Iowa-Michigan State: The Advantage Goes To...
The Iowa Hawkeyes are 7-0 and checked into the first BCS Standings at the number six spot in the country. Iowa is on a roll defensively and the offense has finally started to come around.
This week the Hawkeyes will go to East Lansing to take on an upstart Michigan State team that has won three games in a row.
The Spartans are looking to spoil Iowa's undefeated season and get back into the Big Ten title race themselves, while the Hawkeyes are looking to once again prove their legitimacy to the nation.
Who will come out of East Lansing with a victory? Let's see who has the advantage across the board.
When Iowa Runs the Ball
After a strong start to the season, Iowa's freshman running backs Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher have lost a bit of production.
The offensive line is finally completely healthy which will definitely help the Hawkeyes run game, but the freshmen will have their hands full this week against a good Michigan State run defense.
This matchup could really go either way, as the Iowa offensive line has the potential to open up some big holes. But if the Spartans consistently put eight men in the box, Iowa won't have much of a run game, especially with Greg Jones lining up on the other side of the ball.
I see Michigan State crowding the box and causing Iowa's run game to have a mediocre day.
Advantage: Michigan State
When Iowa Throws the Ball
While crowding the line of scrimmage definitely helps a team stop the run, it leaves the pass defense virtually defenseless. Iowa will get off to a slow start on offense, trying to run the football too much, but then will open things up in the passing game.
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi will build on last week's solid performance at Wisconsin and have a big day. He will find tight end Tony Moeaki down the field more than once and help Iowa move the ball fairly well.
When Michigan State Runs the Ball
After losing Javon Ringer, the Michigan State running game hasn't been the same. Combine that with a very good Iowa run defense and the Spartans won't be getting very much on the ground come Saturday.
The Hawkeyes have held the Big Ten's two best running backs, Penn State's Evan Royster and Wisconsin's John Clay, to 69 and 75 yards respectively.
Michigan State's freshman rushers Larry Caper and Edwin Baker have potential, but won't get much against Iowa's outstanding run defense.
When Michigan State Throws the Ball
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins has come along nicely, but he has never seen a pass defense like Iowa's before. The Hawkeyes lead the nation in interceptions and always seem to be around the ball.
Michigan State ranks 95th in the country in turnover margin, and that could spell disaster for the Spartans, who can't afford to make mistakes against Iowa's opportunistic defense.
Protection is also an issue for the Spartans, and Iowa has done a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback this season. If they can get to Cousins and force him into some bad throws, it will be a long day for Michigan State's offense, as Iowa would surely capitalize on those mistakes.
Both teams have had good special teams this year. Iowa has been outstanding by blocking kicks, while Michigan State kicker Brett Swenson is looking to break school records for field goals and points scored this week.
Expect both teams to be solid on special teams and not make any costly mistakes. But I see the Spartans getting more field goals, so I'll take them by a slim margin.
Advantage: Michigan State
I don't think there is any doubting that Kirk Ferentz has been the coach of the year so far in the Big Ten. He has taken a group full of blue collar talent and turned it into a winning machine.
He has motivated the Hawkeyes through thick and thin and has his team in prime position for a Big Ten Championship.
Dantonio has done a good job at Sparty as well, but Ferentz wins out in this one.
A night game on the road doesn't seem like the best environment for a team, but that seems to be Iowa's favorite this year. Big night games clearly don't phase them, as they beat Penn State in Happy Valley this year, and played arguably their second best game of the year in their second hardest road game against Wisconsin.
Iowa also has a 10-game winning streak on their side which obviously carries a lot of momentum with it.
As funny as it sounds, expect the intangibles to actually go in the Hawkeyes' favor.
Both teams will get off to slow starts offensively, and we will likely see a defensive Big Ten style slugfest during the first half.
The teams will go into the half tied at three.
Then expect Iowa to unleash on offense, as Stanzi finds both Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Tony Moeaki for touchdowns.
Kirk Cousins will struggle against Iowa's opportunistic defense and throw two interceptions. But on the plus side for Michigan State, Brett Swenson will break the school records for points scored and field goals made.
But nevertheless, the Hawkeyes will emerge from East Lansing as the victors and move to 8-0.
Score: Iowa 17, Michigan State 9
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