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Next on the list of upset victims at Iowa? Penn State hopes not

| Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, 8:27 p.m.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley stiff-arms Georgia State outside linebacker James Traylor on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley stiff-arms Georgia State outside linebacker James Traylor on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.

UNIVERSITY PARK –– It has been one year since Penn State's last regular-season loss, a 49-10 rout to Michigan in Week 4 of 2016.

The fourth-ranked Nittany Lions (3-0) are riding a remarkable run –– their lone loss since then coming against USC in the Rose Bowl –– but their first real test this season comes Saturday night against Iowa (3-0) at Kinnick Stadium to open Big Ten play.

The Nittany Lions are 13-point favorites. But that could play to the Hawkeyes' advantage. Iowa has won eight of its past nine night games at home, knocking off then-No. 2 Michigan last year and then-No. 3 Penn State in 2008.

“That place is going to be rocking Saturday night,” coach James Franklin said. “Their sidelines are very tight. Their fans are going to be right up against you. We want to get our players prepared for that.”

The Nittany Lions have blasted loud music all week at practice to try and replicate the noise they'll hear. They've done this for most of their other road games in recent years, too, though some places are more difficult to play in than others.

Offensive lineman Andrew Nelson said Ohio State and Rutgers were the two loudest road venues where he has played. Since Franklin became Penn State coach in 2014, the Nittany Lions have won both of their games against the Scarlet Knights at High Point Solutions Stadium. Penn State lost its only contest at the Horseshoe against the Buckeyes, which came in 2015.

But the legacy of Kinnick night games could pose problems for the Nittany Lions, especially considering what happened last year when Michigan's College Football Playoff hopes faded after losing at Iowa in Week 10.

Hitting closer to home was Penn State's loss at Kinnick in 2008, when the undefeated Nittany Lions allowed 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and lost 24-23 on a last-second field goal. That game, like Michigan-Iowa, also came in Week 10, and it all but officially ended Penn State's bid for a national title.

“For us, opening at Iowa is going to be a challenge, but that's a challenge that we're going to accept,” wide receiver Brandon Polk said.

Said linebacker Brandon Smith: “We're just going to have to focus on our own mentalities and bring our own energy. Take care of what we can control, and you know, it will work out.”

Matt Martell is a freelance writer.

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