Oct 9, 2021; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes fans celebrate after a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Penn State, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa beat Penn State, 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Cress-USA TODAY Sports

After trailing 17-3 in the second quarter and 20-10 late in the third quarter, the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes took down No. 3 Penn State 23-20 on Saturday in Iowa City.

Penn State led 20-16 with under seven minutes remaining, when Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras rolled out and found wide receiver Nico Ragaini wide open for what would turn into the go-ahead 44-yard touchdown. You knew Iowa had a big play in the works when Fox play-by-play man Gus Johnson started screaming even more than usual as Petras set to throw.

The Nittany Lions’ offense struggled to do much after starting quarterback Sean Clifford was knocked out of the game with an injury in the second quarter. Each Penn State quarterback threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, but the offense was far more effective with Clifford at quarterback than replacement passer Ta’Quan Roberson. Clifford completed 15-of-25 passes for 146 yards (5.8 AVG), while Roberson completed just 7-of-21 passes for 34 yards (1.6 AVG).

So, that certainly factored into how the second half went, and it’s very unfortunate for Penn State, but Iowa will gladly take it.

Penn State falls to 5-1 (2-1 in Big Ten) with the loss, while Iowa improves to 6-0 (3-0 in Big Ten) with the victory.

While there’s still plenty of season left, and the initial College Football Playoff Rankings (which could differ from what the polls suggest) haven’t even been released yet, this game could have pretty significant ramifications on the CFP front (which is also why Clifford’s injury timing has to be particularly frustrating for the Nittany Lions and their fans).

Penn State still has games remaining at No. 7 Ohio State, vs No. 9 Michigan, and at No. 11 Michigan State. So, the opportunity will still be there for Penn State, but their room for error is likely gone.

Iowa, on the other hand, is in very good shape at the moment. This is a huge win for the resumé, and while already being ranked as the No. 3 team in the country.

Here’s the Hawkeyes’ remaining schedule, featuring zero teams that are currently ranked: vs Purdue, at Wisconsin, at Northwestern, vs Minnesota, vs Illinois, at Nebraska. There are rarely gimmes in the Big Ten, and this same Iowa team trailed Colorado State by a touchdown at halftime in Iowa City two weeks ago. But Iowa will be clear favorites in each of these upcoming games.

If Iowa wins games they’re absolutely supposed to win the rest of the way, their CFP chances are strong.

About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at mclapp@thecomeback.com.