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Iowa Week News and Notes - Lions Back on the Field

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions return to the practice field on Monday afternoon after four days off from football duties.  Penn State kicks off six-straight weeks of Big Ten play at Iowa on Saturday at 8 p.m. (BTN).

As the Lions kickoff game-week preparations for the road trip to Kinnick Stadium, let's take a look through some of the noteworthy news leading up to the seventh game on the 2012 schedule.


In the Statistical Rankings
Penn State is well represented in the Big Ten statistical rankings heading into the seventh game of the season:

- Senior quarterback Matt McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing yards at 249.8 yards per game.  McGloin is also tied for first with 12 passing touchdowns, and he is second in completions with 139.  The West Scranton native has just two interceptions this season.

- McGloin's top target in the passing game, Allen Robinson, leads the conference in receptions (41, 6.8 receptions per game) and is second in receiving yards (524, 87.3 yards per game.  Additionally, Robinson leads the Big Ten with seven touchdown receptions.

- Defensively, the Nittany Lions rank No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 15 nationally in scoring defense at 16.0 points per game. 

- Standout senior linebacker Michael Mauti is No. 4 in the Big Ten in tackles with 9.5 hits per game, tied for No. 3 in interceptions (2) and tied for No. 2 in forced fumbles (2).  Mauti leads the Nittany Lions with 57 tackles in six games.

- The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in turnover margin at +1.17.

Red Zone Defense
Penn State's play in the red zone on offense is often talked about, but the Lions' red zone defense has been largely overlooked during the first half of the season.  The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in red zone defense, allowing their opponents to score 69 percent of the time.  The Lions are tied for 17th nationally in red zone defense, as well.  Penn State's opponents have visited the red area 16 times in 2012.  They have scored 11 times, which includes nine touchdowns and two field goals.  Moving forward, execution in the red zone on both sides of the ball will likely play a critical role in the outcome of the next few games.

Fourth Down
The Nittany Lions have been terrific on fourth down during the 2012 season.  Penn State's offense leads the nation in the number of fourth down plays (20).  Additionally, the Lions are ranked No. 2 in the nation in fourth down conversions with 13.  Louisiana-Monroe leads the nation with 14 fourth down conversions.

Through six games, the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten and rank No. 9 nationally in fewest penalties per game.  The Lions have committed just 4.17 penalties per game in 2012.  Additionally, the Nittany Lions rank No. 3 in the conference in fewest penalty yards per game (40.3 yards per game).

A Look at Iowa
Following a dramatic overtime victory at Michigan State (19-16), Iowa will return home with a great deal of confidence leading up to Saturday's primetime clash with the Nittany Lions.  After starting the year 2-2, the Hawkeyes are now 2-0 in the Big Ten after the win over the Spartans, and they are playing the best football of their season.  Offensively, senior James Vandenberg is the veteran signal-caller in charge of the Hawkeye offense.  Vandenberg has thrown for 1,134 yards this season, but just two touchdowns (3 INT).  Sophomore Mark Weisman has emerged as Iowa's top ball carrier.  Weisman tallied 116 rushing yards and a touchdown in the win at Michigan State.  Senior wide receiver Keenan Davis leads the Hawkeyes in receptions (32) and yards (373), but is still looking for his first touchdown this season.

Iowa's defense ranks among the best in the Big Ten in total defense.  The Hawkeyes have allowed just 317.17 yards per game during their first six outings (No. 19 nationally and No. 3 in the Big Ten).  Iowa is also among the Big Ten's best in scoring defense, allowing its opponents 17.17 points per game (No. 3 in Big Ten).  Junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens leads the nation in tackling with 13.0 hits per game.  Hitchens has made 78 tackles in six games this season.  Iowa is a physical football team on both sides of the ball.

New Kick Time for Ohio State
Mark your calendars for the Oct. 27 matchup against No. 7 Ohio State.  The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes will now kickoff at 5:30 p.m. (originally scheduled for 6 p.m.) with television coverage on ESPN.  The Ohio State game will mark Penn State's fourth appearance on ESPN this season.  All fans are encouraged to wear white for the Ohio State clash, as it is a full stadium White Out.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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