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.
Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson (8) and tight end Jesse James (18) celebrate James' first-quarter touchdown as Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde (18) and Iowa defensive back Greg Castillo (2) walk off the field during the first half Saturday night in Kinnick Stadium.
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.