IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Penn State renamed this place Blowout City.
Bill O'Brien can downplay the national coach of the year talk all he wants, but if the Nittany Lions keep playing like they did Saturday night, he could be a shoo-in.
The Lions sent a statement to the rest of the Big Ten with a 38-14 dismantling of Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, a place they hadn't won since 1999. Penn State built a 38-0 lead and cruised to its fifth straight victory.
On a day Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan all struggled and looked mediocre in close wins, PSU (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) dominated and staked its claim as perhaps the best team in the league.
Not definitively, but at least arguably.
The No. 7 Buckeyes visit Beaver Stadium next week, so the debate can be settled on the field then. And Ohio State should be at full strength as standout quarterback Braxton Miller appeared to be OK late Saturday after suffering a head injury and departing the game against Purdue.
"These guys are a resilient bunch of guys," O'Brien said of his team, which was basically left for dead after two weeks with losses to Ohio and Virginia.
As if people hadn't already noticed, Saturday hammered home the points that O'Brien has complete faith in his offense, that quarterback Matt McGloin has complete control of the offense and that defenses are completely mystified about how to stop the Lions' NASCAR no-huddle attack.
"Through seven games, you can't say enough about Matt McGloin," O'Brien said of his quarterback, who completed 26-of-38 passes for 289 yards and two TDs.
As good as they were, McGloin felt the Lions could have been even better.
"We started off very well, but we left a lot of points out there again," he said. "We should have put up a lot more points. We've got to learn to finish the game and shut them out there at the end."
Running back Bill Belton also had a big night, finally looking healthy after battling an ankle injury and posting his first career 100-yard game. Belton carried 16 times for 103 yards and three TDs.
McGloin let loose one of the better throws of his career to get PSU on the board first, then he got some help from tight end Kyle Carter on the next drive as the Lions quickly jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
At the Iowa 31, McGloin avoided pressure, rolled to his right, set his feet and delivered a dart to Jesse James at the 3-yard line. The tight end busted his way into the end zone with 7:24 left in the quarter.
The Lions had gone three-and-out on their first series, then went to the NASCAR package on the second one and moved 84 yards in nine plays for the TD.
"It's because we're in such good shape, thanks to Coach Fitzgerald and the rest of his staff," McGloin said of PSU's success with the no-huddle offense. "We're in a lot better shape than other teams, and it's hard for them to keep up with us."
Iowa's Mike Meyer missed a 49-yard field goal on the next series -- ending his streak of 13 consecutive makes -- and Penn State again drove right down the field for a score.
On fourth-and-3 from the Iowa 45, McGloin lofted what turned into a jump ball between Carter and Hawkeye cornerback Micah Hyde. The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Carter made an acrobatic catch and rumbled for 34 yards to the 11.
"That's a great play. That kid's a great talent," McGloin said of Carter. "A bit of miscommunication, but we'll get on the same page next time. Kyle made a great play."
Big fourth-down conversions are nothing new to the Lion offense, and they had a big one thanks to Carter's concentration. Penn State is now 14-of-23 on fourth downs this season, and although that was the only one of three they converted Saturday, it turned out to be a big turning point.
"It's upsetting when we don't go for it," McGloin said of O'Brien's aggressiveness. "It's exciting football."
The exciting offensive performance continued, and Penn State's defense shut down a Hawkeye offense that doesn't have much firepower. Running back Mark Weisman (ankle injury) did play but was held to 9 yards on five carries, and quarterback James Vandenberg struggled all night, completing 17-of-36 for 189 yards with two interceptions.
A field goal by Sam Ficken and 11-yard TD run by Belton gave the Lions a 24-0 lead at the half. They needed only 27 seconds to score in the second half as Jesse Della Valle returned the kickoff 46 yards, McGloin hit Brandon Moseby-Felder for 42 yards to the 3 and Belton took it in on the next play.
The rout was on, and the lead reached 38-0 when Belton scored from 5 yards out with 14:25 to play. Iowa's Jordan Cotton broke up the shutout bid by returning the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a TD, and the Hawkeyes later added a score against mostly backup defenders.
"When you play football at Penn State, you have a lot to play for," O'Brien said. "I believe that you have fans to play for, you have tradition to play for, you have a student body to play for, you have each other to play for.
"I believe that these kids have really good chemistry. Football is a sport that you have to show up ready to play every single day, every single week. If you don't, you're going to be in trouble."
Most people thought this Penn State team was in big trouble after its slow start, but after Saturday's performance, those two early losses seem like a lifetime ago.
Now comes a big test against Ohio State to see who really is the best team in the Big Ten.
"We have a really difficult challenge coming up against one of the best teams in the country," O'Brien said.
Penn State 7, Iowa 0: The Lions went three-and-out on their first series, then went to their NASCAR no-huddle package on their second possession and marched 84 yards in nine plays for a TD. Bill Belton broke loose for a 23-yard run to the Iowa 43. Four plays later, Matt McGloin avoided pressure, scrambled to his right, got his feet planted and fired a bullet to tight end Jesse James, who caught it at the 3 and rumbled into the end zone with 7:24 left in the quarter.
Penn State 14, Iowa 0: Bill O'Brien made a gutsy call going for it on fourth-and-3 at the Iowa 45, and Kyle Carter came up with a tremendous catch to keep the drive alive. Carter won a jump-ball situation with cornerback Micah Hyde and turned it into a 34-yard gain to the Hawkeye 11. McGloin connected with Allen Robinson on an 8-yard TD strike two plays later with 2:43 to go in the quarter.
Penn State 17, Iowa 0: Iowa's Mike Meyer had made 13 straight field goals but missed his second of the game, from 37 yards. Penn State took over at its 20, and McGloin immediately hit Jesse James for 16 yards. McGloin also had two big passes to Carter (12 and 11 yards), and Belton broke free for 16 yards on a draw to the Iowa 24. The drive stalled at the 17, and instead of going for it on fourth-and-3, O'Brien called on Sam Ficken, who booted a 34-yard field goal with 7:19 left in the half.
Penn State 24, Iowa 0: Hawkeyes quarterback James Vandenberg simply dropped the ball scrambling deep in his own end, and DaQuan Jones recovered for PSU at the Iowa 14. Belton scored from 11 yards out two plays later with 5:53 to go in the half.
Penn State 31, Iowa 0: The Lions wasted no time piling on in the third quarter, scoring a TD in just 27 seconds. Jesse Della Valle returned the kickoff 46 yards to the Iowa 45, and on the first play, McGloin fired a 42-yard strike to Brandon Moseby-Felder down to the 3. Belton scored on the next play with 14:33 left in the third.
Penn State 38, Iowa 0: Belton capped a 14-play, 97-yard drive with a 5-yard TD run with 14:25 to play. It was Belton's third TD of the night, and he topped 100 yards for the first time in his career.
Penn State 38, Iowa 7: The Hawkeyes avoided the shutout as Jordan Cotton took the ensuing kickoff, ran right up the middle of the field and raced 92 yards for a touchdown with 14:14 to go.
Penn State 38, Iowa 14: Vandenberg found Keenan Davis on an 18-yard TD pass against a lot of backup PSU defenders with 4:41 left.