The battle for "Top Legend" in the Big Ten is wide open, but Saturday's contest between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Michigan State Spartans should help clear up the cloudy division outlook.
Iowa's season has been anything but spectacular, but after handling Minnesota with ease last week, Kirk Ferentz's squad is atop the Legends division of the Big Ten at 1-0.
Michigan State has had an equally underwhelming start to the 2012 campaign—loss at Notre Dame, ugly win against Eastern Michigan, loss to Ohio State and another ugly win at Indiana.
Nonetheless, while both squads are certainly far from where they want to be at this point in the season, both are still very much in the mix for overall season success.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know about this matchup.
When: Saturday, Oct. 13, at noon ET
Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
Watch: ESPN/ESPN 3D
Live Stream: ESPN3
Betting Line: Michigan State (-10), according to Covers
Iowa Injuries (via USA Today)
TE Ray Hamilton, Disciplinary, Questionable
CB Micah Hyde, Disciplinary, Questionable
OL Drew Clark, Disciplinary, Questionable
DB B.J. Lowery, Wrist, Questionable
OL Austin Blythe, Undisclosed, Questionable
RB Damon Bullock, Head, Questionable
RB Barkley Hill, Knee, Out
DB Ruben Lile, Knee, Out
Michigan State Injuries (via USA Today)
S Kurtis Drummond, Undisclosed, Questionable
DT Tyler Hoover, Calf, Questionable
C Travis Jackson, Leg, Out
T Fou Fonoti, Foot, Out
DL Brandon Clemons, Foot, Out
What's at Stake?
Supremacy in the Big Ten Legends division.
As it stands now, Iowa sits in a tie with Michigan at 1-0, and with the exception of traveling to Ann Arbor in November, this is the hardest matchup for the Hawkeyes on paper. Despite underwhelming expectations for this team at the start of the season, a win on Saturday would suddenly put them in great shape in the division.
The Spartans, on the other hand, are currently tied with Nebraska and Northwestern at 1-1, but a win over Iowa would set up an epic—even more epic than usual—battle for first place next week at Michigan.
Iowa Player to Watch: Mark Weisman, RB
Boring name, and, well, boring game, too.
Mark Weisman isn't going to out-run many defenders, but the walk-on fullback (seriously) got an opportunity when Damon Bullock went out of the lineup with an injury, and he hasn't looked back since.
The bruising back came on against Northern Iowa and ran 24 times for 113 yards and three scores.
He responded with 217 and three more touchdowns against Central Michigan and 177 and one against Minnesota.
In addition to 507 yards on seven yards per carry and seven touchdowns over a three-game span, Weisman has run over precisely 47 silly defenders who thought they could get in his way.
Michigan State Player to Watch: Le'Veon Bell, RB
Well, it wouldn't be the Big Ten if I didn't list two powerful running backs.
If you want to see what a workhorse looks like, just take a look at Bell, who has already carried the ball 171 times (34.2 per game) for the Spartans. That might seem like overdoing it, but as soon as you see the 244-pound mammoth run over multiple defenders at the same time, you'll understand.
The junior has 776 yards (4.5 per carry) with seven touchdowns and has even added 132 yards through the air. There's no question that the Spartans will ride him as much as possible.
Key Matchup: Mark Weisman vs. Michigan State's Run Defense
Weisman, as mentioned earlier, is averaging a ridiculous seven yards per carry. Michigan State is allowing 3.0 yards per carry, 14th best in the nation.
It's the unstoppable force against the immovable object.
On the other side of the field, Le'Veon Bell's unstoppable nature versus Iowa's equally stiff run defense will also be a key matchup. However, considering the Spartans are a little more adept at passing the ball, the run game will be more crucial for Iowa's offense.
You want to know how even these teams have been so far this season?
Iowa runs the ball on 48.5 percent of its plays. Michigan State runs it on 48.6 percent. Iowa allows 3.2 yards per rush. Michigan State allows 3.0.
In typical Big Ten nature, both teams run the ball extremely well and stop the run extremely well. No matter what happens, expect an absolute battle and probably a few bloody noses in this one.
I'm going with Michigan State at home in what should be an ugly, low-scoring battle.
Iowa 10, Michigan State 17
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