A lot of issues can be addressed during a bye week, but even the most detail-oriented coaching staff can’t control the weather.
Presumably, the Hawkeye offense used the extra week of preparation to get their beleaguered passing game in position to take advantage of a Michigan State defense whose sole vulnerability has been through the air.
After two weeks of scheming, Iowa will have to deal with an effective pass defender that didn’t show up on Michigan State’s game film: an East Lansing rain storm.
Iowa wants to run the ball and Michigan State is nasty against the run. The cold temperatures and heavy rain will accentuate that strength-on-strength battle, which is expected to go a long way in deciding the game’s winner.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, such a match-up probably favors the team in green.
That’s not meant to take anything away from Iowa’s running attack. Prior to his injury, Damon Bullock racked up 280 yards on 4.3 yards per carry. Since his injury, Mark Weisman has averaged 7.3 yards per carry on his way to 505 yards (via KCRG.com).
It is clear Iowa’s offensive line has been both its greatest and most consistent force throughout an inconsistent five weeks.
As good as the Hawkeyes have been on the ground, it bears mentioning those numbers have been accrued against the likes of Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan and Minnesota. None of those defenses hold a candle to the Spartans.
Michigan State has its issues, many of which were unanticipated when the season started, but stopping the run is not one of them.
The Spartans have the top-ranked run defense in the Big Ten, as well as a Top 10 run defense nationally. They have earned those titles by giving up only 87 rushing yards per game through the first six weeks, against the likes of Boise State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
The only running back to gain more than 50 yards against the Spartans was Zurlon Tipton of Central Michigan, a team Iowa fans may have some familiarity with.
While he will surely hurdle at least one of their defenders, it is understood that the Hawkeyes need to contain Le’Veon Bell to have a chance to pull off the upset. To complete the job it was believed their passing game would have to step up and exploit the relative weakness in the Michigan State defense.
With a heavy dose of cold and rain expected in East Lansing, all bets are off. Now, for the Hawkeyes to pull off the upset they need to go into a hostile environment and beat Michigan State where they are strongest.
It’s a tall order for a team that has struggled, but if they pull it off, Iowa will leave town atop the Big Ten Legends Division with an eye on staying there.
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