Michigan State Football: Betters, Take the Spartans and 6.5 Points On the Road

Ryan C. ZerfasContributor IIIOctober 30, 2010

Mark Dantonio wore his Bill Belichick Halloween costume a week early
Mark Dantonio wore his Bill Belichick Halloween costume a week earlyJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Rodney Dangerfield made a stand-up career talking about “not getting any respect.” Mark Dantonio is busy cultivating a magical season out of Dangerfield’s potion.

Apparently winning isn’t everything. The Spartans are 8-0, clawing and fighting victoriously through every challenge, yet thus far it just isn’t enough to sway the nation.

Critics and pundits across the country have all but written off Michigan State, citing the Spartans as an overrated team, lucky to make it out alive, due for a loss. While the No. 5 national ranking seems like a fairy tale, I’m racking my brain as to why “the experts” are absolutely certain they are out-matched against No. 18 Iowa!?

Mark Dantonio wouldn’t have it any other way.

First of all, this is an Iowa team that lost at home to Wisconsin and a wild west shootout to (at the time) No. 24 Arizona. Two losses.

Iowa is constantly branded as a well-coached, highly disciplined team with a senior quarterback in Ricky Stanzi that doesn’t make mistakes. Is that a fact?

Did anyone see the end of that Wisconsin game? That last series didn’t exactly look like a highly disciplined, well-coached team. Iowa had marched into Wisconsin territory in a one-point game, just outside field goal range. With a yard to pick up, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz called a QB sneak and picked the first down.

The Hawkeyes had one timeout remaining and the clock was around 15 seconds. On a QB sneak the entire offense doesn’t have to travel far to spike the ball and stop the clock. Wanting to save the timeout, this was a brilliant move. It all looked to be going to plan, but when Stanzi got to the line, Iowa called timeout! Are you kidding me?

On the next play, with no timeouts remaining and about 10 yards to pick up, Stanzi was flushed out of the pocket, panicked and coughed up a nervous shovel pass to running back Adam Robinson in the open field—with no room to get out of bounds and stop the clock.

Dear God in heaven, wasn’t this play after a timeout? Why would a senior quarterback and “disciplined coach” let a game situation go so astray?

Game, set, match.

Breakdowns like that stick with a team (“the kids are playing their tales off…and the coaches are screwing it up!") and I expect that to linger for the Hawkeyes today.

Staunch Iowa supporters will cite their stingy defense as the reason the Spartans won’t come out of Iowa City with a victory. In this case, the proof IS in the pudding. Iowa is ranked No. 11 in the country in points against with a crippling figure of 15.7 a game.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

College football is a game of overblown, unjustified stats. Through the course of a season, teams play so many unfair games against over-matched opponents; one just can’t hold much water to seasonal stats like points per game averages. Does anyone remember how good Michigan fans thought Denard Robinson was?  

Iowa allowed 14 points combined to Eastern Illinois, Iowa State, and Ball State. Not exactly Kurt Warner’s Iowa Barnstormers. Penn State is just a mess right now and was held to three points as well. That’s 17 points in four games, against opponents that will be bagging groceries and eating Tostitos come bowl season.

This is where you pay attention folks. Write this down. Good teams have scored on Iowa. Arizona put up 34, Michigan went for 28 and Wisconsin rumbled for 31. This is not exactly the ’85 Bears.

Iowa is a very good football team. Michigan State is not a top-five team in the country—this I know for sure.

They are however, a better team than Iowa. Michigan State proved that against Wisconsin earlier in the year. All three teams in this triangle are very similar. They play balanced football, based on running the football and not turning the ball over in the aerial attack, all-the-while counting on the ability to make big plays downfield.

I tend to believe the Spartans have superior talent at the skilled positions. The underrated receiving core of Michigan State is going to have space against Iowa, and as it has all year, the play action is going to carve up holes in the bloated Iowa defense.

As long as Kirk Cousins continues to keep his sniper sights firmly on the green and white, the Spartans should pimp-hand the Hawkeyes on the road, again.

This series is taking an interesting turn, with the road team sneaking away with victories the last two seasons—and the Zerfas forecast is for a third.

The Spartans will be fired up to get revenge for the last-second loss at Spartan Stadium last year. Pair this motivational factor with the draining defeat Ferentz and Stanzi embarrassingly fumbled away last week, and the all important “MO” is in favor of the Spartans who like Parker Lewis in the '80s…just can’t lose.

This is a game FOR respect. Dantonio has the card in his hand, the poker face in his repertoire—time to hook the Hawkeyes on the turn. The only river the Spartans need is the Red Cedar for the BCS parade through East Lansing. Sparty On!

Spartans 33, Hawkeyes 31