Iowa-Michigan State Big Ten Matchup to Feature Battle of Running Backs

Andrew ShafferContributor IOctober 3, 2008

The Iowa Hawkeyes (3-2, 0-1 in the Big Ten) roll into East Lansing this Saturday for an 11 a.m. CT matinee against the Michigan State Spartans (4-1, 1-0 in the Big Ten). This will be the Hawks’ biggest challenge yet, as the high-powered Spartans offense has averaged 31 points per game this season. Iowa’s stingy defense, anchored by Matt Kroul and Mitch King, has given up only 45 points over the first five games.

The key matchup will be Spartans’ running back Javon Ringer against Iowa’s defensive line. Ringer, who rushed for almost 200 yards in his last game, leads the country in rushing with 897 yards. He also leads the country with 12 touchdowns.

The Hawkeyes will counter with their own powerful running back. Shonn Greene is second in the conference in running yards behind Ringer. Greene left last Saturday’s game three minutes into the fourth quarter with a head injury, and the Hawks turned to a one-dimensional passing game in his absence. Greene is listed as the starter for Saturday’s contest.

If either running back goes down, expect both defenses to manhandle the other team’s passing game.

Iowa’s quarterback controversy was resolved last week, as coach Kirk Ferentz sent Ricky Stanzi into the huddle for all four quarters. Stanzi completed 21-of-30 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown.

In the final drive of the game, the sophomore quarterback failed to complete a pass in four tries from 1st-and-goal. Still, expect Ferentz to stick with Stanzi for the rest of the season unless an injury forces his hand.

The big question for the Hawkeyes surrounds turnovers. Four fumbles and one interception led to 14 Wildcats points in their contest against Northwestern last week. It was an uncharacteristic performance from a team that hadn’t lost the ball five times in one game since Nov. 18, 2006.

"To me, it boils down to concentration. So, we just have to do a better job. Concentrate and do a better job," Ferentz told the press this week.

It’s going to take more than concentration to beat the Spartans. With a top-notch running back, a confident quarterback not in danger of being replaced at a moment’s notice, and a hard-hitting defensive line, Iowa should be more than able to improve upon its 3-2 record.