas State
CanCon: Samuel Obiang, NT, SO (TexSt)
Pick: Arkansas State

No. 7 Cincinnati (-6) at UCF
CanCon: Bruno Labelle, TE, SR (Cin)
Pick: Cincinnati

UCLA at No. 11 Oregon (-17.5)
CanCon: Nick Wiebe, LB, SO (Ore), Kenny Mestidor, LB, FR (UCLA)
Pick: Oregon

San Diego State (-1.5) at Nevada
CanCon: Daniel Okpoko, DE, SO (SDSt)
Pick: San Diego State

Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama (-30)
CanCon: John Metchie III, REC, SO (Ala)
Pick: Alabama

Abilene Christian at Virginia (-40)
CanCon: Terrell Jana, REC, SR (Vir)
Pick: Virginia

Virginia Tech (-3) at Pittsburgh
CanCon: Jared Wayne, REC, SO (Pitt), Liam Dick, OL, FR (Pitt)
Pick: Pittsburgh

Tennessee at No. 23 Auburn (-10.5)
CanCon: Josh Palmer, REC, SR (Tenn)
Pick: Auburn

No. 14 Oklahoma State at No. 18 Oklahoma (-7)
CanCon: Chuba Hubbard, RB, JR (OKSt), Amen Ogbongbemiga, LB, SR (OKSt)
Pick: Oklahoma

No. 21 Liberty at NC State (-5)
CanCon: John Kourtis, C, SO (Lib), Daniel Joseph, DE, SR (Mich)
Pick: Liberty

Michigan (-12.5) at Rutgers
CanCon: Luiji Vilain, DE, SR (Mich)
Pick: Michigan

Arizona at Washington (-11.5)
CanCon: Cameron Fietz, QB, JR (Ari), Paris Shand, DE, FR (Ari), Leif Magnuson, OL, FR (Ari)
Pick: Washington

No. 20 USC (-2.5) at Utah
CanCon: Keegan Markgraf, LS, SR (Utah)
Pick: Utah

Boise State (-14) at Hawai’i
CanCon: Isaiah Bagnah, OLB, FR (BSt), Nick Mardner, REC, SO (HI)
Pick: Boise State

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.