Could Iowa vs. Penn State be a game-changer for Hawkeyes football recruiting? One expert thinks so

Alyssa Hertel
Hawk Central

When Iowa hosts Penn State on Saturday, the eyes of the college football world will be on Iowa City. It’s a top-tier matchup between two undefeated Big Ten teams, and the biggest Hawkeye home game since 1985.

Kirk Ferentz and his team will be focused on one goal this weekend: Beat Penn State.

But that doesn’t mean the Hawkeyes aren’t using the national spotlight as a chance to sell their program to recruits across the country.

Come Saturday, when fans shuffle into Kinnick Stadium, there will be dozens of the country’s top high school prospects among them. Two of Iowa’s No. 1 recruits — Xavier Nwankpa in 2022 and Kadyn Proctor in 2023 of Southeast Polk — are only a couple of the players invited to this weekend’s game, in hopes that, if the Hawkeyes pull off the win, it will be the final convincing factor for players on the edge.

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But could one game really impact Iowa’s recruitment? Allen Trieu, who covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports, thinks this game has the potential to do so.

"I think, typically speaking, it’s very hard for one game to change a lot when it comes to recruiting," Trieu said. "But when you have this kind of game, I think the domino effect that can happen if you win this game, and you end up being a playoff team and you win the Big Ten, those things start to matter. Between the atmosphere and the fact that you can show recruits that Iowa can be the spotlight of a college football weekend, that means something."

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz watches his defense in the second quarter against Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, Trieu thinks that Iowa has more to gain than to lose when it comes to recruiting. The key point is getting top recruits to come out to these games, because the selling point for those prospects is the atmosphere in Kinnick during this type of game, and the fact that there will be a lot of eyes on Iowa City.

On Saturday, recruits from Arizona to Florida — and everywhere in between — will be on hand. Trieu says that, even though Iowa typically does a good job of bringing prospects to games, this one is different. The number of players coming in from out of state and the level of those recruits shows the caliber of Saturday’s game.

This turnout, though, is a culmination of this season’s work and wouldn’t be possible without Iowa’s 5-0 start to the season.

"I think the big wins come before this, because you position yourself to have a good recruiting weekend," Trieu said. "If (Iowa) lost at Iowa State or they lose one of those games previously, you don’t get this type of weekend. The work has already been done to kind of set the table for what this recruiting weekend is."

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Iowa State recruits, from left: Jalyn Thompson of Dowling Catholic, Alex Mota of Marion, JJ Kohl of Ankeny, Jamison Patton of Des Moines Roosevelt, Kaidan Ivory of Waukee Northwest and Jaekwon Bradley of Des Moines Roosevelt watch the Cyclones warm up prior to kickoff against Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

For some players, this weekend is as important for their recruitment as it is for Iowa. Jamison Patton, a quarterback and safety from Des Moines Roosevelt, is one of many central Iowa football players who will travel to Iowa City this weekend.

But after COVID-19 prevented game-day visits in 2020 and with Roosevelt playing only two game last season, Patton is hoping Saturday can be a springboard in his recruitment. He has one offer from Iowa State, but he’s hoping for a few more options as his senior year winds down.

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While he’s excited to have a ticket to possibly the biggest game of the season, he knows Saturday is his opportunity to get back on Iowa’s radar.

"Just interacting with the coaches, introducing myself to them and talking to the coaches is going to be big for me," Patton said. "Game day is all about the experience. I like seeing how (coaches) communicate with the players, how they interact with their team. You get a feel for how they operate and really what the team is like."

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Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.