Preview -- Michigan State at Iowa


YOUR MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS 
vs. THE IOWA HAWKEYES

KINNICK STADIUM, IOWA CITY, IOWA

NOON EASTERN, 47 DEGREES, SUNNY -- A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR FOOTBALL!
TV: ESPN2  
RADIO:  SPARTAN SPORTS NETWORK: (AFFILIATES)

Hey, there's a football game going on this weekend as well!  A pretty big one at that, since this game will go a long, long way in deciding who makes it to the Big Ten title game from the Legends division.  If you (grudgingly) recall last year, the Spartans were bombed out of Iowa City almost before the game began, losing 37-6.  That defeat marked 21 years since Michigan State last won against the Hawkeyes on the road, which is now the streak leader after MSU's victory in Happy Valley last season.

This preview will be a bit truncated due to other things going on today, such as A BASKETBALL GAME ON A FREAKING AIRCRAFT CARRIER.  Regardless, there will be a few bullet points.  You can find them after the jump.

IOWA ON OFFENSE

  • James Vandenberg will be the first drop back quarterback Michigan State has faced in a while, and he's a good one.  He ranks in the top 20 nationwide in passing efficiency, has completed 62.6% of his passes so far, and has a sparkling 4.5 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio.  The recipient of the plurality of these passes so far has been Marvin McNutt.  The converted QB has 57 catches for 959 yards and 9 touchdowns so far this season.  You may remember him from 2009 when...you know what, I don't remember anything about him in 2009 at all, nope.  The only "7 got 6" play that happened in Spartan Stadium history was the one Keith Nichol caught against Wisconsin last month.  MOVING ON:
  • Strange stat -- Iowa only ranks 10th in the Big Ten in rushing yards, yet they have the top individual rusher in Marcus Coker.  Coker's averaged 5.2 yards a carry to the tune of over 1,100 yards on the season and 12 touchdowns.  While  Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God taketh, he also giveth, much like a gardener pruning away dead branches so that the live ones may flourish.  Back to the point -- the MSU front seven must stop Coker, the only other significant running yardage Iowa's had this season have been on Vandenberg scrambles/runs.

IOWA ON DEFENSE

  • Iowa's had a middle of the road rushing defense so far, ranking 7th in the Big Ten at 159.6 yards per game and 63rd in the FBS.  The front four is highlighted by Broderick Binns; he leads the team in tackles for a loss (8.5) and is tied for the team lead in sacks (4.0).  He will be a player I'd prefer Michigan State to block rather than not block.  It looks like there might be some running room available, if the game plan is to stick with the ground game this time around.
  • The pass defense has been the weakness of this Hawkeye team this year.  Iowa ranks 10th in the Big Ten in pass yards allowed per game (233.9), 9th in pass defense efficiency, and 11th in pass completion percentage allowed (64.0%, only behind Minnesota's 66.9%).  Remember Micah Hyde, Marcus Hyde's brother and he of the lateral interception return for the touchdown last year?  He's still here, and leads Iowa in interceptions with three and passes defended with nine.  Shaun Prater is still around as well, so even if the Iowa defense looks statistically weak, there's plenty of players still around to bring up bad memories for State fans.
IOWA ON SPECIAL TEAMS
  • Mike Meyer is a very good college kicker.  He's made 13-17 field goals so far this year, including 4 of 6 from 40-49 yards and a 50 yarder.  Eric Guthrie's the punter.  He averages 41.7 yards a punt, and has put 11 of his 29 kicks inside the 20 compared to one touchback. 
  • Jordan Bernstein and Micah Hyde are the kick and punt returners respectively, and they're decent -- Bernstein averages 24.2 yards a kick return, and Hyde averages about seven yards a punt return.
FINAL THOUGHTS

As if the carrier classic wasn't enough excitement this weekend, the Michigan State football team has a game that will heavily swing the division.  I was on the Black Heart Gold Pants podcast this week, and we all agreed that it would be a defensive battle -- neither one of us had a lot of confidence in our offense to move the ball against the other team's defense.  I'd like to be wrong on this one, but I think Iowa's offense outperforms Michigan State's, and ekes out a close victory.  MSU will then hope for chaos to happen the last two games; luckily there's been no shortage of that this year.

FINAL SCORE:  IOWA 24, MICHIGAN STATE 17
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