Previewing MSU at Iowa

Reese Strickland

LOL-a-punt-lose-za

Game time: Noon ET
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
TV: ESPN2
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Online Streaming: WatchESPN.com

Game Week Q&A: Here
Forecast: 65 degrees, morning showers, 80 percent chance of rain, 21 MPH wind
Line: Pick 'em

Rexrode has called this one of the biggest games in the Mark Dantonio era, and I agree. Coming off a discouraging loss at Notre Dame that MSU probably should have won, spirits aren't exactly high. So MSU is 3-1 heading to 4-1 Iowa. Given the rest of the October schedule, a win here could propel MSU to a 4-0 start in Big Ten play (it also could not, because, you know, offense), while a loss wouldn't change the following schedule, but would bring more negative vibes to a program full of them right now and bring more doubts about its future.

We know MSU's offense is a mess. We know MSU's defense is super awesome fun time. This game is going to be ugly.

By the numbers

123 - rushing yards per game for Iowa running back Mark Weisman, No. 15 nationally

4.65 - yards per carry for Iowa, No. 55 nationally

4.56 - yards per carry for MSU, No. 61 nationally

16.67% - Red zone touchdown percentage allowed by Iowa's defense, No. 1 nationally

3.03 - Yards per play allowed by MSU's defense, No. 1 nationally

4.31 - Yards per play allowed by Iowa's defense

52.5% - Third down percentage for Iowa's offense, No. 13 nationally

Three keys for MSU

Run the ball - Not just well, but period. MSU passed the ball too much against Notre Dame, and have for the rest of the season. Between Jeremy Langford, Nick Hill and an offense line that opened some holes against Notre Dame, it's smarter than an incomplete pass. Even if MSU falls behind early or the running game isn't great, keep with it. There's no need to get pass-happy with Cook. More option plays and designed runs with him would be advised, too, especially if the weather is bad.

Don't allow big plays - Mark Weisman isn't a big-play threat, but his 37-yard run late in regulation last year set up the tying touchdown. The same goes for the passing game. Make Iowa dink and dunk down the field and force them to make a mistake

Turnovers - MSU's quarterbacks have yet to throw an interception this season, and two lost fumbles came on punt returns, so the offense has held onto the ball. But even one turnover in a bad spot could be the difference in what is expected to be a low-scoring game.

Three keys for Iowa

Field position - Ties into turnover a bit. Some good special teams returns (or bad punts) could set up a team for a score or two while a long field will make scoring basically impossible.

Tempo -  RossWB at BHGP mentions that while Iowa's hasn't been Oregon, their up-tempo offense has been there, and it could tire out the MSU defense while preventing substitutions.

Tight ends - The Hawkeyes have a talented group, while MSU linebackers aren't the best in pass coverage. MSU safeties will need to watch out for Iowa's tight ends.

Prediction: Iowa 17-13

Iowa City has just been a bad place for MSU football. The win there in 2011 was MSU's first since 1989. Bad things happen, and Kirk Ferentz seems to have Mark Dantonio's number, for some reason. This is going to be a really, really, really ugly game, especially if the weather is bad. I feel like this total of 30 points is too many. I think Cook throws his first interception of the season, it results in Iowa points and is the difference in the game.

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