No. 3 Iowa beats No. 4 Penn State 23-20, fans storm field

A fan hugs Iowa defensive lineman Logan Lee (85) on the field after Iowa beat Penn State 23-20, in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa.

More fallout from a memorable - not memorable in a good way, if you’re in Nittany Nation - Saturday in Iowa City.

In the aftermath Saturday night, I wrote, “Penn State goes to Ohio State Oct. 30. It’ll all come down to that. Just as everyone thought all along. Just as it would if Penn State had won Saturday.’’

That was a tad simplistic. There is a small point there worth making: Penn State almost certainly can’t win the Big Ten, and certainly anything beyond that, without winning at Columbus.

But it’s not at all clear that “It’ll all come down to that.’’ Not the way Michigan and Michigan State, both on the Lions’ schedule, appear to be playing. Not if all the key Nittany Lions who were apparently injured Saturday, especially starting QB Sean Clifford and defensive anchor P.J. Mustipher, aren’t back.

The power structure of college football’s playoff era had wobbled mightily this season. It finally crashed, Saturday, when Alabama lost at Texas A&M, which had lost to Mississippi State and edged Colorado 10-7. Colorado is 1-4, its lone win over Northern Colorado, and lost at home to Minnesota 30-0 the week after A&M.

Nobody knows that anything “will all come down to.’’

Still, the playoff committee has made it clear in the eight years it has existed that it does not buy into the nonsense that a loss is a loss is a loss.

I asked one of the publicity guys for a sports book from which I get informational e-mails (to use in coverage) to come up with a spread on the following scenario: Iowa and Penn State play on a neutral field tomorrow with everybody on both teams healthy.

(Because this is fictional and so speculative, he asked for anonymity.)

He said Penn State would be favored by at least a touchdown.

If Penn State bounces all the way back, and that’s a towering “if,’’ it’s reasonable to think the committee would look at not only Saturday’s loss, but all the circumstances surrounding it.

In other news: Penn State had a nightmarish night on the injury front, naturally leading to Nittany Lions laying on the Kinnick Stadium turf after plays, delaying the game.

Based on the reaction of Iowa fans, this was intentional gamesmanship

Fox Sports color commentator Joel Klatt seemed to agree.

"After every big play by Iowa,’’ Klatt said on the air, “there's a Penn State player that goes down, and the Iowa fans recognize that.''

That seems generally dubious; the injuries turned out to be real, and Penn State plays faster than Iowa does, and had no obvious interest in slowing the tempo.

If you’re a conspiracy theorist, though, there was at least one bit of fodder. Iowa’s Tyler Goodson ran for 18 yards and a first down late in the third quarter, after which Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie was down on the turf apparently cramping, and administered to be trainers.

Ebiketie had minimal contact on the play, and was running at three-quarters speed when he sort of sat down on the turf. He left and returned a few players later.

As he sat on the ground LeVar Woods, Iowa’s special teams coordinator, flopped himself on the sideline, pantomiming Ediketie.

“I do have a hard time with our players getting hurt and the fans and the coaches, the coaching staff, booing our players,’’ James Franklin said after the game.

“They don’t run a tempo offense. It was not part of our plan (for) guys who have significant roles for us to get injured. I don’t know if I necessarily agree, … I don’t think it’s the right thing for college football.’’

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